I'm from Missouri

This site is named for the famous statement of US Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver from Missouri : "I`m from Missouri -- you'll have to show me." This site is dedicated to skepticism of official dogma in all subjects. Just-so stories are not accepted here. This is a site where controversial subjects such as evolution theory and the Holocaust may be freely debated.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

My biggest motivation for creating my own blogs was to avoid the arbitrary censorship practiced by other blogs and various other Internet forums. Censorship will be avoided in my blogs -- there will be no deletion of comments, no closing of comment threads, no holding up of comments for moderation, and no commenter registration hassles. Comments containing nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks are discouraged. My non-response to a particular comment should not be interpreted as agreement, approval, or inability to answer.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

ACSI v. Stearns appeal briefs filed

ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International) v. Stearns is a lawsuit challenging the University of California's denial of accreditation to particular Christian high school courses. UC denied accreditation on the grounds that the textbooks and/or subject matter of the courses are unacceptable. This blog has a post label group of articles about the case. UC won in district court and the case is now under appeal. My analysis of the district court decision is here. The National Center for Science Education has an article and a big collection of court documents on the case. So far, the ACSI opening appeals brief and the UC answering (responsive) appeals brief have been posted by NCSE. The optional ACSI reply to the answering brief may be posted later. There are six amicus briefs, two supporting ACSI and four supporting UC. Nine expert witness reports are listed but only one, by Michael Behe, is on the side of ACSI.

The lawsuit covers several course subjects but I focused on the rejection of the biology textbooks.

UC's answering (responsive) brief says of the Bob Jones University biology textbook (pages 24-25 of PDF file, pages 15-16 of original document),
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These "science" texts unqualifiedly state (for example): "[i]f the conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong, no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them" and "[s]ince the Christian worldview comes from God, it is the only correct view of reality; anyone who rejects it will not only fail to reach heaven but also fail to see the world as it truly is."

I agree with UC's rejection of the BJU biology textbook. IMO the above statements in the textbook just go too far -- they discourage critical thinking and promote the spoonfeeding of Christian dogma to the students.

UC's brief also quote-mines Behe's expert witness report in the paragraph containing the above statement, but that is another matter.

The Bob Jones University Press textbook United States History for Christian Schools appears to take the same supernaturalistic approach as the Christian biology textbooks, even though this approach is even less justified in the case of history textbooks because human history, unlike macroevolution, has been directly observed by humans. The amicus brief of the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians says,

The textbook at issue does not evidence a respect for historical sources, historical research and varying interpretations of the past. Moreover, it does not encourage students to examine and understand the complex causation of historical events. Indeed, the textbook discourages students' examination and discussion of causation of certain historical events by citing "providence" or "divine intervention" as the overriding force causing these events. This is evidenced by the statement of Mark Sidwell, one of the co-authors of the textbook, that "[t]he Christian always takes his stand on the Word of God in dealing with the issue of providence and not on the results of historical research." Providence and the Teaching of History. (page 7 of PDF file, page 4 of original document)

I don't know what is the matter with these Christian schools -- they seem primarily concerned with indoctrinating students with Christian dogma and not concerned about preparing them for the real world. These schools are obsessed with teaching Christian this and Christian that, maybe even a course in Christian underwater basketweaving. Maybe that is because Christians feel shunned by society -- for example, Judge Jones gets up there and says that his Kitzmiller v. Dover decision was based on his cockamamie notion that the Founders based the establishment clause upon a belief that organized religions are not "true" religions.

IMO the district court decision provides little guidance for other court cases and does nothing to help prevent or reduce similar litigation in the future. Here are my recommendations:

(1) Universities' evaluations of textbooks for the purpose of accreditation of high-school courses (and also college courses for transfer credit) should be declared to be non-justiciable (or unreviewable), except in extreme cases of arbitrariness and capriciousness. We don't want to turn the courts into textbook accreditation agencies. Court review of textbook evaluations are very time-consuming and time that a court spends on one case takes valuable time away from other cases (I know this from unfortunate personal experience). Judges need to learn how to make decisions that are quick, fair, conclusive, and as broad as possible.

(2) If a university rejects a high-school textbook, then the student may be given credit for the course by passing an appropriate College Board subject test, and if the student fails the test, then the student may be admitted on condition that (s)he repeats the course at the university or elsewhere. Students now have the option of getting credit for the course by examination; conditional admission, i.e., admission upon condition that the course will be repeated, should be added as compensation for (1) the ruling that the textbook rejections are non-justiciable and (2) requiring the students to take the College Board subject test when others who took similar courses are not required to take the test. Ironically, if the student goes to a community college for two years and then transfers to UC, the unaccredited high-school course does not have to be repeated. One of the problems here, of course, is that a student who took too many unapproved courses might have to take too many College Board subject tests and/or repeat too many courses.
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2 Comments:

Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Polonius, could you resubmit your comment without that uncalled-for remark, "Is there a blog where these things can be discussed?" If you did not save a copy of your comment (I always save copies of my comments), I will post your cleaned-up comment for you.

I am not going to put up with that kind of crap any longer.

Monday, May 04, 2009 9:22:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

OK, Polonius, here is your comment minus the offending statement, "Is there a blog where these things can be discussed?" If you want your comments to be published, don't say anything like that again.

Polonius said,
I don't see how ACSI can win this one. UC would seem to be free to make their own standards as they see fit. Having minimum science requirements would certainly be reasonable. The only chink in the armor I can see is that UC is a state institution and might have to deal with some of the demands of fringe groups for political reasons. If it were Stanford or USC that made these requirements would there still be a case?

Monday, May 04, 2009 3:48:00 PM  

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