Friday, August 22, 2008

As I was saying...

Well, the LA Times suggested Friday the same thing I told "Anonymous" might happen.

If you missed the fun, I posted on 8/15 about the ruling in which the courts upheld University of California's decision to disqualify several classes offered by Calvary Chapel Christian School of Murrieta for being "too narrow or not academically rigorous enough to fulfill UC's entrance requirements."

"Anonymous" chided me for ignoring reality regarding this subject which is clearly emotional for me.

My reply to Anonymous included my concern that even though this case was about specific students and specific texts, a victory for the University could open the door for other universities to step up their restrictions on texts written from a Christian worldview.

David Masci, a senior research fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in Washington, D.C. agrees with me. The case could influence admission practices at public colleges nationwide. "No one is questioning the right of Calvary Chapel to teach what they want to teach. But what the case says is that when you do that, there may be consequences," Masci said Tuesday.

Historians testifying for the university said that a history class titled "Christianity's Influence on America" failed to teach critical thinking and relied on a book that attributed historical events to divine providence. The book also contained inadequate material about non-Christian groups, the historians said.

So why isn't the reverse true? Christianity's influence in America has been all but excised from texts from K-12 and beyond. Today's elementary school children are taught more about Sojourner Truth than about the faith of George Washington. I once had a conversation with my niece that revealed that she was taught that Thanksgiving commemorates the Pilgrims giving thanks to the Indians!

Are you serious?

I am not objecting to school children learning about strong women in history or Sojourner Truth's specific importance to the abolitionist movement. Neither am I opposed to a balanced and realistic treatment of Indian relations with whites or with the US Government. I am a Chickasaw Indian, among other things, and had family members who knew up close and personal about exploitation by whites AND the Government.

But please, let's not ignore or suppress the Pilgrims' beliefs about God or their acknowledgment of His favor in our zeal to be politically correct.

I doubt that Feminine Roles in Literature or Gender, Sexuality, and Identity in Literature, books that were approved by UC, contained much in the way of words of wisdom from dead white males, or information about Exodus International or PFOX, except in the most negative terms.

Well, of course not. And, more to the point, you wouldn't expect them to.

So why were they approved when the Christian book was rejected in part for not containing enough material about non-Christian groups?

This is kind of where I was going the other day with my Santa Claus remarks. Would you not find it patronizing and insulting to have what you believe regarded as being on a par with believing in fairy tales? Through the use of statements like "teach what they want to teach" and "a book that attributes historical events to divine providence fails to teach critical thinking", they are patting us on the head and saying "There, there. If you want to believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, that is OK with us."

For the record, we do actually believe God is in control, and that historical events can indeed be attributed to divine providence.

This does NOT mean we hide the fact that some other people may think the chronology of events was different from what we are teaching.

It does not mean that we teach about other cultures and religions without according them respect.

It does not mean that we ignore those individual players on the stage of history who were the agents of change, or consider their contributions and motivations, even if we do not agree with them.

It also does not mean we refuse to use the History Channel and other aggressively secular resources as supplementary materials that can challenge our students to think through why they believe what they believe.

ADDENDUM: Here is an old link from the Calvary Chapel Christian School website showing an article from the Wall Street Journal about this lawsuit when it was first filed in 2005. This article is dated Oct. 28, 2005. So far I have linked to articles from parties rooting for the university. Here is a WSJ reporter who comes down on the side of Calvary Chapel, and presents a lot of what I would like to say, but more eloquently.


  1. I have not followed the CA rulings. Is CA wanting standard tests for all Homeschooled children to pass as all other children? Are they requiring that parents are teachers if they homeschool? Or are they just saying no more homeschooling? Forgive my ignorance. I have not followed the discussion. Is this in the courts now? State Level? Federal Level?

  2. Hi Deb, thanks for your question. No, this is something different. In fact, the ruling you are speaking of was reversed, and homeschooling has been deemed legal in California.

    This case involves the University of California and Calvary Chapel Christian School, in which the university declared certain courses ineligible to be counted in determining whether a student could attend a UC school. My post expresses concern that this could prompt other universities to follow suit, making it more difficult for Christian students, whether homeschooled or from Christian schools to matriculate at univerisites around the country.

    Unfortunately, this case was resolved in favor of the university. You can read all about both cases elsewhere in this blog in the August 2008 archives.

  3. Anonymous4:44 PM


    I think you’re a little confused about what UC is doing when it approves courses as suitable to count towards admissions. What they’re looking for is a lot more narrow and specific than you seem to be assuming.

    UC couldn’t care less about a prospective student’s religious beliefs or worldview. What it’s looking for during the approval process is whether the teaching material presented by the school shows that a particular course provides a good introduction to a particular academic discipline. Does the text explain, correctly and in detail, the methods by which academics working in the field examine a problem? Does it set up exercises during which students can practice these methods? Does it offer a comprehensive overview of the scope of the academic discipline and its primary conclusions? In short, does an “A” grade in that particular course demonstrate that a student is likely to do well when taking an introductory course in the same subject at a UC campus?

    UC history professors don’t use divine provenance as an explanation for historical events, so a text that relies almost exclusively on divine provenance won’t give students a proper grounding in the academic discipline of history at it is taught at UC. UC biology professors don’t use creationism in their research programs, so a textbook that insists on using that approach doesn’t demonstrate that a student understands the academic discipline of biology.

    Note that these restrictions apply only to the primary textbook used in a class: textbooks that present non-academic approaches can be used as supplemental texts without affecting a course’s approval status. (As an aside, the “approved texts” with the feminist and gender-issue slants that you mentioned were used for upper-division college courses at UC. They would not be deemed adequate as primary texts for college prep high school courses, because they don’t give a broad introduction to the academic discipline of sociology.)

    To qualify for admissions to UC, about half the student’s high school coursework must be approved college-prep courses. UC doesn’t look at unapproved coursework for admissions purposes, so there is plenty of opportunity for schools to teach and students to take courses that teach alternative material exclusively. Calvary Chapel’s high school already offers enough approved courses to give students wishing to apply to UC some choice, and Calvary Chapel students regularly gain admission to UC by taking those courses.

    In short, this was a frivolous lawsuit. The UC admissions standards don’t interfere with Calvary Chapel’s ability to teach alternative religious approaches or its student’s ability to learn them. The only thing that UC insists upon is that applicants demonstrate that they are prepared to excel in the secular courses they will be required to take if admitted. That, as the judge agreed, is a very reasonable, non-discriminatory requirement.

    Hope this clears up the confusion,