Field of Science

US judge says religion is no substitute for proper education

In the US, kids who get unlucky with their parentage can easily end up in a school so obsessed by religion that it gets in the way of a good education. Schools like the Calvary Chapel Christian School of Murrieta, for example. The quality of education provided by this private, religious school is so abysmal that the University of California refuses to accept some of the qualifications that it hands out, on the grounds that they are worthless. So kids subjected to the school's teaching stand no hope of getting into their local university.

The school litigated, of course. And, as the LA Times reports, the case (which has been grinding on for 3 years) has just been flat rejected. This is more significant than it might sound to British ears. The main plank of the case was the school's complaint that the University was violating Free Speech. Now, to do that the school had to show that the University either had no reason to reject the courses, or that they rejected them because of animus (i.e. the University is anti-religious).

In rejecting the school's claims, Judge James Otero lays out in pretty painful detail just how shoddy is the quality of education provided by these religious schools (full judgement here). For scientists, the most interesting bit is the the school's biology text book, Biology: God's Living Creation. According to one of the academics who reviewed it, the problem with it is not that it contains religious viewpoints, or even that it talks about creationism as if it was plausible, but rather that it "would not adequately teach students the scientific principles, methods, and knowledge necessary for them to successfully study those subjects at UC." According to Judge Otero:
Professor Kennedy determined that "[b]y teaching students to reject scientific evidence and methodology whenever they might be inconsistent with the Bible . . . both texts fail to encourage critical thinking and the skills required for careful scientific analysis." (Kennedy Decl. Ex. A, at 8.)
Professor Ayala found that the texts "reject the methodology generally accepted in science, which relies on observation and experimentation and on the formulation of laws and theories that need to be tested rather than accepted on the basis of the Bible or any other authority.
It sounds like an extraordinary book to be giving to school kids, let alone giving it to them with the consent of parents and teachers. But the book is more bizarre than even the bitterest critic of malignant religion would imagine. Questionable Authority gives some quotes, and this one's a humdinger:
The people who prepared this book have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science any point God's Word is not put first, the authors apologize.
And BlueGrassRoots gives several more, including this one from the preface:
Life is God's most marvelous and complex creation. Biology: God's Living Creation presents life as God created it and now controls it. Historically, biology was the first major area of assault in the American classroom as evolution permeated the schools in the 1920's. Even today, evolutionism poisons biology textbooks and distracts from God's glory in creation. High school students need to understand God's living creation from a Biblical perspective, as God created it, and as man has learned of it.
Frankly, I find all of this rather disturbing. Not that these kinds of books are produced, But that parents are willing to pay money to subject their kids to it. And worse, when they complain that their kids are too badly educated to get into university, they actually get taken seriously rather than laughed at.

1 comment:

  1. The full judgment reveals a parallel world in which religion is integral to every subject - history, language, government - not just science. The Court rejected this world decisively.

    But I wonder whether there is a lesson here for us. As a humanist I see the advance of human knowledge as a struggle to overcome prejudice and special pleading. This struggle covers all areas of knowledge - not just science. The tools we use in this struggle - science, maths, logic, debate - are amongst the greatest human creations but do we teach them? Do we explain their value?

    I'm not a teacher or a school governor but I suspect that we don't.

    It doesn't stop there. As a humanist I see human history as attempts - fitful and incomplete - to extend morality to all human beings and to develop cultures and institutions in which every person can prosper and achieve their potential. It is a moral perspective on history. Here, again, we should celebrate principles such as the rule of law, democracy and the publicly provided safety net for the unfortunate.

    Again, do we teach this?


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