By Dr. Anthony Policastro

There is currently a great deal of controversy about what is taught in schools. It makes some people forget that many of the things that are controversial are first learned at home. Most children imitate things like religious and political beliefs that they see in their parents.

If the parents do not attend church, it is not likely that Sunday school attendance will have a major effect on the child’s later church attendance. If parents have racist behavior, it is likely that children will mimic that behavior regardless of what is taught in schools.

We have seen a similar concern about what is taught in schools in the past. In 1859 Charles Darwin published The Origin of the Species. It was the book that detailed the principles of evolution. In 1925, John Scopes went on trial for teaching evolution in Tennessee.

Most people know about the trial. However, many people do not realize that it was part of a movement to deny the existence of evolution. The thought was that if it could be banned from schools, no one would ever hear of it again. As it turned out, no one actually heard about the movement to ban its teaching; it was an utter failure.

One of its main proponents was T.T. Martin. He wrote that evolutionists were going to rob children of their faith. The evolutionists were not real men. They were “sissies” who had given up their “Christian manhood”. They were not real Americans. The Pilgrims were Christian. The Founding Fathers were Christian. He indicated that believing in evolution was therefore, un-American.

His advice was to have parents take over their local school boards. Many did so with school-board elections having candidates brand others as atheists just because of their stand on evolution.

In Atlanta, William Mahoney was the local leader of the Supreme Kingdom. It was a Ku Klux Klan offshoot. He wanted five teachers fired for what they were teaching.

From 1922 to 1929, state legislators proposed more than 53 bills in 21 states. There were two bills introduced into Congress. In the end only five of them would be passed. One of those was the Tennessee law under which John Scopes was tried.

In the end it wound up being more like empty barrels making the most noise. Despite all the rhetoric, most citizens saw it as much ado about nothing. Without the ability to rally a true following the movement fell apart within a few years.

As Santayana said, “those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” That would suggest that a lot of today’s controversy will likely become yesterday’s headlines. Children will continue learning from watching their parents. That is how childhood development works. The schools are secondary to that. They do not supplant it.

COVID update

The national numbers for last week dropped from 676,000 new cases to 507,000 new cases. Last year for the same period the total was 1,155,000. The total number of new cases in Sussex County went from 589 last week to 500 this week. Last year the number was 668 for the same period.

One of the items in the news last week was the Omicron variant found in South Africa. There were some concerns that the location of the mutations and the number of sites they affected on the virus might make the new variant resistant to the vaccines.

The problem is that we have no idea what the new mutation means. It could mean that it is more contagious than the Delta variant. It could mean that it is less contagious. It could mean that it is more deadly. It could mean that it is less deadly. It could mean that it will cause more breakthrough infections. It could mean that it will not. It could mean that those breakthrough infections will be more serious than the current ones. It could mean that they are not.

The bottom line is that viral mutations are always going to occur. Sometimes they make future infections worse. Sometimes they do not. As of Nov. 29, there had been no Omicron linked deaths. At this point we have no way of knowing what is going to happen with the new variant. It is premature to hit the panic button.