The benefits of illegal proposals

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Tue Feb 29 13:02:24 UTC 2000


Let's start that 200 years a-rollin.


PS: How did you ever guess that Buddhism course was a college-level one?

>Dennis R. Preston wrote:
>> boards in Kansas and Texas (I hope y'all
>> Kansans and Texans take care of this slur on your own...)
>Jeez, Dennis, I was just following your lead!  You're the one who brought
>up the
>Kansas Board of Education (your posting in this thread dated 2/24/2000).  I
>added Texas simply because its state Board of Education is famous for its huge
>influence in the textbook industry and for being a major takeover target
>of the
>religious right.  (Details below.)  As a born and bred Iowan who still returns
>there every year for a visit, I actually *like* the Midwest.  And anyway, my
>full phrase was "Kansas or Texas or anywhere else."
>> Hmmmm. This is a very interesting response. Since teachers in US public
>> schools aren't qualified to teach a subject, let's not do it.
>Math and physics, which you mention, and even history and biology (though
>are trickier), don't raise constitutional issues and religious hackles the way
>courses in religion would.  I realize the courts have said that, in principle,
>there would be no constitutional problem with an objective presentation of
>comparative religion; I was just saying that, as a practical matter, I
>question whether a course that is genuinely religiously neutral (including
>neutral in regard to religion vs. nonreligion) is possible in most primary and
>secondary schools in the United States.  I doubt that the agnostic teacher of
>that good course in Buddhism you referred to was teaching in high school with
>Board-of-Education-approved textbooks.
>> There seems to be some confusion between what I am calling "comparative
>> religion" and "teaching religion" - the furthest thing from my mind.
>That was intentional.  I'm afraid that most primary and secondary teachers in
>the United States--even with the best of intentions--would have trouble making
>this distinction, and would consciously or unconsciously mix a good deal of
>indoctrination in with their teaching.
>> I envisioned a course in which the nature of various religions was
>> examined but also one in which the social and psychological
>> characteristics of religious belief in general were explored as well.
>> I was wool-gathering about an ideal world, but, it seems to me, none
>> of that ideal ever gets implemented if we don't reach for it from time
>> to time.
>If such a thing were possible, I might even sign up for the course myself!
>as you say, it's pretty idealistic.  You and I agree that it would be nice
>to be
>able to give all children a course such as you envision; but we probably also
>agree that it will be a good while--I'm guessing two hundred years--before
>becomes a realistic goal.
>James E. Clapp
>Addendum--Notes on the Texas Board of Education, perennial religious
>Time magazine, April 30, 1984:
>   When Texas talks, textbook publishers tend to listen.  As one of the
>purchasers of school textbooks ($65 million this year), the state has
>exerted a strong influence on the content of books used by schools across the
>country.  After the Texas board of education accommodated Fundamentalist
>Christians in 1974 by requiring that evolution be taught as "only one of
>explanations" of the origins of mankind, some publishers began to alter their
>texts to make them more widely acceptable. For instance, in the 1981 high
>school biology book published by Laidlaw Bros., a division of Doubleday, the
>word evolution did not appear, even in the glossary or index.
>   In 1982 the People for the American Way, a liberal group that wages First
>Amendment campaigns, began pressuring the Texas board to rescind its 1974
>They were joined last month by a powerful ally: Texas State Attorney
>General Jim
>Mattox concluded that the rule was unconstitutional because it was
>motivated by
>"a concern for religious sensibilities rather than a dedication to scientific
>truth." Two weeks ago the Texas board of education repealed the controversial
>measure. . . .
>The Washington Post, August 8, 1999:
>   In 1997, the Texas Board of Education proposed replacing all biology books
>in the state with new ones that did not mention evolution. The move was
>considered to signal a national trend because Texas is the second-largest
>purchaser of textbooks after California. The proposal failed by a slim
>The Dallas Morning News, March 7, 1998:
>   . . .  the Texas Christian Coalition, Texas Eagle Forum and
>American Family Association of Texas are working for a new majority on the
>board. . . .
>   "We are not where we want to be, but you look at the people who now sit on
>the State Board of Education . . . we can praise God for this happening, not
>only in Texas, but all over country," Ralph Reed, former executive director of
>the Christian Coalition, said on a visit to Texas last year.
>The New York Times, November 5, 1998:
>   In his first official action after the election, Mr. Bush reappointed Mike
>Moses as education commissioner. The Governor and Mr. Moses have had a stormy
>relationship with a group of extreme right-wing Christian conservatives
>who have
>tried to take control of the Texas Board of Education.  The group failed to
>achieve a majority in Tuesday's elections. The quick reappointment of the
>commissioner was a way for the Governor to stick a finger in the group's eye.

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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