Transterrestrial Musings  

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay

Alan Boyle (MSNBC)
Space Politics (Jeff Foust)
Space Transport News (Clark Lindsey)
NASA Watch
NASA Space Flight
Hobby Space
A Voyage To Arcturus (Jay Manifold)
Dispatches From The Final Frontier (Michael Belfiore)
Personal Spaceflight (Jeff Foust)
Mars Blog
The Flame Trench (Florida Today)
Space Cynic
Rocket Forge (Michael Mealing)
COTS Watch (Michael Mealing)
Curmudgeon's Corner (Mark Whittington)
Selenian Boondocks
Tales of the Heliosphere
Out Of The Cradle
Space For Commerce (Brian Dunbar)
True Anomaly
Kevin Parkin
The Speculist (Phil Bowermaster)
Spacecraft (Chris Hall)
Space Pragmatism (Dan Schrimpsher)
Eternal Golden Braid (Fred Kiesche)
Carried Away (Dan Schmelzer)
Laughing Wolf (C. Blake Powers)
Chair Force Engineer (Air Force Procurement)
Saturn Follies
JesusPhreaks (Scott Bell)
The Ombudsgod
Cut On The Bias (Susanna Cornett)
Joanne Jacobs

Site designed by

Powered by
Movable Type
Biting Commentary about Infinity, and Beyond!

« And Now, Back To Space | Main | MIA »

OK By Me

I just notice that Jay Manifold has cited a poll that states, ""... more than two-thirds favored teaching both evolution and creationism in U.S. public school classrooms."

Heck, I have no objection to that. I just don't want them taught in the same class...

The first would be taught in science class, the second in "Survey on World Religions."

Just one more example of how misleading poll questions, and polls, can be.

Posted by Rand Simberg at June 02, 2002 07:50 PM
TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference this post from Transterrestrial Musings.

I don't think that religion, even comparative religion courses, can Constitutionally be taught in public schools as they are presently funded. If government is running the schools and paying the teachers' salaries, even selecting the religions which will be discussed objectively in a survey course would tend to favor one faith over another, since you can't teach about everything.

That's one of the major reasons I support market-based reform of public education (direct subsidies to parents). The socialized system we have now is Constitutionally incapable of moral instruction, and even if it weren't we don't want government to have the power to dictate that aspect of the curriculum, especially if they're going to do as poor a job of it as often occurs today with other subjects.

Posted by Ken Barnes at June 3, 2002 04:10 AM

Hey K. B.,

I don't know anything about the legality, but back in the mid 70' my public grade school calculus teacher in AZ (who happened to be an ex-catholic priest) taught a course in comparative religions. I even represented our class in a local tv broadcast about it (I was the fat guy in the middle.) My understanding was that the unusual part was that it was being taught in grade school, but that colleges often had such a course...

Posted by ken anthony at June 3, 2002 06:21 AM

Ken :

In what conceivable sense would allowing schools to provide some religious instruction tend to "establish" a religion, which is all the Constitution forbids?

Posted by oj at June 3, 2002 07:14 AM

I don't know OJ, I was just commenting on some personal experience that related to "I don't think that religion, even comparative religion courses, can Constitutionally be taught in public schools as they are presently funded."

I was making *no* statement regarding legalities. But since you brought the subject up...

Does establish a religion mean "Church of England", "Russian Orthodox" or whatever; or could it also means coercing a young mind (when that's a parents job! ;-)

I can concieve of an influential teacher (or even a megalamaniac with tenor) having a corrupting influence that could perhaps be seen as "establishing" a religion in the mind of an impressionable young person.

Posted by ken anthony at June 3, 2002 07:55 AM

My school experience was that evolution wasn't taught at all. It was the last chapter of the biology book (of course it should be the first chapter) and no class ever made it all the way through the book. I suspect that in many schools the subject is just slid past in some similar fashion ...

SO, though I agree that Creationism isn't science, one advantage of "equal time" would be that evolution would actually be taught. And students might be lured into thinking and debating. That would be a big improvement. Actually, I doubt evolution is something that can be just taught -- the subtleties don't stick in the brain unless you actually become interested and chew it over yourself. Creationists might not like "equal time" if they got it.

When the Constitution was written, an "establishment of religion" meant a state church, a church that was part of the government, like the C. of E. I don't think any of the founders would have wanted to get rid of all traces of religion in the government. Even if not religious themselves, they all considered it salutary for the simpler folk.

Posted by John Weidner at June 3, 2002 09:44 AM

To Ken A.

I think the question was addressed to me, actually. It's a bit dangerous to have all these Kens around here, while referring to us by our first names. Especially if we were discussing cloning again. :)

Ken B. continues:

How you reach that conclusion, I think, is viewing the First Amendment in the light of the "equal protection" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Congress has traditionally left education to the states, but if the states were to approve curricula which favored some religions over others, "equal protection" would be implicated.

The ACLU of course, may read the First Amendment's "establishment clause" as a sufficient prohibition, but that specifies Congress, which prohibition the Fourteenth Amendment mirrors to the states.

Posted by Ken Barnes at June 3, 2002 09:48 AM

The Constitutional prohibition is quite specifically about a congressionally established religion. Several states actually had established religions at the Founding. Even if you extend the prohibition to the states, it dioesn't touch upon individual towns, schools, and teachers.

Posted by oj at June 3, 2002 11:17 AM

>The Constitutional prohibition is quite
>specifically about a congressionally established
>religion. Several states actually had
>established religions at the Founding. Even if
>you extend the prohibition to the states, it
>dioesn't touch upon individual towns, schools,
>and teachers."

BoRs were Extend to citizens of the states via SCOTUS incorporation doctrine.

Most, maybe all, states have adopted establishment and free exercise clauses into their bills of rights, charters of rights, etc.

As to towns, schools and teachers:
Municipalities, school districts and other political subdivisions formed under state law are suject to the same establishment and free exercise doctrine as the state.

Just what a teacher's "establishment of religion" is, I don't know. Bottom line is that no U.S. citizen has Constitutional Rights less expansive than the federal. Some states may be more expansive in free exercise and more restrictive of state acts of establishment.

Posted by Quinbus Flestrin at June 3, 2002 07:10 PM

Since I inadvertently started this, here's my $0.02:

One of the reasons I went with 45% instead of 67% for the size of "set A" was that the numbers routinely go up and down by 20% depending on how the questions are asked. I might have added that set A has nearly doubled in size relative to the "universal set" over the past three decades and would continue to grow even if all proselytizing stopped tomorrow. The commonly-held beliefs and practices of set A exhibit a strong negative correlation to high-risk behavior; these people are much less likely to smoke, drink, or, well, otherwise dissipate themselves to death (though a fair number of them will eat themselves to death). The future of America, circa 2020, is very likely one of political domination by set A; the outstanding question is what they will want to do with that power.

If we are fortunate, they will sufficiently distrust government to make choices like voucher systems or other transitional measures toward consumer choice, rather than implementing favored curricula. A wise man (Walter Block) once said that all First Amendment conflicts occur in only two places: public schools and public streets. (If he'd added "public airwaves," he'd have had it covered, but I quibble.) Battles like the one in Kansas three years back can be avoided entirely if we move away from government as the direct provider of education.

Now to turn the Establishment-Clause concern on its head, consider the effect on young-Earth creationists (largely a subset of set A) who find themselves forced to finance schools in which their own children are taught material which they consider greatly at odds with their beliefs and even inimical to morality. Three-eighths of Kansas parents of public school children were members of this set. What's being done to their First Amendment rights? Why is it acceptable to treat "unreasonable" people this way?

Indeed, to the extent that the vote by the Kansas Board of Education was an attempt to meliorate this, I supported it. But its supporters were crushed at the polls in the very next election and the new board reversed the policy at its first meeting, with little or no debate. The whole story was a multi-level tragedy far more worthy of a depiction like "Inherit the Wind" than the Scopes trial ever was. Someday I'll try to blog it all.

Posted by Jay Manifold at June 5, 2002 06:21 PM

Post a comment

Email Address: