Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Liberal Arts My Eye: Shame on the Thomas More Law Center

My local newspaper ran a story today on the Intelligent Design case (regarding the legality of the Dover school boards decision to teach it to 9th graders) that is taking place in Harrisburg.

Patrick Gillen of the Thomas More Law Center was quoted as saying: "This case is about free inquiry in education, not about a religious agenda . . . Dover's modest curriculum change embodies the essence of a liberal education."

No, no, no! Give me a break!

First of all, this is not a case about "free inquiry in education." This is a case that has come forward because well-financed right-wing organizations succeeded in pummeling a school board to adopt its agenda: infiltrate the school district and get I.D. in the curriculum. This is not a case of some well-intentioned parents worrying over their children's lack of access to a range of ideas.

Secondly, the Thomas More Law Center has a CLEAR agenda:

(1) "To defend the religious freedom of Christians." Translate: to push the agenda of uber-conservative Christians.

(2) "Restoring Time Honored Family Values." Translate: to empower these uber-conservative Christians to spew their homophobia as well as their hatred and disgust with feminism.

(3) "Protecting the Sanctity of Human Life." Translate: force women to carry fetuses to term, even if it puts the mother's life in danger, while sending their children to Iraq where they may contribute to the increased violence that takes innocent lives, and by gum, uphold the death penalty.

Lastly, there is a big difference between the liberal arts and relativism. The mission of the liberal arts is not to teach whatever you feel like teaching in your class. Not all ideas are equally valid. No one at my liberal arts college would force me to teach about, say, muslim women's collectives in my Ancient Philosophy class, because, hey, these forms of organization are "ancient" and full of important philosophical wisdom. When the college hired me, it sent a message: "hey, I trust you are an expert in your field and you will teach your students based on your expertise and knowledge of the scholarship in your field."

Why are we now calling liberal arts: big dollars that force ideas into classrooms by duping school boards with talking points and muddled arguments (that sound reasonable, but are really crap)? What exactly is "free" about this inquiry?

If you respect free inquiry, then respect the teachers' ability to teach subjects they are experts in. Don't force teachers to teach philosophy or religious ideas in a 9th grade science course. It's science, i.e. empirical methods. It's not super-natural methods.

If this was truly "free inquiry," we should let the Moonies or the Scientologists in too. Hey, where is their policy institute masquerading as a non-partisan supporter of the liberal arts?