Saturday, January 28, 2006

Out of the mouths of babes

When I’m interested in a subject, I like to read letters to the editor and collections of opinions to see how others are talking about it. What do they understand? What do they misunderstand? Can someone make a point that will make me reconsider my own position?

This week my Google news search turned up “Where did we come from? Student perspectives vary” an article by Becky Johnson of The Smoky Mountain News (North Carolina) that reports on a classroom dialog

At Franklin High School, students in Lee Berger’s journalism class — an arena where students are used to tackling controversial issues — engaged in a discussion last week on the subject. The question at hand was whether creation, evolution and intelligent design should all be taught, and if so, in what subject they belonged and in what manner they should be taught.

Students shared a spectrum of views on the issue in a lively but respectful discourse. One of the more striking revelations in the class was that both sides — those who wanted creationism taught alongside evolution and those who thought teaching creation was an infringement on religious freedom — felt they were being discriminated against.

What follows is a selection of quotes that illustrates the usual range of the so-called debate as it is recited on letters to the editor pages around the country. Then there is this one:

Lauren McCauley said not everyone has the chance to go to church, and school is the only place they have a chance to be exposed to religion.

“They are in homes that don’t go to church,” McCauley said. “If evolution is the only thing being taught in the classroom, that’s the only idea they are ever going to know.”

It got a little trickier when deciding which religions should be included in a course of study, since different religions have different ideas of creation. McCauley said there wouldn’t be enough time to touch on every religion.

“I have mixed feelings,” McCauley said. “You don’t want to leave anybody out. The problem is you can’t always cater to everybody.”

McCauley said teachers would have to stick to the majority — Christianity.

In all innocence this young woman has demonstrated why the courts have ruled to keep religious instruction out of public schools. Happily, some of Lauren’s classmates have been paying attention in civics class (or whatever they call it these days).

“The majority takes care of itself,” [Courtney] Hall said. “Think about that one kid in the back that doesn’t really believe in it.”

Apparently schools are still teaching what freedom of religion really means … and some kids are getting it.


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