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The devil made us do it

By Tom Toles



The adults aren't alright

Everybody is worked up about the state of education in the United States. The KIDS are FALLING BEHIND. No, it's not the KIDS, it's the SCHOOLS. No, it's not the SCHOOLS it's the TEACHERS. No, it's not the TEACHERS, it's the PARENTS. Okay, so if we fix the schools and the teachers and the parents, will our kids stop falling behind?

I'm inclined to extend the ring of panic out one ring further. If it's true that the supporting envelope of the home is crucial to education, might it not also be true that the supporting envelope of society is important, too? It's not just the kids or the schools or the teachers or the parents, it's the CULTURE. Look around. Where is the support for careful reasoning? Our political/media discourse is a jailhouse cafeteria brawl. TV is now a THOUSAND channels of drivel.

We have all just flunked our big test of dealing with the climate catastrophe because we couldn't even agree on the science. Everyone feels entitled to their own science now. And it's no big surprise that we can't understand climate science, since we're still arguing about EVOLUTION after 150 years! Good luck, science teacher. --Tom Toles




By Tom Toles  | July 27, 2010; 12:00 AM ET
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Such vitriol! Next thing I know, somebody will be telling me I should believe that running a gasoline-powered generator inside my house, with all the windows and doors closed and the chimney blocked, will cause the place to fill up with smoke.
That's just silly, isn't it?

The sad thing is that, it is now those of us who are middle-aged who can take credit (or blame) for the world as it is today. To a great extent, we grew up spoiled and selfish and heedless of the consequences of our actions. Some of us wish we could have it to do over, and a LOT of us wish others would take a good look around and at least begin doing something to turn it around, but there's a lot of inertia here.

"Throw money at the schools?"
I must have missed the part when that happened.
Can anybody seriously contend that we spend TOO MUCH on education? What, as demonstrated by the fact that Americans are already TOO literate, or TOO ABLE to think critically, or TOO ABLE to understand science and mathematics?

Quick, no cheating, what's the decimal equivalent of 3/4, to two decimal places?
Or, describe the condition that makes two lines parallel.

Posted by: jonroesler | July 28, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Well put, Chasmosaur1. You made your point. I am a bit disappointed, though. I'm keeping a list of names I've been called on the Washington Post and you gave me none to add to it.

Posted by: quiensabe | July 27, 2010 10:32 PM | Report abuse


While you may not be scientifically illiterate, you are rather dogmatic with your anti-science stance. Do you prefer that phraseology?

As for proving evolution...I wonder if you have ever gotten a flu shot. Because if you have, then you've endorsed evolution. If everything in the world is as God made it and things aren't changing, then there's no need for a flu shot - you've already had it and your immune system is prepared.

I'm a vertebrate paleontologist by training. So I've come to this conclusion over the years:

You may believe exactly what you want to believe - I really don't care. That you shut yourself down to the coolness and/or beauty of science? Your loss. And quite honestly, I have a little bit of awe for anyone who can maintain a creationist standpoint in today's modern secular society - that's a deep well of faith I will admit I can't begin to comprehend as someone who is more spiritual than religious.

However, the issue here is schools. And once you try to put your dogmatic belief into a publicly funded science classroom? Yeah, you'll get a fight. Because the lovely dogma of "God Said It. I Believe It. That Settles It." is the opposite of scientific technique.

And quite honestly - most scientists I know wouldn't dare go into a church and tell you how to practice your religion - mostly because they actually have religious beliefs, and respect the beliefs of others. That conservative Christianity feels they have the right to interfere in science classrooms is outrageous.

Bottom line: Your dogma - often repeated and firmly held - will always be simpler than scientific explanation. That, however, doesn't make it correct, and it certainly doesn't make it educational policy. Unfortunately, it makes for a good soundbite, so this "controversy" (which is a non-controversy in any other developed country) persists.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | July 27, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

To you jhpurdy, a word from Jim Morrison: “No One Here Gets Out Alive.” Chemistry and physics could not save him nor could Gaea, Tess, Joe or Maria (earth, wind, and fire.)

And to you, dfritzin, no, I'm not kidding. But calling me scientifically illiterate doesn't come close to being called “neocon filth” yesterday because I'm a Christian and a Republican who believes in the sanctity of life. You nor Toles can explain “the diversity of life on Earth” anymore than I can. Calling me “scientifically illiterate,” however, just because I believe God created the earth does not make evolution a fact either. Until you can prove it is, humor me.

Posted by: quiensabe | July 27, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

A week-long expose on global warming would be more than is needed, and wouldn't do any good anyway. Trolls refuse to believe anything that goes against their narrative and worldview. But...if you *really* want to are a few facts (not opinion, mind you, but facts).

1) Carbon dioxide (CO2)in the atmosphere acts as a natural "greenhouse" (along with a few other gases like methane). This is what keeps all the heat absorbed by the sun from escaping. If we lost a lot of it, the planet would cool. Too much of it, and the planet will warm. This is simple atmospheric chemistry, and can be demonstrated over and over again in a laboratory.

2) Since the advent of the industrial revolution, we have been spewing more and more CO2 into the atmosphere, as we retrieve fossil fuels, buried for millions of years, and burn them (burning is the combination of oxygen from the air, with the carbon in the fuel, producing heat and CO2 as byproducts). In all the ice cores we can sample, going back hundreds of thousands of years, before any modern humans existed, we can't find a time when CO2 levels rose as fast as they have in the last 150 years or so.

3) We can't do a laboratory experiment with two earths...raising CO2 levels on one and not on the really "test" the hypothesis of global climate change, but scientists build very complex computer models based on everything we know from climate history, volcanic activity, atmospheric chemistry, etc, and run these models with various scenarios. All the models...that's ALL the models...say that raising CO2 in the atmosphere will cause rises in average global temperatures, and extremes of weather. The models merely disagree on the degrees of change, and the specific geographic effects.

4) Reality is mimicing the models. Global average temperatures are rising (yes nay-sayers...even when you look at atmospheric data and not just ground temperatures at urban heat islands). The first 6 months of this year are the warmest on record globally...for as far back as records were kept in the late 19th century.

And lastly,

5) One hot day or one cold day does not prove or disprove global warming. Weather is what you get on a daily basis. Climate is what you expect over a long period. Climate is changing, and our injection of vast quantities of CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, is the reason.

Now...I'm sure you don't want to believe this, but it is reality. The same kind of scientific process tells us that aspirin can help a headache. It doesn't say that aspirin will cure your headache every time, no matter what. It tells us that there's a 90-95% chance it will help your headache. That's the best science can do.

Science is telling us that there's a 90-95% chance that global warming is being caused by humans. Don't you think that's enough for us to start changing how we live? I certainly do, especially when you consider the consequences.

Posted by: PrairieDog60 | July 27, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Gotcha! And I'll make this brief as well...When I look at the "educational deficit" I am looking in "my backyard". Not the "grande picture" and when it comes to Solving said problems with education it will also have to start in my "own back yard" with everyone else's.
Thanks for the dialogue.

Posted by: bertzel | July 27, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I love the climate change deniers. Tell them that the past decade was the warmest since humans started keeping records and they will try and find a way to phumpher (old Mad Magazine word) and deny that it means anything. We had record snowfalls five months ago, now followed by record heat (most days at 90 or above in one summer). Yet it's all coincidence.

I don't believe in God, but I do believe in chemistry and physics and they seem to be making a potent argument. If I did believe in any form of "deity" I might subscribe to the Gaea idea--the earth as a living being itself. In which case, it is telling us to get the hell off. Years ago, Jim Morrison of The Doors put it this in "When The Music's Over:

What have they done to the earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the sight of the dawn
And tied her with fences and dragged her down.
I hear a very gentle sound.
With my ear down, to the ground.

Posted by: jhpurdy | July 27, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Based upon some of the comments you’ve received today, TT (without mentioning any names) your use of “culture” appears to be a bit misunderstood. I’m guessing that you were not thinking about art and history museums, grand opera or even musical theater; but something a bit more general rather than any specific manifestations – such as when one shows signs of “being cultural” rather than being, say, a “redneck” or a “rube” or a “hick” or a “hayseed.” These terms describe and yes, majorly imply, that an individual does not recognize – nor worse yet – care about the difference between a Monet and the Munsters, Berlioz and Lady Gaga, or Lillian Hellman and gourmet mayonaisse. The grander sense, of course, uses “culture” as a term to explain all of which humankind has produced, a nearly infinite sum of achievement created from dawn’s earliest appearance to the most recent brush stroke dabbed in some artist’s studio. The culture is language and all of its expressions, it’s industry and transportation, it’s education and parenting trends, it’s music and scientific discoveries and the traffic laws – it’s all that we as a species have done to serve our needs, amuse ourselves, communicate our thoughts, live longer and safer; the list is nearly endless, nearly infinite. So when we begin our (other) list of why education may be failing our kids, that they are “falling behind” those of other nations, we must include culture as both the cause for the so-called “failure” as well as the source of what’s happening – seemingly, of course. Schools do not operate in a vacuum; neither do lives and lifestyles at home. A useful test of that assertion lies in looking back at the requirements that the culture placed upon education in days gone by, practices that now feel a little funny, but were very important to the era's curriculum. For example: the proper use of a fountain pen; a dental hygienist; the Palmer Penmanship Method; corporal punishment; the teacher / principal as an unquestionable authority; dress codes (esp. girls ONLY permitted to wear dresses and skirts); Christmas carols and Nativity plays; physical education that resembles “boot camp;” a lunch hour at home; memorization of geographical sites; Latin classes; two-week vacations for Easter and Christmas. There’s more, of course; the point being that these were extensions of the culture then which are no longer taught because they’re no long there, or have been determined to be no longer useful to or reflective of the culture. Teachers and kids and their parents and everyone else are all responding to the same context in which we’ve always basked and bathed and wallowed –that being TT’s "culture." It’s why we do what we do, learn what we learn, buy what we buy, wear what we wear – well, by now you’ve got the idea. I'm tired of writing, and by also by now: you're tired of reading.

Posted by: dudeupnorth | July 27, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Tom, no one is arguing about evolution anymore. That argument has been settled. God created the earth and all that's in it including you.
Posted by: quiensabe | July 27, 2010 12:01 PM
I certainly hope that quiensabe is kidding! Since the evidence for evolution is overwhelming, only someone who is scientifically illiterate would question that it is the best explanation for the diversity of life on Earth.

Posted by: dfritzin | July 27, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Amen, Brother Toles!

Posted by: SubRosa2 | July 27, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Even Wallace doubted his own theory....believed we have a soul.
course my reality of 'God" is different than the 'social norm'.

Posted by: bertzel | July 27, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Tom, no one is arguing about evolution anymore. That argument has been settled. God created the earth and all that's in it including you.

Posted by: quiensabe | July 27, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Good cartoon. Humans are our own worst enemy. We create problems, war, climate change, diseases, religious wars, intolerance, poverty, misery, hunger, monetary collapses, ecological disasters and then we blame God! We create a problem and then refuse to find ways to prevent it, fix it or mitigate its affects.What a wondrous work we are!

Posted by: MyVoice3 | July 27, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I totally agree with your rant about acceptance of science in society. No one thinks it's cool to study engineering, math, genetics.... yuck! Everyone wants to worship the deity of wall street: money. We've got to get back to placing a higher value on knowledge. Parents have to encourage that but its hard to fight peer pressure of being a geek.

Posted by: crocco1250 | July 27, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

1) You are different from either of your parents and yet you don't accept change in our species? 2) Since 1900 we have been consuming fossil fuels at an alarmingly increased rate worldwide, so why do you ignore the heating effect? Earth is a closed system. So accept what science is teaching us, the hard way. Now, sweat it out.
Make sure that any teacher who teaches anything about science knows the subject correctly. My physics students, back in 1956 told me that they would accept my ideas and write the exams that way, but they knew better because their K-8 teachers told them otherwise years before. Physics is an exact science based only on facts, yet it is now thought that it is unproved theory and subject to opinions (as it was in the 18th Century).
I quit teaching and went into engineering in 1957.

Posted by: CliffVDY | July 27, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Good point, Tom. That's essentially what Maslow talks about in his book Maslow On Management - the interaction between organizations and the society around them.

As for a specific bit of that, I'd say the biggest culprit is the short attention span. Businesses focused on the next quarter contribute greatly to that - it used to be that they focused on the long term, but that seems to be gone, and the rest of society has gone the same way. That's illustrated in the suggestion below that the scientific consensus on global warming data isn't real unless it can be boiled down to a week-long newspaper discussion.

Where's the long-term focus for anyone in our society? How do we get it back? That's where our future has gone, so we'd better find it.

Posted by: DavidSeibert | July 27, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

sleepy fingers this morning...will try this again, only different.

boobo2, Culture is available everywhere you turn. It is up to the parents and also the schools to expose our children to it.
Museums, theater, art galleries, exist everywhere, even in small-town USA.
Children do learn by example. If the parents lack "culture" and the school does not provide, then can be ignored. Everyone has a right to "the arts", and without it, will not be a "well rounded" individual. By 'well rounded" I am talking intellectualy, not physically: )

As for your "we must fight it" statement,how would you suggest we do that?

By the way...I don't accept the "norm". Never have.

Posted by: bertzel | July 27, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Dear bertzel, good points, there is no culture for our children to enjoy now. Rap videos which display violence, disrespect for women, and have no musical qualities at all are all they seem to know. Art, music, science, history, etc. are ignored. How many homes nowadays even have a bookshelf for enjoyment and research? We have accepted the lowest common denominator as the norm. We must fight it. The people that run MTV, BET, and the other banal cable channels have no social responsibility, they only look at money.

Posted by: bobbo2 | July 27, 2010 7:06 AM | Report abuse

" Everyone feels entitled to their own science now."

You bet I do. Why else did I earn a PhD and spend a career as a science librarian?

I know how to find, read and understand science.

Just try to shut me up.

Posted by: gary4books | July 27, 2010 6:50 AM | Report abuse

I am consistently amazed by the anger, the paranoia, and the vitriol of many of the comments of your right wing critics. I am assuming that they sleep with loaded .45s under their pillows to protect them from the black, lesbian, muslim, hispanic who is outside their door just waiting to break in and deprive them of the life that they so richly deserve. Keep up the amusing and thought provoking work, Thank you.

Posted by: brucemmv | July 27, 2010 6:42 AM | Report abuse


Yes, adults are not “alright” and most likely never will be. That being said…

The school system in my neck of the woods has been on a downhill spiral for many years now.
Remarkably, my kids have been doing fine…though I worry about my youngest, simply because she has several years to complete in our public school system of which the decline has accelerated quite a bit as of late...
Then again…you never did specify what type of school system and/ or grade levels involved, you just stated a general, “state of education”. In which case, I will just fill in the blanks. How ‘bout public schools k-12.

Actually, I also don’t understand what ‘exactly’ you mean by “falling behind”.
Are you comparing our kid’s basic knowledge/education to other countries or just insinuating that our kids are not up to par as far as we were ‘back in the day’?

I do know that our children are learning a lot more than we did when we went to school. And I also have to give technology some credit in that department as well as the teachers and educational format.

When you speak of Society, again I am not clear on your meaning….when I think of society, I think of country-wide, or globally, not local.
In that case scenario (my meaning)…society cannot dictate education…family, teachers, local schools, and, their immediate “village” influence our children. Ah yes, I do believe in “It Takes a Village”. If that is done successfully then our young students should be “prepared” to “deal” with society and all that it entails.
They should be prepared to make their OWN decisions within and about society wisely and with careful thought.

Kids, parents, teachers, and schools cannot be blamed for our ‘failing public school system’.
The almighty dollar is to blame… as usual.
The school system, like everything else in this "great country" of ours lacks funding and the ‘adults’ are not “alright” when it comes to “pitching in,” let alone how the monies should be spent.

Culture Toles???
What is your definition of CULTURE?? Come on, that, too, comes from parents, schools and the Neighborhood/village as well as society as a whole.

And, while the media may have an impact on our kids, as it does the adults…it has not much negative influence when it comes to the quality of education in the classroom…unless of course they, the teachers, use Newspapers for Education in the classroom, which I PERSONALLY despise. But that is another story. : )

As for “Science” Toles….I just read the other day in ‘my’ local Gazette that scientists have recently agreed/proved that the all time “GREATEST” question/puzzle has been solved…….The Chicken Came First…go figure : )

As for your “toon”, yes, people do, indeed, work in mysterious ways, but are not the only mysterious things in “this life”, let alone, on this planet….

Posted by: bertzel | July 26, 2010 11:56 PM | Report abuse

It might be possible to have a stupider cartoon. But I'd have to see it to believe it.

Posted by: ThisIsReality | July 26, 2010 11:22 PM | Report abuse

I like you, Tom Toles. It must be hard to draw one of these on a daily basis, and now you're writing too. Somehow, I knew what you were going to write, because I've followed your cartooning for about a decade, but I didn't think you could be incisive with the written word. And I agree with you. Thanks, or, as we say in my second homeland, gracias. For today's environmental posting, and for all the other ones too (I should've said thanks ages before, but now I did, and I'll probably comment on the postings themselves some other time.)

Posted by: araque | July 26, 2010 10:51 PM | Report abuse

"If libs have all this so called irrefutable evidence proving man made warming why can't the Washington Post do a week long expose proving the point?"


There's plenty of evidence right now. Are we really expected to believe that a week-long expose in the Post would convince you of anything?

Posted by: Kevin71707 | July 26, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

And The Post wonders why their circulation is plummeting ...

Posted by: mjapr | July 26, 2010 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Your ideology is impairing your intellect.

Posted by: mjapr | July 26, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

The issue is that the climate is warming up. Average global temperatures are increasing over time -- each given month is usually warmer than it's been in years past. This past June, for example, was the warmest June on record. July is likewise shaping up to be the warmest July on record.

So it doesn't prove anything to note that the record high temperature for a specific calendar day happens to be in some year in the past. It's the cumulative effect that we're interested in. Hank Aaron never hit more than 47 homers in a season, when the single-season record was 60 and then 61. Almost every year other players hit more homers than him. Yet he finished with the most ever. By insanecommenter's reasoning, that should have been impossible.

Posted by: simpleton1 | July 26, 2010 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Dear insanecommuter, you don't understand, your data does not fit the agenda. Hot weather was invented just a few years ago with the warmers. And the humiture was invented to make it seem all the worse.

Posted by: bobbo2 | July 26, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Toles liberals are the only ones who believe your cartoons, but the rest of the people are smart enough to look at the actual facts and have made the decision man made global warming is a hoax. If libs have all this so called irrefutable evidence proving man made warming why can't the Washington Post do a week long expose proving the point?

Actual Washington DC Record High Monthly Temperatures

June 102 F set on 06/09/1874
July 106 F set on 07/20/1930
August 106 F set on 08/06/1918
September 104 F set on 09/07/1881

Posted by: insanecommenter | July 26, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Our school problems are a perfect example that throwing more and more money at a problem does not fix it. Kids need focus and discipline at school. Ban the cell phones, if there is an emergency the office will notify the student. If kids cannot conduct themselves properly then there will have to be some other place to educate them at the expense of the parent(s). No driver's license without a diploma. The Teacher's Unions must depoliticize themselves and understand that the taxpayers have issues with them and their contracts. Oh, and the cartoon, isn't the weather unpredictable as all get out. It is 76 degrees outside right now. Is that some kind of weather record Mr. Toles?

Posted by: bobbo2 | July 26, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

The kids today don't watch television. If it isn't online streaming on demand, it isn't worth the effort!

Posted by: will12 | July 26, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

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