Thursday, March 19, 2015

Vaccination and Science Ed. in Orange Cty, CA — and Other Failings (14 Oct. 2014)

Holly Blumhardt, a mother of three unvaccinated children (two of them
attend Orange County public school), said
her family believes in staying healthy "from the inside out."

In her view, that means taking vitamin and mineral supplements, steering clear of genetically modified foods, getting regular chiropractic care and maintaining an "active lifestyle."

"Most parents want to do the … healthiest thing for their child,"
Blumhardt said. "It should be their choice."

          In a college composition class many years ago, I pointed out that some issues we’d discussed were relevant for examining the lyrics of a Paul Simon song a student was considering writing about. I got blank stares and noted that Simon had, I thought — correctly — parents in the ed. biz and he had a degree in English lit.; and, in any event, if the kinds of analysis we’d been using helped us understand his lyrics, that was that, even if he’d been illiterate. A student said in class or later that Simon was part of their popular culture — I said this was a long time ago — and s/he didn’t want it … I’ll put it *contaminated* by "school stuff."

          Since then I’ve been impressed by the ability of a fair number of people to encyst "school stuff" during their school years and keep it fairly safely walled off from everyday life for the subsequent years out of school.

          By definition, a technically literate writer and at least grammar school graduate in Ventura County, CA, eschewed vaccination for her children because vaccination and such undermined their life force. The most basic premise of her argument was that ol’ élan vital — that "vital force" idea that was a viable scientific idea … a century or two back.
          Most of the anti-vaccination movement is due to a various combinations of legitimate distrust of Big Pharma, inordinate trust in Bill Maher, half-right ideas on the ubiquity of bacteria (including inside us), and a failure to note that there really doesn’t seem to be any connection between vaccinations and autism. But we have at least some people not getting their kids vaccinated because of some pretty basic ignorance about 19th-c. germ theory. Related to this basic biological illiteracy, we also have people with many years of schooling talking about abortion in terms of "When life begins," either not knowing the biological axiom since Pasteur of "biogenesis (Omne vivum ex vivo "all life from life," the last 3 or so billion years) or not willing to apply that axiom to an issue of public policy — or not particularly caring in nonacademic writing what a word like "life" might mean.
              If a fair number of schooled Americans really believe that life in our world actually begins in some scientific sense of "life" and "begins"; if they really believe in pretty literal animation of people — as mundane reality, not religious belief — then we have a problem. If they haven’t thought these things through before writing because that kind of thinking is "school stuff," we also have a problem.

    Meanwhile, if you’re in some pretty fancy-schmancy areas of California, you needn’t worry much about terrorists with anthrax or tourists with Ebola — but watch out for yourself and your kids with influenza, whooping cough, and measles.

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