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Another religious threat to education April 11, 2010

Posted by michaelmussachia in Uncategorized.
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Simon Gardner posted a commentary on RichardDawkins.net (http://forum.richarddawkins.net/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=110266) about a proposed “Religious Bill of Rights” in the U.S. senate:

“Colorado Senator, Dave Schultheis proposed a bill, SB089 (1), this past week, which would have undermined important democratic institutions. Fortunately, poor negotiating skills made killing the bill in committee possible(2). The vehicle for this subversion was a Religious Bill of Rights, that, in addition to being an insult to the First Amendment, was deemed generally redundant to the ‘real’ Bill of Rights.

This Bill was purportedly necessary for the protection of religious persons from attacks on their religious rights in the public school system despite the fact that there was no evidence or even anecdotal testimony to support such ridiculous claims. The particulars of the Bill and it’s outrageous demands have been well covered (3)(4). The two most controversial areas of concern are first, that teachers would not have to teach anything that may disagree with their religious views, and that they could openly display their own religious material in their classrooms and, second, that students could refuse or oppose course material for the same irrational reasons(1). The part of the story that I would like to draw attention to is the resulting affect any such Bill would have on the ability of the elected officials of the school board to implement the wishes and demands of the electorate. What is the affect on our democracy if the curriculum of our public school system is influenced by dictates from either one, or even several competing, religious theologies?”

While it looks as though the bill isn’t going anywhere, it’s nature reveals the degree to which religious zealots in this country are still trying to undermine education. It’s 2010. We’ve sent space probes beyond the solar system, explored the nature of matter down to the subatomic level, and gained tremendous insight into the evolution of life, including ourselves, and yet we still have to defend scholarship, science and reason against religious fundamentalists. I wish some of these people could crawl back to the Dark Ages where they would feel less threatened in their beliefs.



1. Paul J. Moloney - April 12, 2010

I don’t know how Dawkins comes across so many Christians. On my way downtown and through downtown, via public transportation, I must come across hundreds of people. Generally, no one strikes me as being Christian. It’s more the case that they look like they want to hurt me or at least play me for a sucker. Unless these are the Christians, it seems that being Christian is something merely academic. If it is merely academic then these kind of Christians seem to be flunking out.

2. J. Climacus - April 15, 2010

Generally, Christians (notionally and therefore professedly at least) uphold civility and humility in their interactions with others (1 Peter 3:15). The type of confrontational blustering that RD indulges is not conducive to productive dialogue nor pleasant conversation.

“Generally, no one strikes me as being Christian.”
Contrary to past popular representations of saints adorned with halos, there is no physical indicator of being a Christian. If what you mean is that during your limited time with a few people on public transportation you find no shrieks of, “Repent or die in your sins!” or inquiries of “Do you know Jesus?” then I suppose what you are really getting at is that if there are Christians out there, they are not so different than you, Paul.


“What is the affect on our democracy if the curriculum of our public school system is influenced by dictates from either one, or even several competing, religious theologies?””

What does the source (i.e. religious) of the guiding ideology matter? More pertinent is whether the guiding ideology is true and more broadly, that it is impossible to avoid imposing some kind of an ideology. Your reasoning also falsely implies that there is unanimity or even consensus about education theory: Do I need to point out the contradictory philosophies of education between John Dewey and Randolph Silliman Bourne, both as liberal as you?

Michael Mussachia - April 15, 2010

What is pertinent here in regard to educational philosophy is not so much the truthfulness of “the guiding ideology” as is its effectiveness in promoting knowledge, the arts, creativity, critical thinking, an appreciation of the need for empirical support for empirical claims, logical consistency, intellectual curiosity and avoidance of dogmatic attitudes (not an exhaustive list, needless to say). Fundamentalist religious doctrines offer little if any support for these educational goals and, furthermore, are not educational philosophies per se. In a country with separation of church and state, religious doctrines about the supernatural, God’s will, divine origins, man’s relation to God and so forth should not dictate the content of public school education. For those who feel otherwise, they can send their kids to private, religious schools.

3. Asur - April 27, 2010

By a ‘true ideology’ I don’t think we can mean anything other than one that values things correctly. Hence, it would necessarily promote the values you list–assuming, of course, that they really are worth promoting.

It seems absurd to maintain source-bias; would you really devalue a true statement simply on the basis that it was issued by a source you felt was contextually inappropriate?

Michael Mussachia - April 28, 2010

The issue is not the source of ideas but rather the nature of the ideas. Religious doctrines typically lack a commitment to logical consistency and evidential support and thus are not an appropriate basis for determining educational curriculum in secular, public schools . If the issue is religious inspiration, that’s another matter. Religious faith has both inspired education and suppressed education, inspired art and suppressed it, and so forth. I’m beginning to suspect that some of the recent comments on this thread indicated a failure to read the original post by Simon Gardner I referred to at the beginning of this thread. For those interested, here again is the url: http://forum.richarddawkins.net/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=110266

4. Andres Burlile - September 26, 2010

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