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8-year-old learns about the legislative process and why it doesn't work

Woolly Mammoth
Woolly Mammoth
By Flying Puffin (Uploaded by FunkMonk) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

An 8-year-old girl from South Carolina has dreams of being an Egyptologist when she grows up. With an interest in historical and archaeological record, she wrote up a proposal to make the Columbian Mammoth the official state fossil of her home state. She presented quite a case, too.

Olivia McConnell is a smart girl. She realized she couldn't just ask for a fossil to be officially recognized by the sate simply because she likes fossils. First she had to make a list to convince herself that she had enough reason to approach a state representative about it.,

“We can’t just say we need a sate fossil because I like fossils,” McConnell said. “That wouldn’t make sense.”

So Olivia gave her reasons:

1. One of the first discoveries of a vertebrae fossil in North America was on an S.C. plantation when slaves dug up woolly mammoth teeth from a swamp in 1725.

2. All but seven states have an official state fossil.

3. “Fossils tell us about our past.”

She put her request and reasoning into a letter and sent it to her state representative and senator, Rep. Robert Ridgeway (D) and Sen. Kevin Johnson (D). They both jumped at the opportunity to show a child that anyone can make a difference and introduced the bills H. 4482 and its senate companion S. 854 to designate the Columbian Mammoth as the official state fossil.

"Why not? It can’t hurt anything," Ridgeway said. "But the benefit to this is to the children and young people of South Carolina, letting them realize that they do have a say-so in what happens in South Carolina and, No. 2, it gives them experience and information about the governmental process and legislative process in South Carolina."

Then, unfortunately, 8-year-old Olivia learned about the true nature of the legislative process. A right-wing creationist in the South Carolina legislature decided to make this an ideological fight. After failing to get complete Bible versus added, Sen. Kevin Bryant (R) finally managed to get a pretty perverse slap in the face to science amended to the bill.

The bill now reads:

SECTION 1. Article 9, Chapter 1, Title 1 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:

"Section 1-1-712A. The Columbian Mammoth, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field, is designated as the official State Fossil of South Carolina and must be officially referred to as 'the Columbian Mammoth', which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field."

Sen. Bryant has given Olivia an example on how even the most benign of legislative efforts can be upset by a wingnut on a crusade. There's also a lesson here in how easily religion can be used to crush children's dreams and frustrate their efforts toward growth. Bad form, Bryant, bad form.

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