We’re Not Against Christians; We’re Against Ignorance

Since 2005, the University of California has had to deal with a lawsuit filed by a number of Christian high schools and students. The Christians claimed that the university was “developing and implementing an admissions process that allegedly violates the Free Speech Clause, the Free Exercise Clause, the Establishment Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause.” They said the university would not accept several (required) courses for admission because they came from a Christian school system.

That sounds pretty bad… until you hear what the university system was actually doing.

The university said that “some of [the Christian schools'] courses failed to meet its academic requirements for college applicants.” For example, if your high school’s Biology textbook rejects evolution and embraces Creationism or you’re taught the Bible is infallible — you simply won’t learn the basic facts or critical thinking skills needed to succeed in a college environment.

The Biology textbook used in the Christian schools had this in the introduction:

Biology for Christian Schools is a textbook for Bible-believing high-school students. Those who do not believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God will find many points in this book puzzling. This book was not written for them.

The people who prepared this book have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science second…If…at any point God’s Word is not put first, the authors apologize.

The same encyclopedia article may state that the grasshopper evolved 300 million years ago. You may find a description of some insect that the grasshopper supposedly evolved from and a description of the insects that scientists say evolved from the grasshopper. You may even find a “scientific” explanation of the biblical locust (grasshopper) plague in Egypt. These statements are conclusions based on “supposed science.” If the conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong, no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them.

The Christian schools are shocked that the University of California would say this class did not fulfill a particular science requirement…

Another class rejected by the university was a history course: “Christianity’s Influence on America.” According to UC’s Professor James Given (PDF):

[The text] instructs that the Bible is the unerring source for analysis of historical events, attributes historical events to divine providence rather than analyzing human action, evaluates historical figures and their contributions based on their religious motivations or lack thereof and contains inadequate treatment of several major ethnic groups, women, and non-Christian religious groups.

Another History expert, Professor Gary Nash, added:

“From reading the [reviewed text], students will have little opportunity to exercise independent judgment, to sharpen their critical thinking skills, or to consider multiple perspectives of those who made our history.”

So, what’s going on with this case now?

In the latest ruling (PDF), Judge S. James Otero sided with the university:

[Judge Otero] rejected a number of the plaintiffs’ motions on procedural grounds, then evaluated the schools’ and the university’s arguments regarding decisions on five courses, in biology, English, government, history, and world religions. In each case, the judge found that the university’s decisions had been based on rational considerations and had showed no animus toward the plaintiffs.

The university is not discriminating against Christians. It’s rightfully saying that high school courses built around ignorance are not suitable requirements for college admission.

The Christian schools have filed an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Incidentally, that’s the same federal court which said in 2002 that “Under God” did not belong in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Things aren’t looking good for the fundamentalists…

  • David D.G.

    Your headline for this post says it all, Hemant.

    These zealots need to learn that, while a difference in viewpoint on some matters is perfectly valid, there are certain facts about the world that one does not get to simply ignore or deny, at least not without having to deal with major consequences of such willful delusions. But I suppose that if they weren’t so adamantly opposed to accepting reality, they would have learned this already.

    ~David D.G.

  • http://www.chedstone.com Roy McKenzie

    Excellent research Hemant! I didn’t know their text-book was that blatant about ignorance at the beginning. Im going to link back from my article.

  • http://www.google.com/reader/shared/03285257443185929989 Scotty B

    “…then evaluated the schools’ and the university’s arguments regarding decisions on five courses, in biology, English, government, history, and world religions.”

    Wait, does that say English? How could they screw up English? Not enough “thee”s “thou”s and “shalt”s?

  • Pingback: Judge Otero: the Bible is not an unerring source | chedstone.com

  • sc0tt

    Wait, does that say English? How could they screw up English? Not enough “thee”s “thou”s and “shalt”s?

    The university said it had rejected, for example, an English class at Calvary Christian called “Christianity and Morality in American Literature” in part because students read excerpts from a literature anthology without having to read at least some complete books, as UC requires.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-uc13-2008aug13,0,3960655.story

  • http://www.otmatheist.com/ hoverFrog

    I’m surprised at how often the idea of the bible being inerrant is brought up. Although I do not accept the bible as a reliable source of anything it has to be said that the writers had vastly different writing styles and accepted conventions to a modern, western audience. For instance the idea of magic was firmly accepted and no-one would question that a stick might be transformed into a snake. writing about such a thing would probably have seemed natural at the time. Similarly the idea of metaphor may have been much more important that accurate reporting of events. The emotions and wisdom could have held sway over the people present or the order of events.

    If you take the bible as an historical collection of documents then you have to take this into account. You also have to take into account the biases of the writers, the political situation at the time of writing, loss of original documentation (there is no original New Testament, just Greek translations) and translation errors.

    Even if you believe that the bible is the word of God then you should still be able to accept that words and phrases might have changed meaning or the context might be different now.

    It betrays the utter ignorance and bloody mindedness of the authors of these so called text books that they approach a subject from so blinkered an angle. What kind of editor would allow so biased a view and what sort of school would support it by buying the text books?

    The students are the ones who are suffering as a result. Their education has been curtailed because they have been fed this pointless crap. They cannot undo the harm or replace their faulty knowledge without considerable effort. Instead they are forced to shift the blame to a university who simply states the obvious about the quality of the latest batch of candidates. This should be recognised for what it is and the text books withdrawn and replaced with suitable ones.

    Don’t text books and teaching standards have any kind of checks and balances in America? Seriously?

  • Shane

    I hope this means I can still use my astrology classes, and get credit for that time I took a Course in Miracles. Tarot cards? Runestones? What about all my Scientology auditing sessions–those have got to at least be worth a humanities credit…

  • http://membracid.wordpress.com bug_girl

    Nicely done!
    (and mentions grasshoppers, which is a bonus :)

  • David D.G.

    hoverFrog wrote:

    Don’t text books and teaching standards have any kind of checks and balances in America? Seriously?

    You’re seeing an example of it right here: Refusal by a university to equate the high school’s indoctrination with education and give it equal credit. There are consequences for deliberately flouting educational standards — though in this case, as you pointed out, the innocent students suffer them more than anyone else.

    I know what you mean, though, and I, too, am appalled that “textbooks” such as these were ever accepted for ANY school. I’ll be even more appalled if that school’s accreditation (if it even is accredited) was granted while such texts were in use; if so, then whatever regulatory body oversees this sort of thing completely abdicated its responsibility (or was badly duped by the school — that is also possible).

    ~David D.G.

  • cipher

    I, too, am appalled that “textbooks” such as these were ever accepted for ANY school. I’ll be even more appalled if that school’s accreditation (if it even is accredited) was granted while such texts were in use; if so, then whatever regulatory body oversees this sort of thing completely abdicated its responsibility (or was badly duped by the school — that is also possible).

    I suspect they hide behind the Establishment Clause – they like to bellow that “Church and State” isn’t included in the Constitution, but they sure as hell don’t mind using it when it’s to their advantage. Forget the educational standards – that level of denial alone ought to be illegal.

    I don’t know why they bother to send their kids to school at all, really. How many ways can you spell “Goddidit?”

  • Richard Wade

    From the biology textbook:

    If the conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong, no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them.

    I haven’t seen a more concise description of the fundamentalist mentality, and it’s right out of their own mouths.

    From 1984, Part 3, Chapter 2 by George Orwell:

    ‘Do you remember,’ he went on, ‘writing in your diary, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four”?’

    ‘Yes,’ said Winston.

    O’Brien held up his left hand, its back towards Winston, with the thumb hidden and the four fingers extended.

    ‘How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?’

    ‘Four.’

    ‘And if the party says that it is not four but five — then how many?’

    ‘Four.’

    The word ended in a gasp of pain. The needle of the dial had shot up to fifty-five. The sweat had sprung out all over Winston’s body. The air tore into his lungs and issued again in deep groans which even by clenching his teeth he could not stop. O’Brien watched him, the four fingers still extended. He drew back the lever. This time the pain was only slightly eased.

  • Erp

    The school was accredited (it is a pre-req before UC even starts looking at the courses); however, accreditation seems to be more on the order of is the environment safe and reasonable, is the school financially well run, and less on the specifics of the coursework. Note the school in question did have UC approved courses as well as the ones not approved. I wonder who is going to pay the UC’s legal fees?

  • justin jm

    Article says…

    Another History expert, Professor Gary Nash, added:

    “From reading the [reviewed text], students will have little opportunity to exercise independent judgment, to sharpen their critical thinking skills, or to consider multiple perspectives of those who made our history.”

    Here’s another underlying layer of the problem. Most people hold the opinion that education should teach critical thinking skills instead of just memorization. I apologize if this is already painfully obvious, but it goes without saying that an education that doesn’t teach students how to think shouldn’t even count for kindergarten credit.

  • Richard Wade

    We’re seeing the brutal process of evolution at work. Those kids, taught to believe what they are told rather than to investigate the world with their five senses are not well adapted to thrive in an environment that favors people who can think for themselves. They or at least their mentality will not prosper and will gradually fade into extinction. It’s a slow process, however, so we’ll have their company for a few more generations. I feel sad for them. Oh well, life goes on.

  • Darryl

    They or at least their mentality will not prosper and will gradually fade into extinction. It’s a slow process, however, so we’ll have their company for a few more generations. I feel sad for them. Oh well, life goes on.

    Richard, consider how long people like this have been around already. No, they find places to live and work and survive. There is no reason to think that a golden age of reason is upon us. Also, I don’t think sociological processes work as unswervingly as do biological evolutionary processes.

  • Richard Wade

    Darryl, I’m not really thinking that a golden age of reason is upon us. The natural selection thing was more like a metaphor and I was enjoying the irony. Certainly in academia and the scientific professions, where these Christian high schools want to be able to send their woefully unprepared students, they will not do well. Even if they go to Christian colleges they will still emerge into the larger world four to six years later, unable to compete at least in the sciences.

    However you’re right, they will find little niches to fill where rational thought and supportive facts are not needed, like government.

  • Darryl

    they will find little niches to fill where rational thought and supportive facts are not needed, like government.

    Yes, like the graduates of Pat Robertson’s law school. What does it say about us that the former A.G. teaches there?

    I am not surprised by what is taught in such schools, because I used to attend a couple. Still, as I look at it now, it is amazing that one can live quite comfortably in this country and believe such incredible things. Sure, I know that Christians are often bothered to whatever degree by the wickedness and worldliness, but still.

  • Larry Huffman

    Well…I agree that what is in the beginning of these books is just amazing. Amazing at the outright ignorance on display. But then I recall myself having some of the same beliefs.

    You see…when I believed, I believed god was right, and anything else was wrong. It is the basic message of the bible. It pre-dates christians…few groups were more self-isolated than the jews in their ‘we are god’s chosen’ view. Permeated Jesus’ teachings.

    So the view that boggles my mind now…”If the conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong, no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them.”…is precisely the view I had then as well. And…I am a pretty sharp scientifically minded guy…was back then too, despite this stupid view I held. When I think about what I purposely ignored and avoided because of my beliefs in god, and the belief that all of those ‘facts’ were wrong since they contradicted god’s word…well, I am ashamed. And amazed that I used to believe that…and finally, I must admit, understanding for those who harbor this ignorant view.

  • Larry Huffman

    Oh…I guess my point was…that after having those beliefs the ignorance may even be more pronounced to me. And…having been a true believer before, I feel for many of those students who may just want a shot at a good education…and never thought that the belief system their parents fed them would come back to betray their basic educational needs.

  • Richard Wade

    Larry, I admire how you can look at yourself with such unflinching honesty yet show compassion for those who still think as you did. I wish we could do more to help young people in this predicament. Every once in a while I have had the opportunity to quietly plant little seeds of rationalism in the minds of kids from fundamentalist schools. It seems like so little and I know if those seeds sprout the kids will be conflicted for a while, but until someone comes up with a better method it’s all I can think of to do.

  • Pingback: Quote of the week: Biology for Christian Schools « Five Public Opinions

  • katie

    They or at least their mentality will not prosper and will gradually fade into extinction. It’s a slow process, however, so we’ll have their company for a few more generations. I feel sad for them. Oh well, life goes on.

    We’re seeing the opposite in America today.
    The people with the least ability to engage in independent thought seem to be the ones who are breeding (or have bred) at the highest rate.

    Stupid gets elected to office; stupid seems to permeate every critical area of our lives from the grocery store to 911 emergency. Stupid rewards horrors like that Hilton girl over strong brilliant people. Stupid watches Faux news every day and unquestioningly believes every word.

    Stupid is winning. I weep for this world.

  • Tom

    First off, Nuts to you, I am against christianity. it’s a memetic plague.

    Second off, Good. if you’re content with imbecilic religious high school education then you can just play in the forgotten hells of the various nameless christian colleges that blight america. a college education is not a gimme.

    Edit: katie, will you marry me?

  • Darryl

    The people with the least ability to engage in independent thought seem to be the ones who are breeding (or have bred) at the highest rate.

    Where I live those who are “breeding at the highest rate” are by and large Catholic. It remains to be seen what this means for the U.S. Our Catholics have been hard to control–we’ll see.

  • http://www.myspace.com/2793138 Phil E. Drifter

    For what it’s worth, i was sent to catholic school in Philly for 12 years, and I do appreciate the education I got there as opposed to what I imagine I would (or wouldn’t) have gotten at a public school. Having said that, my catholic school had no problem with teaching evolution, biology, chemistry, physics, calculus, and unfortunately, religion. But the people who doubt evolution might as well doubt gravity. They’re both ‘theories’ which can be a confusing term to the layman. They were to me. In the beginning, I thought theories were ‘only’ records of how we thought something occurred, but not enough was known to call it a full-blown law. Then someone explained to me that (I guess in philosophy, i may be wrong) ‘theory’ is the grandest proclamation you can make. The difference is subtle and i’ll try to explain it: laws of the universe are grounded in absolute fact, but theories go on to pre-suppose further truths although those truths can not be directly observed. The reason we have a ‘theory’ of evolution and not a ‘law’ of evolution is because there’s no way we could have documented it from 10, 100,000 years ago up until today. Anyway, a much better place to read about this would be http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_misconceptions , click on ’3.5 Evolution’ for this point but the rest is interesting too, even if it doesn’t blatantly point the finger at christians and their religion of ignorance. (I learned in Jack Herer’s book “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” that during the dark ages when religion ruled the world (fitting name, ‘dark ages’ under religion) only the priests and nobility/royalty were allowed to learn to read. They didn’t want anyone getting educated without their knowledge.

    But i swear to god, these people who grasp and claw for ignorance just baffle me. Makes absolutely no sense. I would (and this is a famous quote, by someone, maybe Mark Twain but i think it was someone else who’s name escapes me right now) ‘I would rather live in a harsh reality than a fanciful illusion’ or something like that but better stated.

  • http://cool-hotstuff.blogspot.com jasmine celion

    great post and blog too
    keep updating such nice post
    thanks for sharing it

    jasmine celion
    cool-hotstuff.blogspot.com

  • Richard Wade

    Looks like some spambots have wormed their way in.

  • chancelikely

    Phil E. Drifter: From what I’ve noticed, Catholic schools tend to be on the side of reason. It’s the fundy echo chambers that are getting smacked down, not the Catholic high schools or universities.

    And I note that the English class described in the suit fails UC’s standards on a non-religious issue – it’s not anti-evidence for religious purposes, it’s just a lousy English course. It seems that that reinforces the UC message: Christianity is fine, but do your homework. (Would that the lawyers for the Christian schools had done some homework!)

  • cipher

    they will find little niches to fill where rational thought and supportive facts are not needed, like government.

    Yes, like the graduates of Pat Robertson’s law school. What does it say about us that the former A.G. teaches there?

    Let us not forget that the few fundamentalist law schools have been turning out activist lawyers for some years now. Much of the time, when one hears of a court case in which a group of fundies is suing to impose its distorted view, the lawyer for its side is a graduate of one of these institutions.

    I am not at all hopeful that Christian fundies will be relegated to isolated niches; rather, they will continue to create a parallel reality, and to attempt to have that reality engulf our own. They’ve already made significant headway, and they won’t stop until all of American society (and, beyond that, the entire global civilization) is remade in their image. They are a relentless juggernaut of stupid.

  • Polly

    Richard Wade said:

    Those kids, taught to believe what they are told rather than to investigate the world with their five senses are not well adapted to thrive in an environment that favors people who can think for themselves.

    Au contraire! My experience tells me that mindlessly subscribing to the in-power paradigm is exactly what’s needed to advance in society. They will do well in conservative circles. And the liberals…well, they try to get along with everyone, anyway.

    As Kurt Vonnegut pointed out, ideas are used as badges to identify who’s in and who’s out, and not because of the content of those ideas.

    Looks like some spambots have wormed their way in.

    Damn! For a second there I thought the hottness level on FA was finally spiking.

  • Richard Wade

    Some of you guys sound so pessimistic that I wonder why you bother with the dreary, depressing drudgery of staying alive. C’mon, friends, use those sharp minds to think creatively and positively. I prefer to look for reasons to keep going. Since I’m here on Earth I figure I might as well try to make things better, rather than give up and die. I’ll have plenty of time to be dead; spending the few years I have working toward a positive goal is more interesting than whining about how the world is overrun by idiots as my time ticks away. Dismiss me as a cockeyed optimist if that makes you feel better. My response will be a cheery middle finger back. Don’t take it personally. It’s a loving challenge to lift your eyes off your shoes.

    Don’t let your frustration color all your perception. This whole thing is not a conflict between stupid people and smart people. It’s not even a conflict between believing in gods or not believing in gods. It’s a conflict between philosophies. It’s two camps arguing over what is knowledge, what is reality, what is truth. One side says knowledge comes from authority, from people in power augmenting their authority with claims of divine authority. The other side says knowledge comes from investigation using the five senses and if what is observed contradicts authority, then so be it. The conflict has been going on for thousands of years, and for most of that time the authoritarians held sway. However for the last 394 years or so, “our side” has been steadily gaining ground. When Galileo dropped two stones of different weight at the same time from a great height and they hit the ground at the same time, he proved that Aristotle, the favorite authority of the time was wrong and the idea that knowledge/truth/reality comes from authority began to lose strength. The single crack of those stones hitting the ground was our shot heard ’round the world. Because of that our lives have steadily become longer, richer, with less disease and pain, more satisfying and more interesting. The gifts of science and rationalism are very convincing incentives to keep going in this direction.

    There are always setbacks in any epic struggle, and we have had many. If you look too closely all you will see are the setbacks and you’ll miss the overall trend toward rationalism. Galileo’s dying under house arrest was a temporary setback. The recent inroads of fundamentalists into American government is a temporary setback. Over the past 8 years they’ve repeatedly embarrassed themselves by bumping into physical, actual reality that doesn’t match their authority-based model of reality and their power grab is faltering. The fact that the universe doesn’t give a damn about their silly little model will always be their Achilles’ heel.

    Keep in mind that the U.S. is only one country. Even if it does slip into it’s own dark age, the rest of the world is not going to be willing to follow suit. Rationalism will continue to grow elsewhere because the benefits are so compelling.

    Will the authoritarians go away? No. Is there serious danger? Yes. The worst danger is for rationalists to look too closely at the depressing short term setbacks and get discouraged. That drains our energy. Step back and look at the wider picture, the longer term trends. Even if you don’t become a cockeyed optimist like me, maybe you’ll be a little more able and willing to add to our efforts rather than sit and pout and lose by default. Life is short. Spend it fighting the good fight.

  • Siamang

    Bravo, Richard.

    Post this as a post unto itself.

  • Luke

    My high school science teacher, Mr. Cheff, was a devout catholic but loved teaching so much that he was (amazingly) able to put aside his beliefs for the scholastic well-being of his students. These teachers deserve a round of applause.

  • http://brazilbrat.blogspot.com/ James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil

    I see no problem. There are plenty of “christian” universities what wold find all of this perfectly acceptable. The “bible believing” students can go there and obtain degrees as worthless as their education.

    How they will find jobs after graduation is another issue. But perhaps the schools will have placement services that will concentrate all the graduates in a few non-essential industries. Sounds great to me. Almost as effective as gulags.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X