Sometimes, I can’t but help sit back an laugh. Cheat Seeking Missiles (CSM) has a post on “Separation Of Church And State, Secularist Style.” Dr. Corbett is a teacher of AP European History at Capistrano Valley High School. The suit was filed on behalf of sophomore Chad Farnan with attorneys from Advocates for Faith and Freedom.
Here is one example:
How do you get the peasants to oppose something that is in their best interest? Religion. You have to have something that is irrational to counter that rational approach….[W]hen you put on your Jesus glasses, you can’t see the truth.
So, let’s go through some of the points brought up on Cheat Seeking Missiles.
First, I find it rather inarguable that religious conservatives want to control women’s reproductive capacity. Birth control pills have been openly condemned by the Vatican. In Pakistan, “the more conservative Islamic leaders have openly campaigned against the use of condoms or other birth control methods.” One can argue about the “pregnant, barefoot and in the kitchen to have babies until your body collapses” characterization. I don’t have demographics, but from stories that conservatives tout, “9-child family shines as Christian example” and others I’ve come across, there seems to be a correlation between very large families (7+) and religiosity. I would love to see some more conclusive data though. But, there is evidence that there is some truth to what Dr. Corbett said, even if it was stated unflatteringly.
As for Sweden and the United States comparison, I don’t believe that the discrepancy can be accounted for by “excellent and transparent record keeping.” CSM doesn’t argue that United States is near the high in total crime rate per capita, but rather that the U.S. is #8 behind Finland, Denmark, and the United Kingdom. The more relevant point was about violent crime. Unfortunately, NationMaster doesn’t seem able to directly tabulate non-violent and violent offenses, so let’s look at murder. The United States is 24th with .042802 per 1,000, Finland is .0289733 per 1,000, Denmark is .0106775 per 1,000 and the U.K. is .0140633 per 1,000. As for suicides, Sweden’s rate is .0200 per 1,000 for males and .0085 per 1,000 for females, the United States is just barely behind with .0193 per 1,000 for males and .0044 per 1,000 for females. In short, you are more than 2 times as likely to be murdered in the United States than you are to commit suicide in Sweden.
But how does CSM know that:
Godless Sweden’s rate is lower, but it has a higher per capita adult suicide rate than religious America. Corbett didn’t share that with his students.
Did CSM sit through every single class? Dr. Corbett larger point was this, which CSM didn’t address at all.
So we know what rehabilitation works and that punishment doesn’t, and yet we go on punishing. It really has a lot to do with these same culture wars we’re talking about. This whole Biblical notion: Sinners need to be punished. And so you get massively more Draconian punishment in the South where religion is much more central to society than you do anyplace else. And, of course, the Southerners get really upset, as what they see as lenient behavior in the North. You know, we’re going to solve this problem. Except, guess what? What part of the country has the highest murder rate? The South. What part of the country has the highest rape rate? The South. What part of the country has the highest… church attendance? The South. Oh, wait a minute. You mean there is not a correlation between these things? No, there isn’t. Um, in fact, there is an inverse correlation. In those places where people go to church the least, the crime was the most. And that’s not just Sweden and the United States. That’s Pennsylvania and Georgia. It’s not even true.”
Dr. Corbett’s point was the statement that “in those places where people go to church the least, the crime was the most” is not true. In fact, the data seems to suggest the opposite is actually true.
I’m not going to go through the Limbaugh issues. Limbaugh lies. Al Fraken has a book called “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right” which documents some Limbaugh escapades quite well, as well as Media Matters.
I’m not going to go through the Viagra comment, I just found it funny. But as far as Dr. Corbett being a lousy teacher CSM notes that 33% flunked the College Boards Advanced Placement exam. I honestly don’t think someone at CSM has taken an AP exam. I have taken several, so I’ll explain a little bit. Students take AP courses in high school in a variety of subjects. However, it is really tough to impose a standard across the whole nation for these subjects. So, the College Board comes up with a standardized test on the subject that students pay for and take at the end of the year. For some tests, there are two versions. When I took AP Calculus, we covered a semester of college in a whole year in high school, aka a lot slower. Therefore, the test at the end was quite a bit easier. However, AP History and AP Chemistry were for a full year of college credit, so they were more difficult. To my knowledge, AP European History only comes in a whole year variety, which means the class is covering a whole year of material in a year in high school.
Tests are graded on a 1-5 scale, 3 or high means the College Board recommends the student get credit for the course. So, people who “flunked” got a 1 or 2. So, a few things CSM says about the test are incorrect. First, it is not the “state’s Advanced Placement exam.” It is the College Board’s, a national organization. Secondly, using the 2006 statistics for California, 200,850 tests received a 3 or higher out of 352,059, which is to say the state has a 57% passing rate or (43% failing rate if you are a glass half-empty person). Dr. Corbett beats the state average quite significantly. According to the national report, approximately 69% get a 3 or higher in AP European History which Dr. Corbett is quite in line with also. Under either measure, Dr. Corbett hardly qualifies as a lousy teacher.
The simple fact of the matter is one cannot teach history without touching on religion. You try explaining the logic behind the children’s crusade without mentioning religion. Religion is an important part of European history. Secondly, I don’t see a real problem bringing some personal views into the classroom. Young adults need to be able to deal with differing points of view. Learning needs to be organic, and students should be challenged to think. In that regard, I think Dr. Corbett was doing a good job. Where one crosses the line is proselytizing or lying. I haven’t seen evidence that Corbett has done either. People can argue with how Corbett characterized his statements, but not their basic rectitude. If Dr. Corbett actually demonstrated religious bigotry, or intolerance towards religion, that would be one thing. Arguing by pointing out some facts that don’t agree with a certain viewpoint and drawing conclusions from the available evidence is what open inquiry and education is all about.