Sunday, October 29, 2006

The problem with vouchers for private schools

Elections are coming up, and proponents of vouchers for private schools are once again pooling their money and sending it to Utah to help their chosen politicians. What better time for me to discuss the problems with vouchers?
Private schools are not committed to following a core curriculum, and their teachers are not always well-educated. Take, for example, this quote about science curriculum from Kimber Academy, an 'LDS' private school in Utah.
"Science: Teaches students how to search the scriptures to discover the majesty of God’s creations, from physiology to astronomy." That's it. That's the entire statement about science education.
Let us analyze this pretty little piece here. Instead of studying God's creations to find their majesty, these students are studying the scriptures to find it? Remember, this is not a religion class. They already attend a religion class. This is science! No direct observation. This method leads to some interesting results. The scriptures say the earth has four corners, so it must be flat, despite what anyone else might say. The Bible dictionary (LDS version) says there was no death before Adam, so that must be true. (Keep in mind, the Bible dictionary preface states that it's not meant to put forth church doctrine, and Elder James E. Talmage published a book through the church that explicitly stated that organisms lived and died on this earth before the earth was fit for human habitation (see 'The Earth and Man')). Maybe they don't discuss flat earth, but it's as scientifically valid as "no death before Adam." Science is based on experiment and discovery, not on authority. To teach it as authority, and, more specifically, to act like scripture, most of it at least 2000 years old, is the source for scientific knowledge, is insane. To teach science through scriptures is to neglect a great responsibility. Our tax dollars should not support this.
Obviously, it's difficult for private schools like this to hire people educated in science (this means a science degree, people) who are still moral. I could not find information about Kimber Academy's teachers. Liahona Academy, however (another 'LDS' private school) has a description of their teachers. Their science teacher "has a dual degree in Education and Archaic Studies". What about science? Biology? Chemistry? Physics? Anything? And this guy is teaching science? Guess all the more qualified LDS teachers took one look at the school's curriculum, and thought to themselves "I can not teach this and still respect myself. I can not teach this, with what I know, and still be in good standing with God." I know that's how I feel. These schools call themselves 'LDS', but they're not actually run by the church. Institutions run by the church--like BYU-- actually have qualified teachers (professors) who have PhDs and have done research in their subject matter (including evolution). Real science is taught. Textbooks, not scriptures, are used as a source of science. No one in biology teaches anti-evolutionism as science; none of them support it. No one in geology teaches young earth; they know too much about geology. No one in chemistry teaches that evolution and the 2nd law of thermodynamics are opposed to each other; they understand chemistry too well. Many in the religion department at BYU don't have issue with science; some in the religion department seem to think that since they're experts in LDS theology, they're also experts in science. They're just as bad as scientists who, because they're experts in science, think they're qualified to dismiss religion.
There are private schools where real science teachers teach real science. I don't have a problem with tax vouchers for these schools, as long as everything is done fairly and the teachers and students are held to the same standards as in public schools. But as long as some private schools insist on teaching science through scriptures (and, according to Talmage, the scriptures were never meant to instruct in science) I cannot support vouchers.


mrcolj said...

Good post. This is Colin Jensen, the Principal of The Pinnacle Learning Centers, your local Kimber Academy. You or any reader are welcome to visit our new school in Lindon (we just bought the old city hall). Whether live or on the phone, I can answer any of your questions. The school's number is (801) 796-5919 and my home number is (801) 368-1623. Feel free to call anytime.

Tim said...

Hmmm...I'm sure Kimber Academy excels at some things, but judging by the website...I sure hope they change things around and start teaching biology like BYU does (ie-teach science in science class). If these private school vouchers get passed, they might run into Constitutional issues (using creationism in science class) that could pose some problems for them.