Saturday, March 6, 2010

Home Schooling, Religious and Moral Instruction, and American Culture

I'm one of those home schooling parents you hear about from time to time. Oddly enough, the ones I know aren't particularly outstanding for being poor, uneducated and easily led: and do not intentionally wallow in self-righteous ignorance.

But what do I know? I'm one of those home schooling parents you hear about.

Sorry: That's about as close to a rant as I'll allow myself.

Here's what set me off, in today's news:
"Home-school mom Susan Mule wishes she hadn't taken a friend's advice and tried a textbook from a popular Christian publisher for her 10-year-old's biology lessons.

"Mule's precocious daughter Elizabeth excels at science and has been studying tarantulas since she was 5. But she watched Elizabeth's excitement turn to confusion when they reached the evolution section of the book from Apologia Educational Ministries, which disputed Charles Darwin's theory.

" 'I thought she was going to have a coronary,' Mule said of her daughter, who is now 16 and taking college courses in Houston. 'She's like, "This is not true!" '

"Christian-based materials dominate a growing home-school education market that encompasses more than 1.5 million students in the U.S. And for most home-school parents, a Bible-based version of the Earth's creation is exactly what they want. Federal statistics from 2007 show 83 percent of home-schooling parents want to give their children 'religious or moral instruction.'..."
(Associated Press)
There are days when I think the American habit of assuming that Catholics aren't Christians may not be an entirely bad thing.

Seriously: what sensible person would want to be thought of as having beliefs like Pat Robertson, Tony Alamo, or that wunderkind Baptist minister in Tennessee? The one who distributed that "Death Cookie" comic?

Don't Read the News: Study It

The Associated Press apparently came up with "for most home-school parents, a Bible-based version of the Earth's creation is exactly what they want" from "Federal statistics from 2007 show 83 percent of home-schooling parents want to give their children 'religious or moral instruction.' "



My wife and I gave our children the option of being home schooled for grades 7-12. And yes, part of the reason was "to give their children 'religious or moral instruction.' "

But we're Catholics. For us "religious and moral instruction" means clueing our kids in on what the Church has taught for about two millennia now, and how God and the prophets worked with Israel's descendants.1 That's the religious part. The "moral instruction" includes telling them that snorting cocaine is a really stupid idea, and that obeying the law is a good idea.

"Religious and moral instruction" does not mean that we teach them that some dude who looks like Charlton Heston in the role of Moses made everything we can observe in 144 hours, a few thousand years back.

Bishop Ussher was a bishop: but not a Catholic one.

Let's put it this way: there's a patron saint of scientists. (October 25, 2009)

It's not that I don't think God could create all things in 6 days. He's God. It's just that there's a huge amount of evidence that He didn't. I might have decided to make a one-week project of creation: but I'm not God. And I'm not going to tell him that he can't have done something, because I don't like it.

I'm not all that upset with another bunch of Bible-thumpers marketing a work of speculative fiction as a science textbook. That sort of nonsense corrects itself it time, in my view. I am a bit upset that The Associated Press seems to believe that "religious and moral instruction" means "teaching the kids a bunch of nonsense that we want to believe is so."

But that is one of those dearly-cherished cultural assumptions, like the notion that faith and reason are utterly incompatible, that I don't see changing any time soon.

Related posts:
In the news:

1 It'd be possible to assume, from that sentence, that I think that the prophets are equivalent to God. I don't, of course. They were prophets: people sent by God to deliver messages and give instruction. As a rule, God worked through prophets. On a few occasions, though, he got more obviously involved. The burning bush, that run-in with Pharaoh's army, and the Mount Sinai for example (Exodus 14:24, Exodus 19-20, for starters)

Then there's that intriguing visible phenomenon, the column of cloud/fire, and Exodus 14:19-20:
"The angel of God, who had been leading Israel's camp, now moved and went around behind them. The column of cloud also, leaving the front, took up its place behind them, 2so that it came between the camp of the Egyptians and that of Israel. But the cloud now became dark, and thus the night passed without the rival camps coming any closer together all night long."
(Exodus 14:19-20)
Reading that part of the Bible, I think that in general Cecil B. DeMille's "Moses" underplayed the visible effects of God's intervention. But then, there was only so much you could do with special effects then - and DeMille may have decided that there was only so much that the audience would accept.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.