The UC system has balls, and we like it

They have declined to accredit some course from right-winger Christian schools that use profoundly questionable source materials; of course, the school is suing.

UC seems to be in a good position; from their own fact sheet:

Some of the courses rejected by UC used certain textbooks published by Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books as primary instructional materials. Although UC has approved courses that use other textbooks from these publishers, these books were reviewed by faculty who concluded they did not meet UC’s guidelines for primary textbooks. Had the courses at issue used these textbooks as supplementary, rather than primary, texts, it is likely they would have been approved.

The question the University must confront in reviewing these texts is not whether they have religious content, but whether they provide a comprehensive view of the relevant subject matter, reflecting knowledge generally accepted in the scientific and educational communities and with which a student at the university level should be conversant. In the books in question, the publishers themselves acknowledge that the primary goal is to teach religious doctrine rather than the scholarship that is generally accepted in the relevant fields of study. For example, the introduction to the primary textbook for the science courses in question states clearly that it teaches students that their conclusions must conform to the Bible, and that scientific material and methods are secondary (emph added.)

Um, holy cow. That’s right; it’s a science textbook that places the Bible and issues of faith over that of the scientific method and the observable world. If you’re in a science class that does that, it’s not a science class. It’s Sunday School. UC should be under no obligation to treat such courses the same as genuine work done at a real school.

The stakes here are high, but dammit, somebody has to take a stand for actual education. The fundie POV is explicitly anti-intellectual and anti-science; the whole idea that a course like that could get you into college is laughable, and we pray (yes) that the courts see that.

The ASCI and Calvary lawyers have framed this as outright religious discrimination, and an abridgement of freedom of speech. According to them, UC is reaching its Orwellian hand into their classrooms and dictating what they can and can’t teach. They can’t seem to distinguish the difference between someone saying, “We have standards, and this book or course doesn’t meet them,” (according to UC, between 10 and 15% of all high school courses they vet fail to make the grade; yet Calvary offers 43 other courses that UC accepts without issue), and outright religious discrimination.

UC is not telling them what to teach. They are still free to choose whatever curriculum they deem appropriate to a Christian education. What they’re asking for is freedom from facing the consequences of those choices. I can’t spend a semester reading whatever books I choose, and then accuse the university of discrimination when they flunk me for not knowing what’s in the syllabus. But that’s pretty much what Calvary is trying to do.

The lawsuit has already been in process for 18 months, and has survived preliminary hearings. It looks as though it will be coming to trial sometime this year. If UC wins (and their case looks good), it may set a powerful precedent that will allow other universities to take a stand for real science in the future. If they lose, all bets are off: no university anywhere will be allowed to set or maintain admissions standards. Such a ruling could undermine the foundations of merit-based secular education as we’ve known it — which may, in the end, be exactly what the plaintiffs are looking for.

Godspeed, UC.

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