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Drawing lines and accommodations in public schools

January 13, 2016


Happy new year folks. I wanted to follow up on my grand bargain post, where I suggest creationist students be allowed to substitute another topic for evolution. A couple commenters were aghast at that notion.

There’s one point I should have highlighted in my response: public schools already accommodate students in different ways. Some students aren’t forced to take physics II. Some get a pass on an extra year of art, or music, or European history, or whatever. It’s hardly a novel idea that students have different interests and talents, and that schools should try to cater to them in some way. Even public schools will inevitably offer a degree of pedagogical customization. Heck, we have entire schools focused on either STEM or the performing arts. To these sorts of existing policies, I argue that students who oppose evolution be accommodated by allowing them to dive deeper into some other topic. There are precedents for allowing such conscience objections.

Whatever your position, I humbly ask you to admit three things. One: pedagogical and curricular choices require touch choices. Some topics will be included and some won’t. Two: there is going to be some subjectivity involved.  And three: reasonable people can disagree.

I understand that evolution is important. I also understand that for some readers, it is too important to allow anyone a way out. Although I disagree, it’s a fair argument. But everyone has to draw a line somewhere. And your line will ultimately be no less arbitrary or capricious than the one I’ve drawn.

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