Pushing Boundaries

Education policy is the catalyst to a substantial amount of controversy. What happens when you mix religion with public (sometimes private) education? MORE controversy. While in my Civil Liberties course at UNC, I encountered a court case that truly caused me to do some deep thinking: Edwards v. Aguillard (1986). A Louisiana law titled, “Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction Act” prohibited the teaching of evolution theory if it was not accompanied by creationism, and vice-versa. Although many might have initially believed that teaching both sides of the debate would be rational, the law evoked a lot of political tension. The Court voted in an overwhelming majority that this law was in clear violation of the Establishment clause and that the government was deeply entangled in a religious interest. However, the facts and decision of the case is not what set me back. What compelled me to think deeply into the matter was the fact that educators are teaching children about issues that are completely controversial and dense at such a young age.

Elementary and middle school students are extremely impressionable and they’re also in the “why” stage of life. I define the “why” stage as a period of years where with every answer provided a child will more than likely ask you “why?” In my opinion, teaching of creationism and to an extent evolution, should be left to the parents. There are certain things that a teacher shouldn’t discuss with children, at least at an early age. I can only begin to imagine the level of confusion I would have had if my 4th grade teacher attempted to teach be about how life formed on the planet. However, I know for certain that I would have been extremely uncomfortable listening to the theory of evolution, considering the fact that I grew up in a Baptist household and was taught that God created heaven and Earth and all the beings that resided within it. It’s safe to assert that children who grew up believing that God didn’t exist would feel a similar level of discomfort when they heard the theory of creationism.

My point here is that there are certain subjects that a parent should discuss first with their children, at an appropriate age and when a child reaches a certain level of maturity. Also, there are some questions that teachers should defer to parents. Blurring the line between a parental and teacher role is something that should truly be avoided. As a hopeful teacher, I would be extremely uncomfortable teaching creationism to students even when paired with evolution. There are so many intricacies with both theories, so many opportunities to take words out of context, and so many minds to influence. Also the body of students could potentially be religiously and culturally diverse, which would only intensify the confusion and discomfort associated with teaching these lessons.

If anyone has any personal experiences that connects with being taught sensitive subjects in public schools I would great appreciate your comments! My main question that I still have is how can we be certain that children are eventually taught and understand the controversial subjects? Should teachers feel responsible to supplement for what parents don’t teach?


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