Thursday, August 25, 2011

Letting the kids decide for themselves

A common argument for teaching Creationism (or Intelligent Design) in public schools is that we should let the kids decide for themselves which seems correct, so we would respect their intelligence and freedom and so on. This seems to be what the Republican Governor of Texas Rick Perry - also a presidential candidate - believes.

There is one problem. Evolution is the prevailing theory explaining the origin of species and it is backed by science. If other scientific theories (and the scientific method in general) should be challenged in the classroom by non-scientific (or scientific but very unpopular) theories, the curriculum would be pretty absurd. This is actually the easy part.

But what about things that are not exactly science but questions of ethics, politics and so on? I would assume that Texans take certain things for granted - for example that you are allowed to defend yourself and your property or that you are allowed to start your own business, or marry whoever you wish. What if these "beliefs" would be required to be challenged in the classroom?

Consider these debates:

  • Socialism vs. Free market economy: Even though USA is generally in favor of free markets, why should the children be taught that this is the default or the best system? Why not Communism? Many things are better in Cuba than in United States, and Soviet Union's society had many advantages over the American one.
  • Militarism vs. Pacifism: There is a considerable amount of known thinkers in favor of non-violent resistance, pacifism and generally peaceful conflict resolution. I think Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi and John Lennon would be among these. Still, the situation where U.S. military conducting combat operations around the world does not seem to be challenged. Where is the challenge of this prevailing view, that violence can be justified?
  • Consumerism vs. Environmentalism: People consume and produce trash and pollution. That's very natural in United States and it is not going to change. Why not? The natural resources are not infinite and climate seems to be shifting - so why is this not taught at schools, challenging the traditional ways of the society?
  • Government vs. Anarchy: Americans seem to be proud of their country, their flag, their liberty and independence. But shouldn't other options be discussed in the classroom, too? The philosophy of anarchy, despising governmental control and authority, could be very interesting to kids. Most Texans also know Jesus, who has often been described as an anarchist thinker of some kind. 
If evolution should be challenged, why shouldn't other models about how the world work? You know, we should not feed "the American way" to the kids, we should let them decide for themselves if they want to follow the teachings of Martin Luther King, Mao Zedong, Adolph Hitler, Ron Paul, Robert Heinlein, Jesus, Vladimir Lenin or George Washington, right?

How far would you go letting them decide for themselves?