Friday, May 16, 2008

Freedom of Expression at

Salon has a column called "The Atheist and the Creationist" which takes the form of a letter to the editor in which a man is vexed at the thought that one of his friends might be willing to teach creationism to his children. He writes:

As my wife put it, we consider teaching young earth creationism (in any sense other than as a theology, if it must be taught at all) to be a form of child abuse. It seems bad enough that he has raised his two children with a belief system that he himself has acknowledged has serious holes in it, but it seems far worse that he is now thinking seriously about helping other children drink the Kool-Aid.

After some rumination, the response includes the following:

I believe freedom of expression is more important than the wide dissemination of correct views. I arrived at this conclusion by considering that in a democracy state power will inevitably be used to bolster, promote and enforce ideas and ideals that germinate in personal and family life. So I say in our private lives we ought to tolerate and embrace what we consider to be nutty, in the hope that this is the private behavior that will eventually filter upward into state power. For if what we value in our private lives is the dissemination of correct views, that is the value that is likely to take root in government. And that is the view that leads to tyranny, in my humble opinion.

This is an area that I struggle with constantly as well because I think that people should have the right to educate their children in the best way that they know. At the same time, I do not think that they should have the right to educate them using outdated or wrong educational material. That does the child a disservice and ill-prepares him or her for the world at large. I will have to find an answer to this soon.

My brother Dave is not a champion of states rights and argues that the education curriculum should be standardized. The reason it is not is that there are a whole bunch of people out there who would object to some of the things that the central government would put into it. I sympathize. I don't want my five-year-old taught about contraception. I also have a problem with my kids being taught that to accept the idea that homosexuality is "normal" when it is only practiced by 2-3% of the population. No other behavior that restricted in practice would be considered "normal." I also think, however, that evolution should be part of every state's curriculum. It is established science and the arguments against it are unpersuasive at best and facile at worst.

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