Sunday, May 3, 2009

Yet another person I don't want on my side

I read this article in my local paper this morning. For those of you who don't want to read the whole thing, it's basically about how a history teacher in Mission Viejo supposedly violated the First Ammendment by stating that creationism is "religious, superstitious nonsense". Apparently, he also said a lot of other disparaging things about religion in general, and Christianity is particular. (Looking at the article that I just linked, it's slightly different than the one I read in my local paper, so not all the quotes are the same.)

Obviously, when it comes to religious issues, I'm of the same mind as this guy. After all, creationism IS religious, superstitious nonsense! And to teach it as some sort of alternative scientific theory in a public school is downright criminal. However, I have to wonder exactly what this teacher was hoping to accomplish.

Have I ever said anything against creationism in my class? Damn straight, I have. However, I worded it quite differently. I have said two things, the first being that it's a myth that the creationism/evolution debate is a debate solely between theists and nontheists. I also said that it's a myth that the scientific community is somehow seriously divided on this issue. After those statements, I follow it up with, "Don't just believe me - look into it for yourselves." (Why bring this up at all in an English class? It's because much of the literature that we read dovetails into religious issues, and I'm trying to make it relevant to today's issues.)

The bottom line is, I might reach a couple of students who care about these sorts of things in the first place, but most of them have already made up their mind or (even worse) don't really care about the issue one way or another. Calling it "nonsense" will only turn kids off and not convince anybody of anything.

The way I see it, the only way to really combat religious/magical thinking is by emphasizing critical thinking skills. If all we do is try to get kids to repeat what we say, then they'll fall for any kind of bullcrap.

I suppose that this might be difficult for those who only know my religious thoughts from this blog, but the point of this blog is to get out all the stuff from my head that I hold back on during the day. I'm pretty open with my students about where I stand, but I know that if I insult their beliefs, they won't listen to anything I say. Considering the fact that I've had kids who were deeply religious come back and visit me after they moved on from my class, I'm going to assume that I'm doing a pretty good job of this.

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