Dispatches from the Creation Wars

I still havent’ been able to find a copy of the University of California’s response brief or their motion to dismiss the ACSI lawsuit, but the ACSI has made the original complaint and their response brief to the motion to dismiss available on their website. I haven’t had a chance to go over the reply brief in any detail, but one of their arguments near the beginning jumped out at me. They’re arguing “viewpoint discrimination” not merely because the UC has rejected certain courses, but even because of their requirement that the student have taken a certain number of credit courses during high school:

The “a-g” course requirements (ΒΆ23) essentially involve 15 full-year courses in high school (UC strongly recommends 18) out of the 25 full-year courses that constitute a normal high school load. Christian schools such as plaintiff Calvary require 4 years of religion courses, in addition, so only 3-6 course slots remain available for the total of nonapproved courses, physical education, health, and nonqualifying electives. This main approach to admission is being closed for Christian schools by viewpoint discrimination.

This argument strikes me as weak. There are only two remedies, both of them quite absurd: either the court has to order the UC to lower the number of required credit courses to 11 (meaning anyone could get in even if less than half of their high school time was spent in academic courses), or they have to order the UC to give an exception to students from schools that require extraneous courses and thus reduce the time available for academic courses. No court is going to do that, nor should they.

Comments

  1. #1 Mike P
    December 2, 2005

    I went to a Catholic high school where I took four full years of religion. I managed to get the classes needed to get into the University of Pennsylavania. It seems to me that parents choosing to send their children to a religous school are choosing to replace some of the electives that their children would get at a public school with religion classes. As long as there ar least four full years of electives allowed they should not have a problem.

  2. #2 Jim Babka
    December 3, 2005

    Absurd? MikeP is right. Why can’t religion be an elective?

    Why does everything religious deserve dissing. What if it was four years of psychology or art or military history, would any of that count? If so, what’s the difference?

    Are you going to propose that Californians that send their kids to ACSI schools don’t have to pay the state taxes that fund California colleges? College for Californians is virtually free thanks to tax subsidy. Sorry, we know you paid, but your kids can’t come.

    I went to an ACSI school our national test scores kicked the public school’s butts, and a higher percentage of students to college. We did every bit of the work my friends in public school did PLUS we had a religion class (More homework – yuk). What should matter in this age of affirmative action is that they can do the work. Period.

    If the university gets away with this, I can only imagine what they have in store for homeschooled kids. They way exceed their peers, but they didn’t get any electives. Whatever will they do?

    If ability to do the work isn’t going to be the standard, then the school should become private and make it on their own fundraising ability and tuition/fees and stop discrimination.

    Separate school and state.

  3. #3 Ed Brayton
    December 3, 2005

    Jim Babka wrote:

    Absurd? MikeP is right. Why can’t religion be an elective?

    It certainly can be, and I don’t think anyone objects to that. But that’s not really the issue in this case.

    Why does everything religious deserve dissing. What if it was four years of psychology or art or military history, would any of that count? If so, what’s the difference?

    I’ve never said or even implied that “everything religious deserves dissing”. And for the purposes of this post and the lawsuit it refers to, there is no distinction between religious classes and non-religious classes. The complaint from the ACSI is that the requirement of X number of core classes by the UC system discriminates against students from Christian schools because those schools require 4 years of religion classes in addition to the core academic classes. But the claim of discrimination is wrong both in premise and conclusion. First, the requirement is for 15 core courses, out of 24-28 total courses (depending on whether a school has 6 or 7 different class hours during the school day) over 4 years. Hence, the premise that the 15 course requirement prevents Christian school students from getting in to UC is false, and in fact the UC system admits thousands of students from Christian schools every year. But the logic is flawed as well because the entrance requirements are the same for everyone, regardless of what kind of school they go to. If some Christian schools want to add additional requirements to those core courses, it is their actions, and not the actions of the UC system, that penalize or make it more difficult for their students to meet the college entrance requirements. Again, I pose the question – what is the solution? Should schools allow those from Christian schools to get in with only 11 core courses while everyone else needs 15? Or should they just lower it for everyone and lower their academic standards across the board? Either option is, as I said, absurd and unworkable.

    Are you going to propose that Californians that send their kids to ACSI schools don’t have to pay the state taxes that fund California colleges? College for Californians is virtually free thanks to tax subsidy. Sorry, we know you paid, but your kids can’t come.

    No, I’m going to propose that if ACSI wants to prepare their students to succeed in a rigorous and competitive academic environment (as many other Christian schools do very successfully), they’re going to have to stop using textbooks filled with lies and nonsense. And if parents want their kids to be prepared to succeed in a rigorous and competitive academic college, they should stop sending their kids to schools that teach the kind of assinine crap that the UC is objecting to. Have you seen the science textbook that the UC rejected? It’s breathtakingly bad.

    I went to an ACSI school our national test scores kicked the public school’s butts, and a higher percentage of students to college. We did every bit of the work my friends in public school did PLUS we had a religion class (More homework – yuk). What should matter in this age of affirmative action is that they can do the work. Period.

    The problem with this is that schools have to make a determination on who gets in based on predictions of whether they can do the work. You can never truly know who can and can’t do the work until they’re there. So they have to rely on the inexact science of prediction and on evaluations of the course content and pedagogy. Let’s say you have one spot available and two students applying for it. They have similar grade point averages and SAT scores. They took similar courses in all of the subjects except science. When it came to science, Student A had a conventional science class with a standard science textbook that gave a thorough overview of the central explanatory theory in biology and the vast range of evidence for that theory. Student B had a class using the Bob Jones University biology text, which declares in no uncertain terms that the sole standard for determining the truth of scientific theories is not the evidence it explains, but whether it agrees with a literal interpretation of the Bible. It further says that any time the scientific data appear to contradict that interpretation, the data must be false and the scientists must be lying to them. And that book is filled with the most ridiculous claims about the earth being only a few thousand years old, and with the absolutely false argument that if scientists can’t create a universe in a lab, they can’t determine anything about how the universe formed. Are you seriously going to tell me that the university is not acting reasonably to decide that the student whose class has filled his head with such nonsense is less prepared than the student whose science class contained reliable information on the subject? And would you think differently if the one filing the lawsuit was a Muslim Madrassa school, complaining that they won’t give credit for a Muslim “science” course that teaches that all science must conform to a literal interpretation of the Quran or it must be wrong?

    You have to also bear in mind that what is being objected to is the content of a few courses. The University is not saying that they won’t accept Christian students or students from Christian schools; they accept thousands of them every year. Even within the ACSI, only some schools use the rejected curricula in those few classes being objected to. It’s the ones who insist on using obviously substandard textbooks, filled with falsehoods, that have a problem.

    If the university gets away with this, I can only imagine what they have in store for homeschooled kids. They way exceed their peers, but they didn’t get any electives. Whatever will they do?

    You’re missing the critical distinction here. The objection is not to homeschooling, or to Christian schooling. Not all Christian schools use the same curriculum, nor do all homeschoolers. But if the curriculum they use is as godawful as the science curriculum that the UC is rejecting, then they are absolutely within their authority to refuse to give credit to such courses. This has nothing to do with rejecting courses that are Christian; it has only to do with rejecting courses that teach egregious nonsense. They cannot be expected to give science credit for courses that are blatantly anti-science.

    And I would add that there are many Christian universities out there who would reject such courses as well. If you are going to teach the rank idiocy that is young earth creationism, you are not preparing students for a real academic environment. Such students may be prepared to attend a Liberty University or a Bob Jones University, two bit colleges that teach the same garbage. But a student who received that type of preparation in science is not going to be prepared for teh science courses at any Christian university worth its salt. They would be no less unprepared for Baylor, Depaul, or even Calvin College than they are for the UC system.

  4. #4 raj
    December 4, 2005

    Jim Babka at December 3, 2005 03:24 PM

    Absurd? MikeP is right. Why can’t religion be an elective?

    Why does everything religious deserve dissing.

    Um, I believe that I agree with what I believe you are intending. I very much miss the fact that my public high school curriculum (Cincinnati suburb, 1962-67) did not include a comparative religion course. I have had to piece “comparative religion” together ever since, and it has not been easy. I recognize, though, that it is very difficult for instructors to avoid the pressure to proselytize, which is probably one reason why the US public schools just want to avoid the whole thing.

    Andere Laender, andere Sitten–other countries, other practices. In Germany, for example, the public schools provide for school periods in which different “establishments of religion” can provide religious instruction to their pupils, with the concurrence of the parents and the pupils. The instructors are selected and paid by the “establishments of religion.” They are held in the public school classrooms.

    It is not an ideal compromise, but it is a practical compromise. As far as I can tell, that compromise has largely forestalled the isolation that can result from parochial and conservative christian schools evident in the US.

    It is ironic that, a couple of years ago, one of the RCC religion instructors in a school in the Saarland (western Germany) was outed as being a lesbian, and she was fired by the RCC. According to Der Spiegel, she was such a popular instructor that the students revolted, got the school to hire her directly, and she continued in her classes.

    Regarding I went to an ACSI school our national test scores kicked the public school’s butts, and a higher percentage of students to college. I’m not sure that I would give much credence to that. Your ACSI school may very well have induced “substandard” performers to leave, which would have boosted the test scores of those who remained. Indeed, it has been widely reported that Paige, GWBush’s former Education Secretary, did that when he was head of the board of education in Houston TX.

  5. #5 David
    December 4, 2005

    Comparative religion, as opposed to religious indocrination, is anchored in most social studies curricla today. It is Ohio’s state standards, and I teach significant units every year. Even when I was a student, not long after raj, if I have read his posts correctly, it was a popular one semester elective at my school. This does not diminish raj’s observation that many schools and teachers are afraid to touch it.
    As for the previous poster’s claim that every thing about religion is “dissed,” well that is pure rubbish. This country is dominated at all levels by religious zealots. The leading republican candidate for governor here in Ohio is running commercials that begin with his baptismal certificate and move on to catechism. I’m sure he is terrified of being dissed for daring to show his beliefs. Hah!

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