April 23, 2008

Christian Privilege in the Public Schools

A student at Capistrano Valley High School in California has accused his AP European history teacher of making disparaging remarks about Christianity in class. This really is a shame. The teacher needs to realize that when truth and Christianity collide, Christianity must prevail. But sarcasm aside, bigotry, and this includes anti-Christian bigotry, has no place in the schools. Is this a case of bigotry or something else entirely?

According the FaithNews Network, Chad Farnan, a Christian student, has accused history teacher, James Corbett, of making remarks hostile to his religion. This sounds serious. bigotry is almost as deplorable in the public schools as it is in state government. So what exactly did Corbett say?
The Christian student cites an incident from last December when Corbett stated that conservatives do not want women to avoid pregnancies because that interferes with God's work. In another statement, recorded by Farnan, the teacher claimed that when people put on their "Jesus glasses," they cannot see the truth.
I have a difficult time seeing how Corbett's alleged remarks, even if Farnan's allegations are true, constitute hostility to Christianity. The first comment concerning conservatives seems accurate to this observer, and if anything, would reflect on conservative politics rather than Christianity. The second comment is difficult to evaluate without context, and this brief report provides no information about the context in which such statements were made. According to Farnan's attorney, Corbett frequently makes comments along these lines. Another alleged example:
He's said things like 'Aristotle argued that there has to be a god. Of course, that's nonsense.'
Nonsense that there has to be a god? Well, yeah - of course this is nonsense! It does not sound as though Corbett is saying anything negative about Christians here at all. If Christians (or anybody else) wants to believe that there are gods, so be it. This is very different from saying that there has to be one or more gods.

Farnan's attorney says,
At stake really is a Christian student's rights to go to public school and be able to express their faith and hold their faith without being discriminated against in the classroom.
How was Farnan discriminated against? Even if he was mocked, and it does not appear that Corbett's alleged comments come close to even that, it is not at all clear how this qualified as discrimination. Was Farnan graded down solely for being Christian? That would certainly be discrimination.

No, the case seems to be about Christian privilege in the schools more than anything. Farnan's side appears to believe that the Christian beliefs of Christian students should be respected at school. By "respected," they appear to mean that Christian students should never be exposed to anything that leads them to question their beliefs, evidence which might contradict their beliefs, or even mild criticism of their beliefs. Why? Because they are Christian. This does not sound very much like education, does it?

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