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"Creationism" in school?
So the good folks in Kansas still want to teach religion in the public schools. Not all the doctrines of religion, just one: That God created the universe and all that is in it. Including, most particularly, mankind. Now we've been down this trail before. And the Supreme Court has explained to the school boards of this nation that supernatural explanations of the natural world belong in the realm of religion, and as such cannot be proffered as credible science in the public schools.Abstract:
It may be helpful at this point to inform the Kansas Board of Education that there is nothing wrong with teaching religious folklore and folkloric explanations of the natural world in the public schools. In fact, I would say that no student should fail to be educated in our folklore. It belongs to our history, and a grasp of a certain amount of such material is essential for an understanding of our society. How can a young adult be expected to place in perspective the religion-based fantasies that he hears daily in conversation or on the radio, if he has not been exposed to it in a rational manner?
Here, then, is a plan that should please the Kansas board:
Let us institute high school classes that teach not only the biblical creation story, but the essence of the rest of the Christian faith as well. And of course not only the Christian faith, but all the historically important supernatural beliefs. This is perfectly legal. Voilà:
I propose that a core year-long high school course, in and out of Kansas, be devoted to supernatural folklore and mythologies, naturally with emphasis on those mideastern lores which are still popular in our country. Such a course will place our local religious beliefs and practices in their world-wide historical and philosophical context, so the student will understand their derivation. Learning, for example, the source of the teachings of Jesus (from Confucius, Babylonian law, etc.) will give the student both a better appreciation of the wisdom of other traditions and a better background for objectively evaluating the common belief-traditions of the modern western world. But the world-wide section of the course (with which it should start) should not be limited to currently popular religious folklore, but must include world-wide god-beliefs, such as the Greek, Roman, Minoan, Medean, Scandinavian, Gaelic, Asian, and African lores. Such a course will expose our teens to a treasure-trove of beliefs, of which the creation tales are especially colorful: The Judaeo-Christian creation lore is not specific about just how God went about creating man, though Michelangelo seemed to suggest that an emanation from the divine fingertip may have been involved. (The biblical creation of woman, however, is a delightful ribbing.) Other creation stories are more specific; in some, man popped out of a divine ear (like Rabelais' Gargantua); in some, a god had a side-splitting experience, while others have involved ravens scattering seal bones or the laying of an egg. Yet others were scatological, and could perhaps rightly be left out of a high school survey course. While some of these beliefs seem to have lost popularity over the years, they have certainly not been shown to be less valid than the current fad beliefs.
A natural starting point for the American section of the course would be the several creation stories, divine panoplies, and religious practices of the various American indian tribes. Although these are currently overshadowed by eurasian mythologies in our country, they are still directly relevant for many indian descendants (certainly in Kansas), and they have greatly influenced our society's view of the world; particularly the relationship between man and nature, so mutual and symbiotic in indian beliefs, while antagonistic and controlling in the eurasian beliefs that currently dominate our society.
The Kansas school board should be applauded for their correct assessment that children need to learn about religious notions in school. Of course their attempt to introduce their own – and only their own – creation lore in the guise of science is ludicrous and unworthy of thinking adults, but that's surely a detail that can be worked out. By, for example, firing the school board and putting 21st century rational, educated adults in its place. It's certain that the state of Kansas owes its citizens, and especially its children, redress for the embarrassment and loss of respect that its Board of Education has brought on the state. In that regard, we'll look forward to seeing Kansas take the lead in offering their school children a broad, pan-religious education in comparative and historic mythic lore that will prepare them for the diverse adult world that they are about to enter.
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