Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Encouraging District 214 to Examine a Different Perspective

The conversation on the CC Blog has been running hot and heavy since we posted “District 214 Educators: Arrogant Beyond Belief” last Thursday. We reported that some English teachers had shown a virulently anti-Christian video to classes at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights.

The video itself featured eminent scientist Richard Dawkins claiming that science has proven faith to be nonsense. Christianity was the main focus of Dawkins' diatribe, although Judaism and Islam were also featured. Teachers claim that the video was used as a lesson about bias and that context makes all the difference. (Incidentally, they made the same claim regarding CONTEXT last spring while defending the assignment of books that contained gratuitous obscenity and graphic pornography.)

There is a proper context in which to show this movie but it is NOT in public schools. It should be shown to students IN THE CHURCH, where Dawkins' tactics AND groundless claims can be properly debunked…

An English teacher who had actually shown the video weighed in here on this blog (without using his name) to defend himself. To his credit, I’d like it noted that this teacher was respectful and courteous. The quotes that follow are his.

I spent less than one class session showing the Dawkins video in an effort to demonstrate bias and examine a counter perspective. Prior to watching the video, I asked students to look for inflammatory language, loaded terms, and agenda driven argumentation (all of which are blatantly evident and easy for students to see through). The following day, we spent a significant amount of time discussing the rhetorical strategies Dawkins used to communicate his arguments (hence showing the video in an English class). All classes understood that Mr. Dawkins had an axe to grind.

Here’s the problem: While the biased character of the video was discussed, the main substance of Dawkin's claim (that science has proven religion to be nonsense) was not discussed. It was left unrefuted. In other words Dawkin's tactics were examined and denounced but not his actual claims. It leaves a question mark in one's mind: Has science really proven Chrisitianity to be nonsense?

I know the answer to that question, but how many students know? Indeed, it would have been impossible for teachers to refute Dawkin’s claim, because to do so would have been proselytizing Christianity. Ironically, proselytizing atheism, as indeed this video did, apparently is perfectly acceptable at District 214.

These teachers seem certain that this video would not undermine any student’s faith – or the future possibility of it. How on earth could they know? My own faith was derailed by a study of comparative religions in 6th grade and a movie about the ‘missing link’ in junior high. My teachers never knew…

We asked teachers if they would be willing to show a video critical of homosexual behavior for the same purpose. Would teachers risk exposing students to a diversity of ideas about one of their own ‘sacred cows?’

The teacher’s response:

As to whether or not I would show a film critical of homosexuality; I wouldn't show a video that promotes it.

Why not? WHY is it OK to show a film critical of Christianity but not homosexual behavior?

Since the object of the assignment was to expose bias, teachers should have no objection to selecting a new video on a different topic. There are literally thousands available. We suggest one that doesn’t ridicule the beliefs of the majority of District 214 parents and taxpayers...

How about evolution?