Daily Archives: November 23, 2005

The "Intelligent Design" battle, at the next level

Over at FOXNews.com, Cato Institute Center for Educational Freedom director Andrew J. Coulson proposes a solution to the battle over whether evolution or “intelligent design” should be taught in public schools: more privatization of schooling.

We’re fighting because the institution of public schooling forces us to, by permitting only one government-sanctioned explanation of human origins. The only way for one side to have its views reflected in the official curriculum is at the expense of the other side.

Fortunately, there is a way to end the cycle of educational violence: parental choice. Why not reorganize our schools so that parents can easily get the sort of education they value for their own children without having to force it on their neighbors?

Doing so would not be difficult. A combination of tax relief for middle income families and financial assistance for low-income families would give everyone access to the independent education marketplace. A few strokes of the legislative pen could thus bring peace along the entire “education front” of America’s culture war.

While I’m in favor of more choice in education, I don’t think it would end the culture wars over ID and evolution. What happens at the next stage, when private school graduates start applying to universities? Consider, for instance, this story (hat tip: John Cole):

Cody Young is an evangelical Christian who attends a religious high school in Southern California. With stellar grades, competitive test scores and an impressive list of extracurricular activities, Mr. Young has mapped a future that includes studying engineering at the University of California and a career in the aerospace industry, his lawyers have said.

But Mr. Young, his teachers and his family fear his beliefs may hurt his chance to attend the university. They say the public university system, which has 10 campuses, discriminates against students from evangelical Christian schools, especially faith-based ones like Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, where Mr. Young is a senior.

Mr. Young, five other Calvary students, the school and the Association of Christian Schools International, which represents 4,000 religious schools, sued the University of California in the summer, accusing it of “viewpoint discrimination” and unfair admission standards that violate the free speech and religious rights of evangelical Christians.

…..

A lawyer for the Association of Christian Schools International, Wendell Bird, said the Calvary concerns surfaced two years ago when the admissions board scrutinized more closely courses that emphasized Christianity. In the last year, the board has rejected courses like Christianity’s Influence in American History, Special Provenance: Christianity and the American Republic, Christianity and Morality in American Literature and a biology course using textbooks from the Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Book, conservative Christian publishers.

The officials rejected the science courses because the curriculum differed from “empirical historical knowledge generally accepted in the collegiate community,” the suit said. Calvary was told to submit a secular curriculum instead. Courses in other subjects were rejected because they were called too narrow or biased.

With more private schooling, the debate will simply shift to the next level when universities quite rightly refuse to recognize ID-based biology courses as fulfilling science requirements. (One more example here, by the way, of a phenomenon I mentioned recently: religious conservatives — some, at least — adopting the victim politics of the cultural left, complete with daffy lawsuits.) I should add, by the way, that the Christian schools’ association may have a point with regard to the history courses rejected as too “narrow” or “biased”: I’m not sure they’re much worse than a lot of the stuff taught in many public schools under the guise of multiculturalism. But when it comes to science, the universities are on solid ground. We will, no doubt, see more such battles in the future.

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Kurt Vonnegut, off the deep end

Not many opponents of the war in Iraq would go so far as to praise suicide bombers. But now, Kurt Vonnegut boldly crosses that line. (Hat tip: Eugene Volokh.)

In an interview with The Weekend Australian, the 83-year-old novelist, out promoting his anti-Bush book of essays, Man Without a Country, says this:

Vonnegut said it was “sweet and honourable” to die for what you believe in, and rejected the idea that terrorists were motivated by twisted religious beliefs.

“They are dying for their own self-respect,” he said. “It’s a terrible thing to deprive someone of their self-respect. It’s like your culture is
nothing, your race is nothing, you’re nothing.”

Asked if he thought of terrorists as soldiers, Vonnegut, a decorated World War II veteran, said: “I regard them as very brave people, yes.”

He equated the actions of suicide bombers with US president Harry Truman’s 1945 decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

On the Iraq war, he said: “What George Bush and his gang did not realise was that people fight back.”

Vonnegut suggested suicide bombers must feel an “amazing high”. He said: “You would know death is going to be painless, so the anticipation – it must be an amazing high.”

Author David Nason adds with some deadpan irony, “Vonnegut’s comments are sharply at odds with his reputation as a peace activist and his distinguished war service.”

No kidding.

I don’t think Vonnegut’s rantings really require commentary, though James Lileks provides some. (For one, Vonnegut seems not to notice that his “brave people” are mainly murdering their own fellow Iraqis, including children. Or that their idea of their “culture,” in many cases, includes the brutal killing of women and gays for sexual transgressions.) The only real question is whether the left will distance himself from this lunacy. Last year, Vonnegut’s “Bush = Hitler” rant, “I Love You, Madam Librarian”, appeared in the respected left-of-center magazine In These Times — a publication that supports mainstream Democratic candidates, and whose masthead features such prominent, non-lunatic-fringe leftists as Barbara Ehrenreich — and was reprinted on Michael Moore’s site. Has he finally gone too far this time? So far, a Google search turns up no condemnation of Vonnegut’s statements on any left-wing blogs.

I am truly to see Vonnegut descend to this; I’ve long been a fan of his novels — Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five, Mother Night, God Bless you Mr. Rosewater — and his short stories. I think writers who find modern Western civilization soulless and stultifying — as Vonnegut clearly does — can offer useful insights into what’s lacking in our society and our lives, and create niches of alternative values that complement those of the dominant culture; but they ought to stick to literature. When they channel their distaste for modern civilization into politics, the results are usually not a pretty sight.

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