Re: A teacher's view of Dover decision

From: Randy Isaac <>
Date: Fri Dec 23 2005 - 21:59:28 EST

Anne Swaim wrote
> With our country's current conflicts between faith
> and governance and with America's rich tradition of
> religious pluralism, how should our public school teachers
> talk about subjects, like origins of life, that are interwoven with
> traditions of faith?
> Some say that even "religiously neutral"
> teaching can carry the subtext that faith that irrelevant.
> Judge Jones quoted from a 1985 decision involving
> the Grand Rapids School District [pg 36]:
> "Families entrust public schools with the education of
> their children, but condition their trust on the
> understanding that the classroom will not purposely be
> used to advance religious views that may conflict with
> the private beliefs of the student and his or her family.
> Students in such institutions are impressionable and their
> attendance is involuntary."
> Do our students and teachers need to check
> their spirituality at the public school door?

Anne, you raise some excellent points with no simple answers. It may be
literally impossible to carry out the ideal 'that the classroom will not
purposely be used to advance religious views that may conflict with the
private beliefs of the student and his or her family." Whenever private
beliefs encompass matters of fact in disciplines being taught in the
classroom, whether it be history or science or economics, there will
inevitably be someone whose religious views conflicts with that fact. The
simple example is that whenever someone teaches the age of the earth, that
is an encroachment upon the private belief of a YEC family. To ridicule that
religious belief is tempting but not acceptable. Even teaching "just the
facts" would be advancing a religious view that conflicts with the private

The only way in which there would be no conflict would be if religion had no
claim on any historical or scientific event. That would be like Gould's
NOMA. As Glenn has often pointed out in this list, then the religion becomes

Unfortunately the solution is too often sought in the direction of seeking
to avoid any potential subject matter that might strike such a conflict.
The result would be a tragic void in education. Ideally, teachers should be
able to raise the issues and respectfully represent and portray the spectrum
of religious beliefs on a given topic in their area of expertise. But the
time and effort required to carry out such an ideal will seldom be able to
be met.

Teaching any discipline without ever addressing its philosophical or
religious implications would greatly shortchange the students and, in the
long run, the discipline itself. On the other hand, covering every possible
perspective from every minority opinion is hardly feasible. It does seem
that teachers have a very significant and difficult responsibility: to
teach the mainstream current thought in their discipline, not devoid of
philosophy and religion, but with respect and deference to the major
religious views on that discipline.

Received on Fri Dec 23 22:02:10 2005

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