Daily Archives: May 10, 2009

Super Woman

Definitely fits my mom…Happy Mothers’ Day!

happy-mothers-day

Wackaloon Bigotry

I constantly marvel and chuckle at the interesting names that people use when they disagree with a point of view.  I’ve heard and  seen some doosies.  Until today, I’ve never encountered  “wackaloon bigotry.”  Nice.

Though I think Kevin’s off his onion, I gotta say: he coined one heckuva phrase.  If nothing more, it’s creative.

Just in case you are wondering, Kevin used that phrase in his response to The Drip Syndrome, which I wrote attempting to generally explain some of the withering boredom found in the public school classroom these days.  Saying Kevin disagreed with me is an understatement.

The following is brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department:  for his full comment, see the comments section (Since it was deleted by my spam filter, I had to post it under my own name…my bad.).

Kevin started off by arguing:

Nobody buys it when Christians say they want a dramatic paradigm shift in schools so that they can teach their own versions of morals and ethics, and somehow it’s not going to violate the Separation of Church and State. Nobody seriously believes Christians when they say they just want schools to be “neutral” in regards to religion and morals, just like nobody believes Muslims when they say that they want European court systems to be “neutral” as to whether they practice local vs. Sharia law. It’s like when Creationists suggest they just want to let students “make up their own mind” whether humans evolved, or whether they were created by God in their present form. First of all – BS. We know exactly what they want students to believe (the plea for neutrality is merely the tip of their “wedge strategy”).

Recall what I originally argued: schools, in general, do not teach that ethics, character, and morality are areas in which one can possess knowledge.  Rather, they are areas of mere personal taste (indeed, you can see this view beautifully portrayed in Kevin’s own comments..more on that later).  If you want students to grow in character–which would cure some of the apathy and “dripiness” we see in the classroom–character must be seen and taught as an area of knowledge, something more than an area of arbitrary personal taste.

Notice that Kevin really doesn’t argue that that would violate the Separation of Church and State–he just assumes it.  His argument boils down to “yea right,” followed by a good bit of setting fire to straw men.
How, exactly, is advocating that morality and character be taught as areas of knowledge mean that I want the Christian version of morality to be taught?  The “character as knowledge” view I espoused is held to by many of the world’s religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, many strands of Hinduism, Mormonism, JW’s, etc), including some ancient philosophers who were not explicitly religious (but were theistic…I include Aristotle in this group).

Just because a school teaches a moral view that a certain religion comports with does not mean the school violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.  If that were the case, then when an individual teacher teaches that murder is wrong (which Christianity teaches–see Ten Commandments, The), that would be a violation of the Establishment Clause.

Also: how, exactly, is my “character as knowledge” view relevantly like what Muslims are doing in regards to Sharia Law in Europe?  I don’t see any comparison, and Kevin needs to do more than simply imply there’s a connection.  Right now, it just looks  like he’s trying to emotionally badger my view by associating it in some vague way with evil and wicked ideologies, kinda like playing the ‘ol Hitler Card.

Third, notice that he doesn’t refute or rebut my claim that public schools are not truly neutral in their ideology.  I argued that public schools, by and large, assume a naturalistic worldview, and this is not neutral when it comes to morality and ethics.  Such a stance is not even possible.  There is no neutral moral ground.   Teaching that morality is a matter of personal choice is  not neutrality: it’s relativism, which is a particular view about morality/reality, etc.  Rather than attack that argument, Kevin attacked something different:  Christians.  He said that Christians don’t want neutrality.  Even if true, you can’t refute a view by attacking something else.

Next: are we to think that the faux “neutrality” offered by naturalism is actually a good thing?  So…things like honesty, truth-telling, chastity, humility, goodness, perseverance, etc are just “my personal morals?”  Those things aren’t really right/good, and cheating, stealing, hooking up, lying, etc aren’t really wrong/bad…it’s just “my particular ethics,” right?  It’s all just a big smorgasboard, and one person’s choice isn’t any better than the next.

Do we really want students believing that the decision to be honest or cheat is just a matter of personal taste, and you really can’t know whether its really right to be honest?

Even if teaching that one can possess moral knowledge amounts to teaching the “Christian view of morality,” so what!  I take it that’s a good thing for Christianity.  So much for naturalism.

Moving on:

A school that teaches that “the moon may or may not consist of cheese – we need to teach both sides” is not being “neutral,” it’s lending undue credit to stupidity, and burdening the truth with doubt.

This is not what I’m advocating (also note the heavy negative imagery he uses again, without argument).  When it comes to morality, I don’t think we should teach “both” sides and let students decide.  “We’re gonna have a discussion on cheating, and we’re gonna give both sides.  Some say that cheating is ok, but others disagree.  In the end, it’s up to you to decide for yourself.”  That’s a logical consequence of naturalism, which relegates everything outside the hard sciences to the realm of emotion and mere personal, private belief.

The responsibility of teaching ethics, morals, and religion is with parents. Primary education is for imparting knowledge and thinking skills. It’s for teaching things society agrees on, things we can see empirically, that we have a consensus about. There is no wide societal consensus that your personal religious and moral values are the correct ones to be taught to all children. I doubt very highly that we are going to overhaul the whole concept of the public school system to include teachings of your particular ethics.

Notice that Kevin simply assumes, without argument, the naturalistic view I pointed to.  Schools should teach and impart knowledge.  Where can we find knowledge?  We find knowledge with things we can see empirically and where there is consensus.  There is no empirical evidence and consensus available in the area of morals and ethics, so schools shouldn’t be teaching about those things.   All I’m talking about is my “personal” views.

If being honest, persevering, humble, etc are merely my “personal” views, then perhaps my “personal” views should be taught.
There is more consensus in the area of morality than Kevin admits, but that’s neither here nor there.  I need not harp on that to make my point.  Like I’ve said above, this is not neutral–his is a particular view about morality, and it’s especially pernicious when it comes to us producing students who have good character.  We can talk about certain vices, like cheating, but everything else we teach undercuts that.  If morality as a whole is a personal taste thing, the same goes for cheating–it’s not really wrong. This just makes any anti-cheating statements the moral equivalent of anti-broccolli statements.  Why worry about it, then?

Any worldview that privatizes ethics and morality into the arena of feeling and emotion is not a worldview worthy of assent.  A moment’s reflection will tell you that we can have moral knowledge.  To choose an obvious example: torturing babies for fun is wrong, and yes, you can know this.  Just because you can’t analyze this statement empirically doesn’t mean you can’t know it.  As philosopher William Craig has said, if someone were to walk in and suggest rape is ok, we wouldn’t reflect on that morality tolerantly; we’d suggest he get help fast.

Incidentally, you’ll see the term “Naturalism” pejoratively thrown around a lot by UFO believers, astrologers, ghost hunters, crystal healers, theists, etc. – basically anybody who is really tired of people who keep reminding them about those pesky facts, “hard science,” the observable world, empiricism, etc. It’s an old tactic of those who preach departure from reality – if your opposition has facts and evidence on their side, give your opponent a name which implies that facts are just one [contested] viewpoint.

I don’t know why Kevin is making this point.  Am I to believe that just because astrologers et al believe it and say it, that means it’s rubbish?  Astrologers also believe that if you jump off a 20 story building, you’ll fall.  Does that mean gravity is bogus?

Furthermore, he again just asserts naturalism without arguing for it.  According to him, evidence, reality, and facts are synonymous with what you can detect empirically.  He needs to give an argument for it.

In addition, it’s not like I’m just making up the term “naturalism” and applying it to those with which I disagree, as if it were a word with a heavy negative connotation.  Naturalists themselves use the term to refer to their views.  From the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy:

A sympathy with the view that ultimately nothing resists explanation by the methods characteristic of the natural sciences.  A naturalist will be opposed, for example, to mind-body dualism, since it leaves the mental side of things outside the explanatory grasp of biology or physics; opposed to acceptance of numbers or concepts as real but non-physical denizens of the world; and opposed to accepting real moral duties and rights as absolute and self-standing facets of the natural order.  The central problem for naturalism is to define what counts as a satisfactory accomodation between the preferred sciences and the elements that on the face of it have no place in them.

This dictionary, by the way, was not made by fundie reactionaries hell-bent on winning a word game, and it is not published by TBN.  It is a standard dictionary of philosophy.

Coincidentally, Kevin has argued much the same in our other discussions.  Whenever he encounters a term he’s unfamiliar with, he tends to accuse me of jerry-rigging the discussion and inventing my own terminology, despite the fact that the words I’ve used and views I refer to aren’t idiosyncretic at all.  They all have a long history to them, and when I reference them it’s far from arbitrary.  More charity would be nice.    I’ve done my homework, and I need more than a dismissal.  At least ask me for clarification before accusing me of ill dealings.  The accusations are starting to bug me.

He goes on:

“Destruction/Protection of the Family” is a cute and oft-used euphemism for intolerance. For instance, let’s say that some people are born with a gender expression or sexual orientation that does not match yours. They aren’t hurting anybody – at most, they merely demand equal status as human beings – but they do make you a teensy bit uncomfortable. Unfortunately, it’s not considered acceptable to use epithets or stone them anymore, so you propose the idiotic and insulting notion that they are “destroying families.”

Nice…I love the smell of red herrings and straw men in the morning.

The destruction of the family started long before the current battle around same-sex marriage, so I don’t hold the two to be one and the same.  I do think that same-sex marriage will further erode the institution of the family (more here), but that is an argument that’s not central to what I’m saying here.  Things like no-fault divorce are what I have in mind here.  Basically, if a boy grows up without a father (and vice versa for girls), his development and growth as a person will most likely be severely stunted.   This has tremendous consequences in our public schools.  The data on this is as plain as the nose on your face.  That doesn’t mean that every boy without a father will grow up to be a thug, but it does mean that he’ll have obstacles to overcome.

Kevin faults me for wanting my “particular” view on morality and gender roles to be taught, but he fails to recognize that neutrality on those two counts are not possible.  I suppose, rather than my “particular” views being taught, he would be entirely comfortable with his views being taught.  In fact, seems like he just assumes that his views on morality and gender are truly tolerant, good, and open-minded.  So enough of the moral grandstanding and preening.   We’re both in the same boat.  The real questions are: 1) is naturalism true? 2) will it allow for a robust character education? What is best for students?

Perhaps, in all his comments, he’s just talking about the Intelligent Design/Darwinian evolution controversy in public schools….should only Darwinian evolution be taught?  If that’s what he’s arguing about, then that’s a post for another time…:)

See my other posts on education

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