Re: The Washington Post "Dissing Darwian"

From: Terry M. Gray <>
Date: Fri Jun 03 2005 - 19:08:21 EDT


Why should schools be any different from church? I doubt that you
think that church should be "public" (let's say "neutral" here) in
order to enrich the experience. If education is as worldview-based as
I suggest it is, then in our current model we have to decide which
worldview is going to undergird the educational experience. To
exclude religion from public education the way it is currently done
is by no means neutral.

Also, I don't think you're hearing me. I'm advocating "equal" public
support (at least as equal as it is now) for these schools. I also
would expect there to be some kind of reasonable minimal
certification so that the interests of the "state" are preserved.
These would look vastly different than they do today because not only
do our public schools promote the basic interests of the state, but
they attempt to accomplish what your first paragraph fully
affirms--that public schools are the place where societal and
cultural homogenization occurs. This is all fine and good when you
find yourself in the mainstream. Not so good when you don't.

I have personal experience in teaching and having my own children in
public, private Christian, and home schools. I was public school
educated all the way through graduate school. Not until I began
seeing the full ramifications of a Christian worldview did I see the
problems with my education. Christian schools and home schools
(including my own) don't always get it right either--often they are
motivated by insularity than by building a foundation for education
on the belief that "Jesus is Lord". The worldview educational
philosophy of Calvin College cemented that developing viewpoint and
gave me 11 years to implement in the college classroom. Public
education creates and promotes a secular/sacred dualism. It tells us
all that, yes, science, literature, mathematics, history, etc. can
and should be discussed in the absence of any religious
considerations. Public education is an example of Gould's NOMA in the
interest of it's "public" side. Here I am arm in arm with Phil
Johnson and his cronies. (Wow, did I just say that?)

I'll be the first to admit that Christian schools and home schools
can be a haven for bad science. This is one of the reasons that my
family has opted for home schooling rather than Christian day
schools. We have also refused to use Christian textbook publishers
for our science textbooks. It's also why I won't even be considered
for teaching positons at some Christian schools and/or colleges. At
the same time, as much as I think that YEC and ID are bad science,
especially in the case of ID, I don't think it's nearly as harmful as
sometimes it's made out to be. Surely, on core worldview issues, we
have more in common with IDers and YECers than we do with secularists
and other non-Christian religionists.

The problem with "public" education is that the "public" gets to
decide what "religion" is dominant. (And "no religion" is a
religion--usually turning into some kind of bland American civil
religion or some kind of pan-religion or all-religions-are-equal
which functionally marginalizes its role in being the foundation of
all knowledge.) The debate in Kansas and school boards across the
country is a debate about what "public" means. I do understand the
nuances and the caricatures of the debate and on the particular point
will probably align myself with you, Keith. However, there is a
fundamental capitulation to secularism when we say that there is no
place for religion in the science classroom. My chemistry and
biochemistry classes at Calvin were full of religion--and not just on
the first day of class when I spelled out a Christian view of
science. Such instruction and integration needs to happen at all
levels of education. (And, one would hope that the Muslim and New
Ager would say the same thing.)

Keith, I commend your desire not to see your children insulated from
a valuable cultural diversity and to resist the fragmentation of our
society. However, I have long wondered if the place to do that is the
public school. Like it or not K-12 education is a place of
indoctrination (and I don't necessarily mean that word in a
derogatory sense). The question is, are we going to indoctrinate our
children (or let our children be indoctrinated) in the public
secularism or our we (and others) going to indoctrinate our children
according to our own personal belief systems.


>>Perhaps a more pluralistic view of public education is in order. One
>>model is that there could be government funding of all sorts of
>>schools--Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Islamic, New Age, Secular and
>>that these identities would be clearly defined so that parents could
>>choose the school that most fit with their personal worldviews.
>I think that this is decidedly not what this country needs. We are
>already a country increasingly divided and polarized by race,
>wealth, religion and politics. All this will do is further isolate
>and compartmentalize our culture. It also would, I believe,
>threaten to leave the poor and minorities concentrated and
>segregated into their own schools. This is already happening with
>the decay of city centers and the flight to suburbia. It is these
>needy districts that need the most resources and financial help.
>Moving public dollars to private institutions would leave poor
>districts even poorer because they would not have the resources to
>augment whatever public monies come their way. I don't see how this
>could avoid deepening the division between rich and poor in this
>Children would also receive very different qualities of education.
>If universal education standards were instituted across all school
>options, then you would be back to some of the same arguments over
>academic standards and assessments that we currently have.
>The greatest value of public education is that it is public. It
>forces the interaction of people with different worldviews,
>different cultures, different languages, races, etc. That is why we
>so value the public schools here in Manhattan, Kansas. Ian's
>classmates represent a wide range of nationalities and cultures,
>there are kids who are professors children, and kids from low income
>families. I want Ian to experience that diversity -- to learn to
>know and be friends with kids very different from him. I am very
>concerned about our American culture that has become more
>intolerant, more selfish, and more nationalistic. The only way to
>live transforming lives in our world is to live in it -- not hide
>among those who look like and think like us. Public education does
>that -- or at least has the capacity to do that.
>Keith B. Miller
>Research Assistant Professor
>Dept of Geology, Kansas State University
>Manhattan, KS 66506-3201

Terry M. Gray, Ph.D., Computer Support Scientist
Chemistry Department, Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado  80523
phone: 970-491-7003 fax: 970-491-1801
Received on Fri Jun 3 19:10:31 2005

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