Missouri has a new state constitutional amendment on the ballot. In part, the amendment states, “no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs.” The intent behind this is to allow fundamentalist Christian students to opt out of lessons on evolution or sex education. But the potential impact goes far, far beyond the amendment’s intent. And some of that is fun!
This kind of nonsense is what makes some people like the idea of homeschooling—the faithful can go home and restrict themselves while everyone else gets to learn actual science. Of course, not ever letting your child hear anyone else’s point of view ever doesn’t mean that they have faith. In fact, it’s rather the opposite. Faith is belief without evidence. But since kids who never learn any other point of view never get any actual evidence that contradicts their religion’s world view, they have ignorance rather than faith. If we think of an Eden parallel, it’s not telling kids not to eat from the tree of knowledge—it’s preventing them from knowing the tree exists. I really worry about these kids.
However, those who like to suffer fools gladly—because if you have to suffer, you might as well introduce as much gladness as possible—can think of many other ways that this amendment could be implemented. A professor of mine (and Mr. A’s) used to draw parallels with the Church of the Holy Cinderblock. If we have to make religious exceptions for Christians, we have to make them for all religions.
We could have the Church of the Knights of Nee. Like the knights who say nee of Monty Python fame, they cannot hear the word “it.” ”It” must be excised from the texts of all children of the knights, and any teacher who utters “it” is violating their sacred religious principles, and so the kids are entitled to wear noise canceling headphones at all times and read censored transcripts of the lessons later.
On a more realistic note, we could ban any lessons that indicated that consumption of pork or having only one set of kitchen utensils was acceptable so as not to have lessons that violate the beliefs of observant Jews. Any pictures of pepperoni pizza must be destroyed or clearly labeled to indicate that the pepperoni-like substance is actually a flavored soy product.
Or we could have Shakers, who didn’t believe in procreation (which is why there aren’t any now, but we could instigate a revival in Missouri!). In any families portrayed, it would have to made clear that the children were adopted progeny of the sinful. And everyone would have to learn to make simple but attractive wooden furniture.
We could encourage the Amish to attend public school, and eliminate all lessons that mentioned cars, war, buttons, married men shaving, or wearing red. And the children could use kerosene lamps and candles for light. And they could put a petting zoo in the parking lot.
Do we want all these kids to be educated at home? Do progressives want to leave the schools to the religious and educate their own kids at home? Is it possible to have a pluralistic society in which children are educated together? Is there a potential for a common curriculum that educates without belittling?
Maybe the grown-ups should be the ones to stay home.