Saturday, August 11, 2012


Show Everyone

Missouri's "Right to Pray" constitutional amendment is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

As has been noted, most of it is superfluous in that the US Constitution already protects legitimate religious practices. But some of its supporters think they are "undoing" the Supreme Court's 1962 Engel v. Vitale decision, which barred government-mandated school prayers. They haven't ... and local school boards who rely on the amendment to that effect will be diverting their scarce resources from educating children to paying lawyers.

But this is already galling:

One big issue that has been raised with the amendment is the portion that says, "No student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs."

In Columbia schools, students already have the right to opt out of any assignments that conflict with their religious views. The most commonly challenged subject is evolution in biology classes, said Mike Szydlowski, district science coordinator.

However, he said, often the problem is that families have an incorrect perception of what the district is teaching about evolution.

"They hear evolution, and they have an impression oftentimes that we're teaching about how humans were created or how humans evolved," Szydlowski said.

Instead, the curriculum focuses on "how plants and animals and organisms have changed over time," he said. Typically, once families understand what's being taught, they realize it's not "challenging their beliefs at all," he said.
Riiight! Because humans aren't animals or even organisms and why would professional teachers bother to educate the children in their charge about one of the greatest scientific discoveries ever? Let the little bastards remain ignorant!

But it gets worse:

If families still insist their student not participate in the lesson, an alternative assignment is given, but students still are tested on the material they missed at the district and state levels.

The population affected by these issues is small, Szydlowski said, noting that in his two years with the district, it has come up only twice. Still, at this point he said it's unclear whether the new amendment will affect how the issue is handled, particularly whether it still will be OK for those topics to be part of testing.
Why don't we just stamp "religiously ignorant" on their foreheads and sent them straight to the unemployment office?

When I read that clause, I immediately thought of a Calvin and Hobbes comic.

Because usually it's worded as the parents' right to pull their kids out of classes or assignments that conflict with their religious beliefs. But the way this clause is worded, any student could say that their homework is against their religion. A student could even say that their religion prohibits any and all homework!
But the way this clause is worded, any student could say that their homework is against their religion.

and woe betide the teacher who denies that a cardboard box could be a time machine ...
I would challenge the right of parents to withdraw their children from classes which teach something that conflicts with their religious beliefs. The First Amendment, in my view, does not protect one from being exposed to contrary views but from being compelled to accept them. In the specific case of the theory of evolution, there is no reason why children should not study it so that they know what it says. They don't have to believe it but they should understand it.
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How to Support Science Education