Saturday, July 14, 2007

Chesterfield School Board: Charting a New Path?

Chesterfield County School Board (CCSB)

Its been a pretty full three months for the CCSB. The School Board has faced the challenges of dealing with a Board of Supervisors withdrawing funds that were to go for school board budget sanctioned Pre-K programs, which the school board made happen anyway, then a fairly large debate with residents over the teachings of "ID", creationism and evolution followed by the latest requests by resident groups seeking the offering of Bible school classes.

There has been quite a debate in the blogosphere over these issues. See Bacons Rebellion's blog for some really interesting work done on the subject. But I find that much of the debate is coming from those seeking to oppose The Family Foundation, a group of local residents seeking to make room in the Chesterfield county school system's curriculum for the study of "ID" along with evolution in the classrooms. While I am not going to go down the road of getting into some scientific or philosophical debate, a let the supposed experts do that, I do want to address some of the items coming out of the debate.

Whether you support the idea of teaching broad curriculum or not it is frustrating that when the issue of creationism or anything with even the slighest smack of religion makes everyone so uncomfortable. I believe much of the discomfort comes the very religious beliefs we all share. I know I for one growing up it was not acceptable to "question" the religious teachings of the church let alone challenge them. Well years have passed and times have changed and now looking back I never thought as child I would witness a female Episcopal bishop. Just knew the church would never endorse it. So when we are sitting in non-church settings and we hear that controversial word "creation" people just simply begin to shift in their seats. We do not want to bring our beliefs into the public rhelm. Fact is, the law prohibits the teaching of religious beliefs in schools. An issue of exposure I guess.

Lets face it, we want our children to believe what we want them to to a large extent. I was born into my belief systems how about you? I did not examine too much, I simply followed the crowd to the Lord in my youth like most kids I guess. I spent much of my childhood in public schools of Chesterfield before finally attending private school my last two years of high school. In retrospect, I grew more those last two years than all of my public education. Why you say? Exposure to a world that may not see it the way I do, exposure to examination, exposure to critical thinking, exposure to debate....alas exposure to the beginnings of real informed citizenry.

This brings us back to the CCSB. On balance our schools are some of the best in the nation hands down. We have some of the best teachers and educators around. Many of whom have come from Virginia insititutions of higher learning and yet there seem to be concerns in their ability to mediate measures as Shawn Smith of the Chesterfield Science blog refers to as "problematic debates". Smith contends that shall ideas or thoughts like creationism or "ID" be taught teachers will somehow be endorsing or promoting "alternative views" and thus in terms of "ID" merely "teaching the controversy". Afterall, its not science.

This contention puts me on familiar ground, ie the church. There can be no place for ideas that may influence or persuade that are in conflict with our particular view. The beauty of freedom of religion is really the fact that you determine via your own free will what you are going to accept or believe or hold to believe before YOUR God. That said what is at issue is whether we want our children exposed to "alternative views" or not regardless of whether its creationism or something else.

What I find fault with is the direction of those who would place this in the rhelm of "science" for the debate. Fact remains as soon as you get to college you are exposed to just about everything under the sun in this world and frackly some it is scary and radical in nature to tell you the truth. Yet, somehow in those short months after high school graduation and entering college every child is we hope well prepared for whats to come. Often times they are not. Often we find our children hard pressed to handle the socio and political aspects of liberal college life. Is this due to not being exposed to true critical thinking? Not sure but it certainly plays a part. While not science why can this not be taught within other areas; history, philosophy, etc.

There will always be controversy over what to teach and what not to. I recall the history of the Holocaust not being taught in many public schools, recall the curriculm of students in the City of Richmond quite different than out in the counties before bussing, and I even recall differences in how the South was portrayed in the classrooms during the study of Civil War depending upon the choice of textbooks. We teach our kids exactly what we think we should teach our kids based on our core life experience. Was there any school district celebrating and teaching the Civil Rights movement in 1970?

Every few years or so when the school board must order and select new textbooks a new paths have to and should be explored. Should "ID" be taught in our schools as "science"? Probably not. But why not teach philosophy, history of ethics, critical thinking or even the history of religion. You see I believe there are two forces at odds here; those that feel schools instill "belief" and there by in someways fear it and those who see the schools as a path to greater learning and citizenry. Learning and believing are two very different things.

I "learned" all about creationism (6 credits worth) in college but that certainly does not mean I "believe" it. Its very sad that while this debate goes on our children who may not have ever heard of "ID" are now logging time on the internet getting the low down on what they are not allowed to get in school. Times are changing my fiends and its time for a new path. Would we rather have our educators moderate these "alternative views" or some internet Waco type primadonna providing absolutely ill conceived rhetoric.

Will this simply be another sex education in the schools dilemma? Are the lines the same? Though there is legal precendent precluding the teaching of religion there is none preventing elective being offered regarding the history of Christianity or even Islam. God forbid our youth try to understand those histories, heck it might expalin alot in the world today don't you think?

It very well could be time to chart a new path.

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FreedomAdvocate said...

Watch Teletubby and Moses get arrested at the Capitol while angry bystanders demand the release of the purple teletubby, the “moral fiber of America.” See activists hit the streets demonstrating against Ted Kennedy’s Thought Control Bill to give homosexuals special privileges. Go to http://publicadvocateusa.org/ or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUBj51aLV1A

This shows Public Advocate demonstrating in Washington, DC, protesting the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Protection Act (H.R. 1592), which would grant special rights to homosexuals. This law would add sexual orientation to federal hate crimes statutes.

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