Noah Way This Should Happen

The Governor of Kentucky, Steven L. Beshear recently proposed that the state build a Noah's Ark Theme Park to boost its economy and provide jobs for Kentuckians who are out of work. Under his plan, a Christian ministry called Answers in Genesis will build the park. Naturally, because of the Constitution's prohibition of establishing just one religion, I assumed that the Governor also has plans to build a Jewish theme park, a Muslim park, an atheist park and, well, I'm not sure about an agnostic park.

But no, he's only offering huge tax incentives for this park, "Ark Encounter." Answers in Genesis is a ministry that believes in the literal interpretation of the Bible. The same group built the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. That's where they promoted the Flintstone Theory of history: that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time.

The Governor has responded to those who point out that this seems to be a violation of the principle of the separation of church and state, by saying, "The people of Kentucky didn't elect me governor to debate religion. They elected me governor to create jobs." I guess on the Eighth Day, the governor created jobs."

Of course, people have a right to believe whatever they want. However, should the state offer $37.5 million dollars to a religious group to build a park that furthers theirbeliefs? A lot of people don't think so.

This hasn't discouraged the Answers in Genesis folks from making plans. Consistent with their literal interpretation, Mike Zovath, one of their senior vice presidents, says that the Ark will be built just as the one in the Bible was built. They plan on using wooden pegs and timber framing done by Amish builders. Funny, I don't remember any Amish builders in Genesis. Zovath added that the animals kept on board would be small ones, because his group believes "that God would probably have sent healthy juvenile-sized animals... so there would be plenty of room." Hmmm, sounds like a personal interpretation to me.

He wants the theme park to be as accurate as possible, celebrating the literal interpretation of the Bible. So I guess they'll make it clear to all of the schoolchildren and Bible groups that Noah and his family were Jewish.

As part of this desire to be "literal," I guess they will make sure that water rains on all of the visitors to the park for 40 days and 40 nights. The state should be able to make extra money selling Noah's Rain Gear, and of course, CalmArk to ward off seasickness.

Will the Ark "literally" be the same size as the one described in the Bible? As anyone who has that cubit conversion app on his or her iPhone knows, that was a huge ship.

They plan on the park having a fun special effects exhibit showing Moses parting the Red Sea. There will also be a 100-foot tower of Babel, so I recommend earplugs. And for the kiddies, there will be a Bible-themed play area with zip lines and climbing nets. I'm not an expert like the Answers in Genesis people are, but exactly where in the Bible are the zip lines and climbing nets?

The Answers in Genesis people tried to peddle their idea to Ohio and Indiana, but officials in Kentucky were much more interested. They showed their interest by offering those tax incentives to the group. That's how some of the Kentucky officials defend the state's involvement with the park. They claim that it's not like the state building a church or -- dare I say –- a mosque. Because it's a for-profit organization that will pay taxes, they don't feel it's the same as the state advancing a religion.

In other words, Kentucky officials are saying that this proposal might be intrinsically wrong, but the fact that it will make money, makes it right. Now that's a principle that all kinds of political officials have believed in "literally" for centuries.

Education: Just A Click Away

Wouldn't you think that a university classroom would be the last place that kids would be allowed to push buttons on electronic devices that they hold in their hands for the entire length of the class? Think again. Many colleges now give clickers to students to use in class. Unlike the smart phones that professors probably don't like their students to hold in their hands during a lecture, these little remotes are often required.

Each student in the class has a remote with its own frequency. That way, the teacher can take attendance quickly. It has buttons to push so multiple-choice tests can be given easily. It's also used so shy students who don't want to raise their hands and say what's on their minds can just push a button to let their teacher know that they have a concern about a discussion or lesson.

I guess it's just part of the proliferation of remotes. In my house, there are anywhere three to five remotes in front of the television (but I can never find the one I want). The kind of remote I'm sure scientists will develop is the Life-TiVo. With it, you'd be able to go back in time, stop time, and just as you can speed through commercials with a regular TiVo, you could speed through the parts of your life that you'd rather not see.

However, I never thought I'd see a classroom clicker. Many educators decry the fact that young people spend so much time talking, tweeting, and texting on their phones. Yet here are some educators who are putting yet another electronic device in kids' hands. Since they're so good at multi-tasking, are students going to be answering a teacher's question with one hand while using the other hand to watch last night's "Dancing With The Stars?"

Don't you think the college years would be a good time to introduce things like open discussions? With these clickers, the Socratic Method is being replaced by a flash drive. Does that sound like progress to you? That shy kid who doesn't want to raise her hand is never going to get more confident if all she has to do is secretly push a button.

I just don't understand how a clicker is an improvement over heated debates, provocative dialogue and passionate arguments. What does the professor say at the end of the class: "That was a very stimulating exchange of ideas demonstrated by the popularity of button number three?" Does that sound like something that's going to mold minds and create intellectual memories that will last a lifetime?

I'm enough of a realist to know that if these clickers are in hundreds or even thousands of schools right now, they will soon be just as accepted as the notebook and pen that they replace. Many people were shocked when kids were first allowed to use calculators in class and while doing their homework. Now they're completely acceptable. I guess the theory is that when the kid grows up, he or she will have a calculator at work, so what's the harm? The harm, of course, is that many students never learn things like multiplication tables. So, on that day at work when the big report is due and their calculator's battery runs out, they'll panic when faced with a scary question like, "What's three times nine?"

Maybe I should give the classroom clickers a chance. After all, people learn in different ways,there are all kinds of knowledge, and one kind of knowledge isn't necessarily better than another. It's true that if you ask a third-grader to tell you the tables of eight, she might not be able to. But she can fix your computer.