Berg, Thomas C.
TCBERG at stthomas.edu
Wed Aug 24 09:31:39 PDT 2005
This is an interesting and effective response to my challenge. But I
1. Whether a golden age as short as the one to which Alan refers is really
enough to provide a stable model for the future.
2. Whether continuing to push everyone together in public schools (through
selective funding policy) will simply create increasing fights over what
constitutes the consensus that we have, what is an unfair imposition, what
is simply a beneficial exposure of students to views with which they
disagree, etc. If (as some on the list have argued) it's not really that
much of a burden on anti-evolution students to be taught that evolution is
correct and therefore effectively that their religiously-based understanding
of the development of living things is false, then is it really surprising
when other people argue that a brief, ecumenical prayer like that in Lee v.
Weisman is not that much of a burden either? I won't go on about the
various conflicts (and I'm not arguing for either official school prayer or
the teaching of ID). But it seems to me that the lines here will remain
quite contested, with lots of polemical shots fired by each side ("you
godless atheists" versus "you arrogant fundamentalists care about nothing
but trying to impose on others").
3. Whether proponents of public schools (or Americans in general) will
accept some of the other specific changes that might have to occur in to
address the family issues that Alan calls for addressing. For example, the
reasons why there are more two-working-parent families, and thus less time
for family inculcation of values (and more reliance on schools), include:
(a) economic pressures, prominent among them various levels of taxes (to
support, among other things, schools); and (b) the dramatically increased
participation of women in the workplace as a matter of freedom and
fulfillment for women. I do not claim that increasing family time
*inevitably* requires lowering taxes and having women work less; but I think
that, realistically in the circumstances of our society, those would be
among the most likely means for making the changes. (Other changes -- such
as dividing family responsibilities more equally between men and women --
may be more attractive morally, but have proven to be much harder to bring
about.) Will supporters of public schools accept lower taxes (with
consequent belt-tightening at schools) and more stay-at-home mothers if
those prove to be necessary in practice to increase family time and thus
reduce the moral-teaching responsibilities (and pressures) placed on public
schools? I have my doubts.
From: A.E. Brownstein [mailto:aebrownstein at ucdavis.edu]
Sent: Tue 8/23/2005 5:09 PM
To: Law & Religion issues for Law Academics
Subject: RE: Hostility
I appreciate the power of Tom's argument (and his caveat at the end.)
I offer three modest responses. First, I recognize that schools taught the
"consensus" principles of Christianity for a long time. But there was a
period after that consensus unraveled
and before schools began to take on a lot of what I view as extraneous
programs -- when public schools, at least in places like the Bronx,
operated the way that I have described them. We did have the Regents
prayer, but there was very little of anything else regarding religion --
and none of the new stuff. Schools did a very good job on the academics.
Parents, houses of worship, after school religious classes and other
mediating institutions took care of the many other important aspects of a
young person's education.
Second, I think the reason the schools have taken on some much more of this
non-academic role has less to do with people thinking this is really the
proper role for schools (although I recognize that this part of the story)
and more to do with social changes that have made it less convenient for
families and after school mediating institutions to do their jobs. (e.g.
suburban lifestyles, two worker families etc.) I would like to see us
spend more time figuring out how to facilitate the role of families and
after school mediating institutions and less on fragmenting the public
along religious lines.
Third, I do not for a moment discount the deep lack of consensus over
highly value-laden issues in our society. But I also think we should not
ignore the rich grounding of consensus that does exist. I don't want to
understate the difficulty people will have working together. But I do think
when people have the chance to see what they have in common, and recognize
that some of their feelings about their schools not being sensitive to
their beliefs and their children's needs are shared fairly broadly -- but
in different ways, then it becomes a bit easier for people to work out ways
to reconcile their differences.
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