PolySciFi Blog

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Why Newdow is dangerous to public education

As Matt notes below, today U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that school-led recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance is unConstitutional. Disregarding the logical and legal flaws involved in this particular ruling, I find Newdow's line of reasoning especially dangerous to the institution of public education (I find the argument specious too, but that's for another day).

Newdow's argument can be summarized as: "The pledge is an example of state coercion because a) it occurs on state property with state blessing (the state part) and b) constitutes coercion because it makes atheistic students feel like outsiders since the atheists do not ascribe to the endorsed state position."

Now consider the fact that the US is a country rich in religious diversity. There's almost as many different religions as there are people. And religions take positions on a lot of different things which could make their practicioners feel like an outsider if taught to the contrary in a public school.

Atheists feel like outsiders when there's a pledge of allegiance recited that includes the phrase "under God". Creationists feel like outsiders when evolution is taught. Christian Scientists would feel like outsiders in any health class. Quakers would feel like outsiders when discussing positive outcomes of various wars. While Voodooists would find quantum entangling affirming (voodoo dolls), they would feel like an outsider when Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle came up (Tarot cards). And that's not to mention the Amish or the many many identifiable cults. Practically everything that we teach in school contradicts someone's religion.

While these situations are not identical to the Pledge, I would argue that they are actually more coercive than the Pledge - the endorsement of a religious position is just as clear in both situations, but you're not graded on the Pledge.

So if Newdow's argument carries the day, I don't see how a legal distinction can be drawn on any aspect of public instruction as virtually every topic of instruction would counter someone's religious beliefs causing them to feel like an outsider. With everyhing out-of-bounds for instruction, public education cannot continue.

This could be resolved by either a) eliminating public instruction all together (regardless of how this case case turns out, I'm actually in favor of this idea presumably coupled with some sort of voucher program) or b) we return to teaching children what heretofore had been traditional American values of not being swayed in one's beliefs or actions by peer pressure, the value of being an individual, and how cool it is to be an outsider.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?