Saturday, July 11, 2009

WTF Spencer, Iowa?

Up in Spencer Iowa, a small town's school board is doing something monumentally stupid: They're trying to shove religion back into schools. And they're not even being subtle about it.

The draft resolution reads like typically uninformed religious propaganda. It starts off requiring that staff and students be granted rights they already have:
School will not discriminate against private religious expression.
School will educate about, not indoctrinate religious faith.
Students have always had the right to private religious expression. It's when they start doing it publicly, in a manner that disrupts the curriculum or the academic environment that it becomes unacceptable.
Schools have always had the ability to teach about religion. This is something the religious right frequently whines about because to teach about it, means we don't leave out the things they'd rather not have people know.

But it doesn't get any better.
Promote dialogue between schools and community concerning faith.
Yes. Invite sectarian groups to proselytize. Smart one there. And who gets to pick which groups are invited in to do this?
Create a climate of academic freedom concerning faith issues.
This idea sounds wonderful, but how fairly will it be applied? I remember a few years ago a similar notion of allowing religious groups to distribute “backpack mail”. But as soon as a Pagan group wanted to use it, it drew complaints.
Allow for student and employee religious expression within the law.
I feel pretty repetitive here, but students do have this right. Teachers, not so much. If the “within the law” statement is actually upheld, then this resolution doesn't actually mean anything.
School will neither promote, or disparage religious faith.
Which isn't never been allowed to in the first place! Why is this crap included in here? I think it's pretty obvious: A critical analysis of these people's religions and the history of their religion doesn't necessary cast it in a positive light. That's not disparaging it. It's being honest about it. But such people are so thin skinned that they can't tell the difference anymore.

The next section is “Definition”. The one for religion is stupidly vague:
Religion-a specific system of belief which may or may not include a deity, is not limited to orthodox belief systems or practices.
Oh look! Words to equivocate with! Let's not define the difference between “belief” based on evidence and “belief” based on blind faith.

The next one is even worse:
Evolution – The belief that an unguided process of mutation and natural selection resulted in the existence of life on earth.
I can guarantee no one with any scientific knowledge beyond a basic course helped write this crap. Evolution is not unguided. Natural selection is a powerful guiding force. Evolution does not have anything to do with the “existence of life on earth”. It only discusses the diversity.

The section on “Graduation exercises and other Extra-Curricular Activities” is nothing but things that have been ruled against by courts in the past:
a. Content of speeches by private individuals will not regulated on religious content.
b. School will permit the graduating class to choose whether to have an invocation and or benediction to be given by student volunteer in a non-proselytizing and nonsectarian manner.
The first one is basically saying that the school will not keep out preaching. The second contradicts the first saying that proselytizing is not ok. Make up your minds guys. It even contradicts itself by allowing for a “nonsectarian benediction”. While a benediction can be just a general well-wishing, given the title of the document (Religious Liberty), it's safe to assume that it's talking about a religious one.

Like the school I mentioned before, this school is trying to allow for distribution of religious materials too:
a. Religious materials may not be singled out for specific regulation based on content.
b. Students may distribute religious materials at reasonable times and manners designated by the school.
Again, something that sounds good, but just wait till someone with views they don't want tries to apply for the same rights. As for the second statement, students already have these rights, but it's pretty worthless anyway. Unless you want trashcans full of Chick tracts.

The section on “Religion in the Curriculum” is just a mess.
1. Curriculum areas that overlap religious faith shall demonstrate respect for affected religious convictions.
2. Electives to be offered at Spencer High School:
  a. The Bible in History and Literature
  b. Critic of Darwinism, a scientific approach. (provide a balanced review of evidence for and against the theory of evolution, using texts which include “Darwin’s Black Box” by M. Behe)
The idea that topics that may overlap must “demonstrate respect” is just code for “tiptoe around anything we don't like to hear” which destroys the stance of neutrality they're pretending to create. As far as the elective courses, the first one is fine. The second is, well, at least they're admitting the “criticism” of religion is a religious exercise. But seriously, Darwin's Black Box!? That book's been torn up and down so many times now it's not even funny. That's hardly “balanced”. Nor does “Darwinism” even exist beyond a silly Creationist strawman!

And just so the whole thing ends on a stupid note:
Teaching about the holidays. Discussion of the significance in an objective and historical nature will be allowed.
Sure. So they're going to admit that every Christian holiday is a rip off of other religions? Yep. Thought that one through real well...

HT: Stupid Evil Bastard


Anonymous said...

Wow... some of that stuff is just rediculous... do you go to this school (or know someone who does)?

Jon Voisey said...

I don't go to, nor do I know anyone that goes to this school. I likely heard about this case from media outlets, religious news feeds, or another blog.