Editorial—An Anchor on their Necks

What fun times in education these days. The Ohio state government has just amended their legislation with a piece called the Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019 that says, in part, “No school district board of education, … shall prohibit a student from engaging in religious expression in the completion of homework, artwork, or other written or oral assignments.”

I’m okay with that.  That seems like a reasonable thing, in that it doesn’t specify any particular religion, and if we’re going to allow belief in unprovable things to be a legitimate ground for human rights, it makes sense to include all such beliefs, whether those of Buddhism, Christianity, Satanism, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or whatever else might come to mind.

But then it goes on to say “Assignment grades and scores shall be calculated using ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, including any legitimate pedagogical concerns, and shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student’s work.”

Now this, for me, is a problem waiting to happen.  I’ve seen it argued that the phrase “calculated using ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance” means that the phrase about not penalizing based on the religious content does not really apply when we’re talking about scientific facts, such as the age of the earth, evolutionary biology, etc.  However, I can see a lot of wiggle room in how that “and” between the two clauses essentially puts them on even keel, and this piece of legislation will be used as a wedge by some groups to try to impose specific morals within the education system.

While I don’t think that any belief in unprovable things should be held above any other, I do think that when we have provable things, things that anybody can do the same experiments and achieve the same results, those things should trump the unprovable.

What remains to be seen is just how much noise this clause will end up causing, and what will happen if it’s brought to the court by some group that wants to insist that their specific religious teachings are equal to the scientific teachings we all can access.  Even if it’s eventually forced to be removed or better defined, if it makes a lot of noise, it will do damage to students who graduate in Ohio, because so much of education is personal, and so much of how society judges a person’s education is reputational.  There’s a reason people pay more to go to the schools that are well recognized, after all.  I hope that the Ohio state legislature has not just put a huge anchor around the necks of their own children with this legislation.

Meanwhile, in this issue, our feature is an interview with student Heather Guerette, who came to AU looking for some way to stimulate her mind beyond the TV shows of her children, and is soon to be walking away with a degree in Psychology and perhaps plans to further it.  We also have a great story from Marie Well this week on how you can increase your charm, a skill useful in almost any situation, and Darjeeling Jones is nice enough to extend us all an invite to his next soiree, it sounds like an event not to be missed.  Now I just have to figure out how to receive the directions!  Plus events, advice, scholarships, news, a look at why you should be avoiding sugar, and more!  Enjoy the read!

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