06 April 2008

Special Rights for Christian Young pt 2

I've amused myself by staggering about the internets, butterfly net in hand, trying to get some sense out of this whole University of California lawsuit thing. A fascinating comment-thread from 2006 turned up here, in which some poor guy signing himself Larry Fafarman gets baited and repeatedly ripped apart by "Mary", "Albatrossity", "Flex", and "Josh", among others. Like a bull in a bullfight Larry gets up again and again and charges the cape, only to miss the mark altogether and go crashing once again into walls of the arena. He is sure that the University of California has discriminated against this Christian school somehow, but he hasn't read the court documents or anything like that. He is quite positive that most biologists have no need for evolutionary theory in their work, but he has no data to support his claim. He gets enraged when asked to provide evidence, and positively asserts that other people who have actually checked out the material must be wrong. Ex cathedra, I guess. I actually started feeling sorry for the guy after a bit, despite his, uh, bullheadedness, he was so badly outgunned in the discussion.

One of Fafarman's repeated points is that "The UC officials did not say that the science itself was bad. If UC wants to win this lawsuit, I think that UC needs to find more fault with the books than that. The main issue here is whether the books may add a religious viewpoint to the standard curriculum." Even though he was corrected several times on this point, he kept on asserting it, as though it were a fact. But it isn't. It's one of the points in contention. The University of Californian says it rejected the Bob Jones University biology textbook because it did not cover the standard course material. At no point did the university claim that it had any objection to an added religious viewpoint. That is what the lawyer for the Christian school is contending. The main issue here is not "whether the books may add a religious viewpoint to the standard curriculum"; if it were, then both sides would be in agreement on this point, since UC has never contested that concept. One of the material issues to be settled, it seems to me, is whether the books in question did in fact cover the standard curriculum, since UC says they didn't and the Christian school says they did. To me that appears to be a no-brainer, at least as far as the Bob Jones biology book is concerned. I don't know what exactly it was teaching, but whatever it was, it was anti-science, not science.

Of the three courses for which documents were given in the complaint the matter seems fairly open and shut for the government course and the English course. These two on their face appear to flunk the a-g standards UC has in place. This is not a matter of religious content; it is a matter of poorly designed courses. The Christian influence on American History course is another matter. UC rejected it as too narrow or too specialized, and that could be open to interpretation. It seems to me that it should have been placed in the (g) category (college prep elective) rather than the (a) category (history), both because of its somewhat specialized focus and because American History was a required prerequisite, and this course hardly qualifies as the required year of non-American history.

And while the UC judged the textbook inadequate for general American history, it's worth noting that here its intended use was for a Christian influence on America course. It's possible that a case could be made for it, though its attributing events to divine providence rather than investigating human causes seems problematical. That's not exactly history as we know it, but rather some kind of theology. It would be better to use a more orthodox treatment as the main textbook, and to use the Bob Jones book as a supplement, if it had to be used at all. But of course I'd have to see the book itself before I could pronounce on it; right now I'm taking the word of experts about what the book says.

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