I have so far resisted blogging about the “hostile to religion” teacher. (Although I did include it in the @yrif twitter feed on account of the hilarious “teacher violated first amendment by insulting religion” headlines. Are you following the @yrif twitter feed? Go ahead, sign up, I’ll wait.)
But Hemant managed to push my buttons this morning with his post on the topic:
Comments for or against religion — outside the context of the class — have no place in a public school classroom. I don’t know why Corbett was talking about religion… maybe he was provoked. But it doesn’t matter. He can’t let himself get off-topic like that.
Despite the fact that I agree with Corbett’s statement on Creationism (and several of his other comments), it’s hard for me to say he was correct to say them in class.
I know if this were a Christian teacher saying pro-Christian comments, we’d be furious. Why is it ok for this teacher to give his opinions against religion (even if you agree with them)?
I attended public schools, and I had teachers who got “off-topic” all the time. Should a chemistry teacher only be allowed to talk about chemistry? A Spanish teacher only about Spanish? A trigonometry teacher only about trigonometry? This represents a sadly narrow view of education. The most valuable lessons are often off-topic, like when the shop teacher gave us tips on how to pick up women and when our American history teacher showed us how to use credit cards to open locked doors and when our seventh-grade civics teacher taught us how to drive (or at least left her keys unattended at lunch).
The other assertion implicit here is that “there are certain topics that public school teachers should not discuss, even if they are true.” Now, I’d be with you if you’d left out the word “public.” In general, teachers probably shouldn’t be telling students about their sexual fetishes (although I once knew a fifth-grade Catholic-school teacher who did), regardless of where they teach. You can probably think up other examples.
But “is it religious or not” is a horrific litmus test to apply to our syllabi. We should be applying litmus tests like “is it true or not,” “is it useful or not,” and “is it funny or not.”
(Unless you’re equally zealous about amendments 2-10, I’m going to ignore the first amendment objection you’re already formulating.)
How can you teach World History without mentioning religion? How can you teach evolutionary theory with mentioning religion? How can you teach Dianetics without mentioning religion? You can’t, you can’t, and you can’t. And how can you effectively teach anything without injecting your opinion into it?
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Joel wants Your Religion Is False to become part of the standard curriculum, and this sort of attitude makes it all the tougher for that to happen. He’s just talking his book, no pun intended.” Well, Joel’s got to eat!