Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Declaration banned in school !?!

The previous posts offer ample evidence that the culture wars of the United States often play themselves out in the nation's classrooms. Students, teachers, school board members and parents are often drawn into heated debates about the curriculum used in schools. The US, as you may or may not know, is one of the few (if not the only) country in the world without a set of national standards for subjects like history. Math and the sciences are easier to agree on (except for the E word!), but history is all about identity and values. The federal government has left the history standards up to the states, which many in turn have left up to districts, which many in turn have left up to local school boards, which are comprised of parents in the community. History "standards," in other words, can vary wildly from region to region. All this is fine and dandy until parent A's (mostly religious) values conflict with parent B's. Or until a teacher with one set of religious values decides to make them part of the curriculum. Naturally, we have a story to illustrate this point.

Since this story is akin to a Corneillian tragedy, let's make like Corneille and paint the characters before the action begins:

* Stevens Creek Elementary School : California public elementary school, total enrollment - 642
* Steven Williams : Fifth-grade teacher at Steven's Creek and a professed Christian (since 2001)
* Patti Vidmar : Steven's Creek principal (a Catholic)
* Alliance Defense Fund: conservative (read as: religious) group suing school district
* The Easter Assignment : a real winner (scroll down to read comments if you want an idea of how polarized this type of debate is)

This is the kind of hot button issue that just polarizes debate in the US today. A simple google search shows dozens of articles and blog entries that react at a gut level to the issues involved without reading up on the facts. But as has often been the case when arguing with extremists, the facts are irrelevant. Kudos to the Wall Street Journal for being willing to sift through the facts right on a potentially explosive issue.

Additional note: California HAS state history standards and they DO acknowledge a national Judeo-Christian heritage. Interesting.

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