Disapproval of religion in public schools
VOLOKH at LAW.UCLA.EDU
Tue Aug 5 16:26:38 PDT 1997
Sandy Levinson writes:
> Everything that Eugene writes about the value of weird hypos I agree with.
> That being said, the difference between a forthrightly labeled "weird hypo"
> and the Timmy-story-presented-as-fact is that the latter feeds the animus
> against the public school system that I find increasingly troublesome. That
> is, I think there is an important difference between supporting choice
> (which I do) and denigrating the public schools (which I do not). To the
> extent that a "weird hypo" is weird precisely because it is so atypical,
> then there's little generalization value in it. On the other hand, if we
> discover that the ostensible weirdness occurs all the time, then that tells
> us a lot about our society, as well as about the logical structures of our
I agree with Sandy generally on this. In fact, I'll go further:
Even a fully authenticated story gives us no guarantee that it's
typical. I'm always hesitant to infer things about a nationwide
system based on one incident, whether authenticated or not.
But while I called my hypo "weird" for reasons of RELIGIONLAW
history, I actually think there's good reason to believe that such
things do happen fairly often.
Schools *do* teach scientific claims that are at variance
with students' religious beliefs. (They do teach them sometimes more
categorically than the facts warrant, but this  may be necessary,
especially for grade school students [and as I mentioned, don't we
all sometimes teach things a bit more categorically than the facts
strictly call for?], and  may be inevitable in a human system.) I
would guess that some students do give answers that are correct by
the standards of their religious beliefs rather but are incorrect by
the standards of what the teacher has taught in class.
So I hope we might still focus on the question: Whether or not
this incident really happened to the real Tim, how should teachers
deal with this problem, one that I suspect does indeed happen quite
often? How can they deal with it without showing impermissible
"hostility" to religion, having a primary effect of "impeding"
religion, or showing "disapproval" of religion?
"She told me again she preferred handsome men Eugene Volokh
But for me she would make an exception" UCLA Law School
L. Cohen, "Chelsea Hotel No. 2" 405 Hilgard Ave.
L.A., CA 90095
More information about the Religionlaw