Texas stands up for religion in public schools
Good old Texas. It has an exciting new law, HB 3678 or the ‘Religious Viewpoint Anti-Discrimination Act.’
Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Homework and classroom assignments must be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school district. Students may not be penalized or rewarded on account of the religious content of their work.
May not be ‘penalized’ – as in given a bad grade or told they are wrong? Well, not necessarily – perhaps. I asked Brian Leiter about this alarming portent, and he pointed out that school officials will be able to fall back on that second sentence – at least in functional schools. But there are those other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school district, and there is the little matter of what can happen to school districts. Think ‘Dover.’ There is also the odd wording – ‘standards of substance and relevance.’ Standards of what? What standards are those, and what good are they? They might as well be called standards of niceness and okayness. They’re not much of a guide, and therefore not very reassuring. It is very difficult not to picture biology classes and history classes (not that history is taught in public schools any more) in which the answer ‘God did it’ is acceptable. It is difficult not to picture Texas jam-packed full of schools in which all the students can freely prattle about Jesus and his good friend God and know nothing at all about anything else.