Public Schools and the Inevitability of Religious Inequality
Teresa S. Collett
teresa.s.collett.1 at ND.EDU
Wed Aug 6 08:24:17 PDT 1997
At 09:26 AM 8/6/97 -0400, you wrote:
>In a message dated 97-08-06 00:30:36 EDT, rduncan at UNLINFO.UNL.EDU (richard
>duncan) writes (about whether "Timmy" and his exam exist):
>If, after studying the material, Tim has such a compulsion to answer the
>question as attributed, then one wonders why he didn't put his hand up in
>class to ask for clarification earlier.
Let's assume that Tim did ask in class, "Teacher, I've always been taught
that God made the earth. He started with creating the heavens and the
light, and finished by creating Adam and Eve. When did the Big Bang come?"
What reply by the teacher is appropriate? If (s)he says, "Before anything
was created" (s)he may have avoided the problem of direct confrontation with
a student's religious beliefs but not communicated the theory accurately and
certainly modified the creation story as reflected in Genesis.
Assuming Timmy has enough curiosity and/or gumption, he might respond, "But
the Bible says that before God created the heavens and light, there was
nothing." Now if the teacher is a believer also (or maybe just conversant
with the Bible), (s)he might attempt to reconcile the two by replying, "But
the second phrase of Gen. 1:1 says 'the earth was a formless wasteland, and
darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.'
That may be a very good description of the Big Bang, Timmy. Besides not
everyone believes that what the Bible says about how the earth was created
is factually true. Some people think it is an exact description of how the
earth was created. Other people think it is God's way of telling people
that everything that exists is special to God and He cares about it. Still
other people think it is a story that people made up to explain something
they don't understand--how the earth came into being. [Not a bad
description of the Big Bang theory or evolution either]. What we are
studying today is the explanation many scientists believe about how the
earth might have come into being.
"But teacher which one is true?" Cf. John 19:37-38 ("Pilate said, "What is
>As a Christian who regards creationism as dancing against the Ninth
>Commandment, I think the teacher would have been justified especially with a
>comment such as "Needs more details."
>The solution is to make certain that this question doesn't come from a
>student first on an examination.
>If the teachers are overwhelmed by the number of students they have who are
>homeless, abused, or simply neglected, then anything we say about the
>religious rights of students in mythical science classes is moot. Timmy will
>be too busy providing help to those kids who need it to worry about his
Not if he wants to be able to help them even more when he is an adult, by
being a doctor, or an engineer or maybe even . . . a scientist.
Teresa S. Collett
Teresa Stanton Collett
Professor of Law
South Texas College of Law
1303 San Jacinto
Houston, Texas 77002-7000
rhctsc at aol.com
52875 Brookdale Drive
South Bend, IN 46637
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