I’d never heard of the Illinois Family Institute, but… well, watch this if you can:
There were too many things wrong with this video to count. I spent those 6-and-a-half minutes staring at it with a disbelieving rictus on my face. For those of you who can’t watch it, it’s a movie objecting to the way schools are “forcing” children to be tolerant of homosexuals. The video even shows the teacher tossing a student’s Bible in the trash, as if that’s happening all over the country:
“A closet is by no means a suitable place to live, but to abandon it only to force people of faith into it is not tolerance. In an age where good is called evil and evil good, concerned parents must inoculate their children from the cultural engineering of the Secular Humanists.”
Parents have the absolute right to teach their children whatever they believe. But as agents of our secular government, schools have the responsibility to provide a secular education independent of religious and supernatural claims.
I’ve made the joke that I celebrate an annual “John Stuart Mill Appreciation Year.” I figure that as an educator himself, Hemant might particularly appreciate this quote from Mill’s “Speech on Secular Education”:
There is not a better defined word in the English language. Secular is whatever has reference to this life. Secular instruction is instruction respecting the concerns of this life. Secular subjects therefore are all subjects except religion… Education provided by the public must be education for all, and to be education for all it must be purely secular education.
If a social code of conduct is to be taught in schools, it must be a secular one, and should “respect the concerns of this life.” We expect our schools to teach some degree of acceptable social behavior, punishing the disrespectful bullies and encouraging sharing or cooperation. Any decision on which behaviors to support must be based on our opinions and our thoughts here in this world. The believed approval or disapproval of a supernatural entity is irrelevant.
One line from the video I particularly liked was: “Tradition isn’t right because it is longstanding, but some traditions are longstanding because they are right.”
They get points for intellectual honesty — we should weigh the merits of a tradition, not simply point to its longevity to justify its continuation. America’s tradition of racial discrimination was longstanding not because it was “right,” but because people were too stubborn and pig-headed to recognize that a person’s skin color doesn’t matter. If the Illinois Family Institute wants secular schools to recognize the merit of their tradition of bigotry, they’ll have to come up with a secular reason.
I haven’t heard one yet. Have you?
(video via Andrew Sullivan)