December 20, 2005

California Dreamin'

The Economist has a great article about a new front in the Christian vs. knowledge culture wars. A number of Christian schools and students are suing the University of California because it won't acknowledge courses taught primarily from books published by Bob Jones University as meeting admission requirements. The Association of Christian Schools International (ASCI) claims this is viewpoint discrimination and a violation of the right to freedom of speech and religion.

In talking about "view-point discrimination," ASCI and these other Christocrat schools are missing the point. If all that the belief in faith-first, facts-second teaching means to these students is a viewpoint, it should be easy to give it up for the privilege and the opportunity to attend a university. I have a viewpoint about the relative worth of footnotes (as opposed to parenthetical citations), but I would not apply it in a class where footnotes were de rigeur. Is that viewpoint discrimination or abridgment of freedom of expression on the part of the professor who demands footnotes? Hardly.

Or how about this. Say the Ayatollah Khomeini's granddaughter is taking a class about Middle Eastern politics. The professor points to internationally verified facts concerning the brutality of her granddad's regime. "My viewpoint is different," she says, "and therefore valid and you cannot discriminate against it."

But clearly, this California case is not a matter of a viewpoint or of freedom of speech or of thought. It is not a tussle for freedom; it's a crusade for dominance—on both sides. The goal of ASCI is not to become a tolerated exception; the goal is to accomplish a unique and extremely dangerous circumvention of the entire process of disseminating knowledge through education. Unique because I can't think of another example that is similar. Dangerous not because it threatens the foundation of secular education, but because it threatens the foundations of education in general. If provably false "viewpoints" ("worldview" would be a better world) are given as much weight as empirically justified facts, we've lost the motivation to pursue facts and to transmit them through an orderly process. Why even bother learning the theory of general relativity when you might as well learn intelligent falling? Why bother to learn rules of grammar if you believe you can be inspired by the Word of God? I mean, if we can actually train ourselves to hear the voice of God, why should we even listen to an English teacher? If we can trust in the invisible hand of God, who cares about Adam Smith? This pushback is not about providing alternatives to secular theories, but about obviating the need for them.

The Scholastics (Aquinas et al.) depended on reason to justify and articulate their beliefs. The Christocrats depend on their beliefs to justify and articulate a new form of reason. If they really want to wipe out nearly 1000 years of progress toward treating knowledge as a tool to help humanity rather than an optional prejudice against God and his followers, well, then say it. Don't talk about "viewpoint discrimination" or "freedom of speech and thought." Be bold, Christian soldiers, and fight for what you really believe in.

Update: Good news—Dover judge rules out teaching ID in public schools.

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