In my grand tradition of being out of the loop, I missed what seems to be an interesting controversy between Calvary Chapel Christian School of Murrieta, California, and the University of California system. The school was told that its biology, physics, and three humanties courses would not be counted for admission to colleges in the system. According to Charles C. Haynes writing for the First Amendment Center,
UC claims that these courses can’t be counted because they don’t meet the university’s academic standards. ACSI [the Association of Christian Schools International, who is partnering with Calvary Chapel in a lawsuit] argues that the courses and textbooks in question adequately cover the required subject matter — and were only rejected by UC because of their Christian viewpoint.
Probably the most questionable text selection for the school is the biology textbook, published by Bob Jones University Press. I have not seen the textbook, so I cannot describe its stance on the thorny issue of creationism vs. evolution, but one would expect that at an evangelical school, the text would present creationism as accepted doctrine and perhaps dismiss evolution entirely. I should note that Mike Weiss, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, stated that the rejected book was published by A Beka Books, not Bob Jones UP, but the school’s web site states that the BJUP book is used in their biology classes.
The physics text was also cited as problematic because of biblical verses preceding each chapter. This confuses me, because according to Calvary Chapel’s web site, they use Prentice Hall’s Conceptual Physics for their physics class. Prentice Hall’s many textbook series are often used in public schools; I would be extremely surprised if there were Bible verses in this textbook, though I admit I haven’t examined it. I think perhaps there has been some confusion in the coverage of this issue — I believe it might be the physical science text that is in question, also published by Bob Jones UP. I used the “Look inside this book” feature to examine the physical science text, and I can see why UC would have a problem with the stance taken in the first chapter about the veracity of evolution vs. creationism. There is a difference between the physics and physical science. However, it may be that the school wanted to adopt a new physics text instead of continuing with Prentice Hall.
I do wonder about UC’s rejection of the history class on the basis that it is “too narrow.” According to Haynes,
Especially troubling to me are the rejections of literature and history courses taught from a Christian perspective. For example, UC claims that “Christianity’s Influence on American History” was disallowed because the focus was “too narrow/too specialized.” Yet courses from other schools that sound just as narrow or specialized (e.g., “Race, Class and Gender in Modern America”) have won approval.
What I want to know and haven’t been able to discover is whether this class would replace a comprehensive U.S. History class. Even if that is so, it might not be “too narrow” in scope. I think discussion of American history under this lens might still be comprehensive and perhaps even unify the study of history thematically. What isn’t clear is whether or not classes approved by UC, such as “Race, Class and Gender in Modern America” are history electives. If this class is the American history class for some other school rather than a comprehensive class, then UC’s ruling doesn’t seem fair.
UC also rejected “Special Providence: Christianity and the American Republic” and “Christianity and Morality in American Literature.” None of the three humanities classes is currently being taught “because of the dispute,” according to Mike Weiss. Weiss notes that the literature class would have included writings from many major writers, including Nathaniel Hawthorne and J.R.R. Tolkien. Why Tolkien would be taught in an American literature class, I’ll leave you to puzzle about. I couldn’t figure out how to look at A Beka’s literature series from its web site, so I cannot attest to whether or not, as UC decided, it “is not appropriate.”
I am not sure how I feel about this issue. I do feel Americans have the right to choose to educate their children within a certain faith. I suppose it is also within the public universities’ rights to reject certain courses which do not meet their standards — and I believe that all applicants should be required to meet those high standards. Despite UC’s arguments to the contrary, it will be difficult for Calvary Chapel’s students to get into UC schools because these courses are rejected. If these courses are what is offered by their school and required for graduation from that school, but not accepted by UC’s regents, who decide which classes students should be required to take for entrance, then the students will have trouble getting in, even if they try to be admitted “by exception” or through high standardized test scores. I can’t imagine that courses like biology and American literature would not be required by UC, and taking a class that fails to meet their requirements would mean that students would be considered to lack those credits, thus be unable to go to UC system schools.
I teach at a Jewish school, and I would venture to guess that most of our students’ Judaics courses are accepted as elective credits, if they are accepted at all, by the colleges they apply to. However, students also study a rigorous academic curriculum, including math ranging from algebra to AP Calculus, science ranging from biology to AP Physics and AP Biology, English ranging from standard 9th grade English to AP Language and and AP Literature, and history, ranging from humanties (world history) to AP European History and AP U.S. History. They also are required to take four years of Hebrew and may choose to take Spanish. I do not think that we necessarily teach the academic courses solely from a Jewish perspective, but we do discuss those topics within the context of that perspective.
I suppose the case has already been heard, but I don’t know what the verdict was. Let me know if you do, and I’ll post an update.
Here are some related posts/articles to read covering a variety of viewpoints:
- Evolution resource sued for using public funds; UC system facing other problems (ArsTechnica)
- Here’s the Problem with Emily Dickinson (NY Times; free registration or BugMeNot)
- Keeping Out the Christians (Education Next); OpinionJournal’s editorial also contains some of the same information
- Court considers unusual clash between creed, curriculum (First Amendment Center)
- University of California and its misadventures with dominionists (Talk To Action — author did extensive research into the rejected texts)
- University of California system sued over creationism (National Center for Science Education)
You might also want to try some of the other many articles that came up in this search.