In Oklahoma, Religion Trumps a Real Education

A bill just passed through the Oklahoma House of Representatives that allows students to express their religious viewpoints without being penalized for it.

On the surface, House Bill 2211 (RTF file) sounds like a nod to religious freedom. A good thing.

However, this legislation actually has the potential to be disastrous. Says Dave McNeely of The Edmond Sun:

If a student’s religious beliefs were in conflict with scientific theory, and the student chose to express those beliefs rather than explain the theory in response to an exam question, the student’s incorrect response would be deemed satisfactory, according to this bill.

The school would be required to reward the student with a good grade, or be considered in violation of the law. Even simple, factual information such as the age of the earth (4.65 billion years) would be subject to the student’s belief, and if the student answered 6,000 years based on his or her religious belief, the school would have to credit it as correct. Science education becomes absurd under such a situation.

In other words, the following cartoon would be describing acceptable classroom work!

miraclehappens.jpg

Also, school assemblies could take on who new meaning:

If a student chose to take his opportunity to speak to a group of students in a school-sanctioned assembly to tell them they must accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior or go to hell, then that student would have a right to do so, according to this bill. Especially, but not only if the student held a position of honor and authority (class officer, team captain), and was speaking in his or her official capacity, the school has clearly established religion in violation of both the U.S. and Oklahoma constitutions.

The same would be true if the student chose to tell the assembled students that they would not go to hell, that there is no hell and that those who promote belief in hell are liars. What if a Wican student chose to tell the assembled students that the only true God is Nature, or a member of a radical religious sect advocated assassination in order to preserve God’s will? According to this bill, those students would be free, in a forum supported by the school, to do so. Any or all of these scenarios would lead to lawsuits.

The state of Texas adopted a similar bill, and one school district has figured out how to avoid the lawsuits: they don’t let students speak at all during assemblies, or graduation, or at an athletic event. It’s a huge loss for talented, well-spoken students who will no longer get a chance to be heard by their peers and community.

I can imagine young Oklahomans sitting at home this weekend plotting out how they will take advantage of this horrible law. Will they find a way to get out of completing a project by finding some tie-in to their faith and how the project goes against their beliefs?

Science isn’t the only subject affected.

Will students be telling their math teachers that they believe pi = 3? (Even though many Christians have rationalized their way out of that one.)

Will they refuse to read a controversial English novel because of un-religious themes in the book? And if they do read it, will their essays all look like this?

The Oklahoma State Senate can put a stop to this nonsense… I’m not holding my breath that they’ll point out the flaws.

(via ERV)


[tags]atheist, atheism, Oklahoma House of Representatives Education Committee, science education, creationism, intelligent design[/tags]

  • http://atheists.meetup.com/531 benjdm

    And since there is no such thing as an ‘official religion’ in OK or the U.S., there is now no reason for any student every to get a grade less than a 100. Just say every answer is your own personal religion, one that is continually being revealed to you and even changing. Voila! You can never be marked wrong again.

  • http://www.SecularDignity.net Secular Dignity

    1. Canada looks like a real good idea now.

    2. SA Smith is hot.

  • Lysander

    Canada looks like a real good idea now.

    Yeah it does. Or France, or Scandanavia…

    I can’t believe this. I move for a vote of no confidence.

    The Oklahoma State Senate can put a stop to this nonsense… I’m not holding my breath that they’ll point out the flaws.

    Did they receive a better education?

    Any or all of these scenarios would lead to lawsuits.

    Perhaps their courts are really hurting and this is their idea of an economic stimulus package.

  • http://groundedinreality.blogspot.com Bruce

    Yes, this is ridiculous and annoying, but I think that if this were to ever pass, the smart teachers could find away around it. Instead of just asking a general question like “How old is the earth?” they would just need to be very specific, such as “According to the latest scientific data presented in this class, what is the age of the earth?” There is no room for religious beliefs in this question.

  • http://www.nautblog.blogspot.com Sean the Blogonaut

    I would suggest a move to Australia perhaps?

  • Joe

    Religion does not belong in schools. Period. To me, actions like this just wreak of insecurity.

  • http://jmccance.blogspot.com Joel

    I had the same thought as Bruce. There shouldn’t be any opening for religious banter if the question is phrased in terms of what scientists say as opposed to some absolute description of reality.

    I prefer that sort of phrasing anyway. You can be just as dogmatic about science as you can about religion, and both are to be avoided. We should be teaching kids to think about scientific facts in terms of experimental data and the consensus of the scientific community, not just unbacked statements like “The world is 4.65 billion years old.”

  • Davout

    If a student’s religious beliefs were in conflict with scientific theory, and the student chose to express those beliefs rather than explain the theory in response to an exam question, the student’s incorrect response would be deemed satisfactory, according to this bill.

    Sweet! From now on my religious belief is that 42 is the universal answer to everything. Valedictorian baby!

  • JimboB

    Freedom of religion is no excuse for being an idiot. If kids want to profess their religious beliefs, that’s fine; but they should be required to at least know what science says, even if they don’t accept it.

    If the question were as Bruce stated, “According to the latest scientific data presented in this class, what is the age of the earth?”, the student should be able to answer “Most scientists believe the earth is 4.65 billion years old, but my religious belief says it is 6,000 years old.” Or something like that.

    Of course it seems silly that theists should have to give two answers. Ugh. I don’t know. This is flustering.

  • http://www.SecularDignity.net Secular Dignity

    Sean the Blogonaut said,

    I would suggest a move to Australia perhaps?

    I did look at New Zealand, but a round-trip flight from Chicago to Auckland is $1500. Australia was pretty expensive too.

    A bus ticket to Toronto is about $100.

  • Mercurious

    Actually I’m thinking I’ll sign up for that one way trip to Mars.

    One way trip to mars

    Someone stop the world, I want to get off. This bill has really gotten my blood boiling.

  • http://daybydayhsing.blogspot.com Dawn

    Homeschool people. It’s the only way to go.

  • http://bornagainblog.wordpress.com Justin McKean

    I live in OK and grew up here. Kids have getting out of assignments for religious reasons here for a long time.

  • http://atheistokie.wordpress.com/ Atheist Okie

    Frustrating…..very frustrating.

    And Oklahoma had just started to make a better name for itself. We do a lot of talking about how cutting edge and progressive we want to be, yet laced with a good dose of country common sense (like Will Rogers), but I guess not so much anymore. This is just utterly embarrassing.

  • Darryl

    The best thing that can happen is for this bill to become a law. These idiots will realize quite quickly that they have shot themselves in the foot. Yes, at a time when our students are sucking at just about every academic discipline, when science education is increasingly critical for our nation’s future, when our creative economy is the last thing we have going for us, what we need is more ignorance and superstition. What will these students do when every good university they apply to will turn them down once they notice the schools from which they came? OK will take the prize for most backward state away from Texas–I didn’t think such a feat was possible!

  • http://www.jaredmlee.net jared

    Yes its a bit off topic, but i think the debate is missing the point.

    if everyone (religious and non religious) would understand that to educate means to “bring learning out” then the debate would go away. Instead if any “factual answers” like “the earth is 6,00 / 4.65 billion years old, would be moot.

    The question should be “how old do you think the earth is and why?” answers must be supported, and referenced.

    With this you make the child actually THINK! Imagine that! an education that taught you to think for yourself instead of expecting you to memorize answers! wouldn’t that be something?

    For what its worth thats why we home school. So many people think (and for good reason) that Christians home school because they are protecting their kids from homosexuality and evolution. We do it because we want our kids to learn to think for themselves. Sure they get our own thought mixed in, but we teach WHY WE BELIEVE WHAT WE BELIEVE and how that influences the answers we come up with.

    we have taught evolution, creation and our 8 year old knows all about homosexuality. it isnt about protection, its about learning to learn – not memorize. If this type of education were prevalent in public or private – believe me either one would be easier, but we think we can do better at home.

    Don’t hear what I am not saying. Most teachers I know are excellent caring people. Its not their fault the system is broken.

  • stogoe

    Homeschool people. It’s the only way to go.

    And I suppose you think everyone lives in a two-parent environment, and that one income is sufficient to keep a family afloat? How are you going to afford food and shelter by depriving yourself of half your earning power?

    Besides, homeschooling may save your children, but what about the rest of civilization? Fleeing the school system is selfish and short-sighted. Better to fix public education and further the good of all society than to hunker down in your Montanan survivalist shack, scoffing at the fall of man.

  • GentlePath

    Now that my kids can read, write, compute, and think, I’m more than happy to work on public education. It’s kind of like putting on your own oxygen mask first and then helping the person next to you.

    So I went back to school, got my master’s and a teaching certificate. Here are some highlights.

    I learned in my 400 level Philosophy of Education class that the second law of thermodynamics is racist. In another class, the professor left the room during a mid-term and the student sitting next to me took out her notes and started copying. I was the only person in a group of 20 or so future English teachers who could diagram a sentence.

    During student teaching – well that sucked so bad it was heartbreaking. Not all teachers are mean and stupid, but a lot of them are. And the drama around letting kids use the bathroom is absurd.

    Life is short. Of all the things I might do with the time I have left, kicking this particular dead horse has lost a lot of the appeal it once had for me.

  • http://atheists.meetup.com/531 benjdm

    With this you make the child actually THINK! Imagine that! an education that taught you to think for yourself instead of expecting you to memorize answers!

    I don’t know about your school, but that IS what we did in my public school.

  • Davout

    I learned in my 400 level Philosophy of Education class that the second law of thermodynamics is racist.

    What! How in the world did they come up with that idea?

  • Richard Wade

    I can imagine young Oklahomans sitting at home this weekend plotting out how they will take advantage of this horrible law. Will they find a way to get out of completing a project by finding some tie-in to their faith and how the project goes against their beliefs?

    They won’t really have to work hard to make it fit established religion. They only have to claim that their particular personal faith teaches them whatever nincompoopery they want to scribble on their finals:
    “According to my faith, Columbus was the first to Roman to walk around the world. Cats are reptiles. Pi squared is the same as an adjective. The pyramids were carved from solid stone and then made to just look like they were assembled from millions of individual blocks. If Nancy has three apples and gives Johnny one, she’s a stingy bitch. The eight parts of speech are letters, numbers, punctuation marks, air and spit. The sun goes around Mars. (In Oklahoma “Mars” is pronounced more like “my ass.”) John Steinbeck wrote ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ on the back of an envelope and then he faked his own death. The speed of light is faster in solids than a car going east at the same speed. Benjamin Franklin invented the number 100 by rubbing two sticks together. School sucks.”

    With all the talk about building a fence along the border with Mexico, maybe we should detour the fence north to go along the northern borders of Oklahoma and Texas before it reaches the sea.

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