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The Family Policy Network
July 24, 2002 7:43 AM   Subscribe

The Family Policy Network is suing the University of North Carolina for "forcing freshmen and transfers to study Islam against their will." The flap is over an assigned reading that includes of 35 passages from the Qur'an. The FPN claims that the students' First Amendment Rights are being violated. Does anyone else this find this very bizarre?
posted by Bag Man (54 comments total)

 
To honest, I find this much more than bizarre; it's down right scary. Many, if not all, colleges and universities in the US have non-western requirements and I fear that if the FPN wins these requirements will come under attack or be eliminated.
posted by Bag Man at 7:46 AM on July 24, 2002


This is what happens when taxpayer dollars fund something as controversial as education. All kinds of ninnies start suing so that they can get the government to mandate their agenda.

This is utter madness, though. How can this possibly violate the first amendment? Their justification is ridiculous, just imagine if it said this:

"A lawsuit was filed this morning against the University of North Carolina at Chapel-Hill Bob Jones University, alleging the school is infringing upon the religious free exercise of its students and violating the establishment clause of the United States Constitution by forcing incoming freshmen and transfer students to study Islam the Bible against their will."

Never mind that students attend schools voluntarily, and are only 'forced' to do anything so long as they voluntarily accept the rules and regulations of the institution which they have chosen to be a part of. The First Amendment applies to stopping the government from limiting the rights of the people. There's no way UNC is limiting anyone's rights by doing this (even if they are connected to the gov't via funding). I think unless they sue BJU (what a funny set of initials for a fundamentalist school) post haste, the Family Policy Network can be declared hypocritical.
posted by insomnyuk at 7:59 AM on July 24, 2002


I always hated logarithms. Should have sued my school for making me study logarithms against my will when all I wanted to learn was basic algebra that didn't make me question any of my underlying assumptions about the world.
posted by rushmc at 8:03 AM on July 24, 2002


I had never heard of this FPN. According to their site, "Family Policy Network (FPN) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization informing churches and families throughout North America on the moral issues of the day, so they can be "salt and light" in the public square." So are they the bastards responsible for those damned ugly sodium lamps?

Anyway, this story is not an excuse to stop public funding of education, which would be worse than requiring religious education.
posted by pracowity at 8:07 AM on July 24, 2002


But I bet they would love it if they were reading the Christian Bible at NCU.

Easy Solution: Holy Books should be read on your own time, not the publicly funded schools.
posted by benjh at 8:08 AM on July 24, 2002


Of course this is unconstitutional! This is required reading for all students of a public university that contains religious content, it's like saying: "Before you can go to this university, you must read the new testament."

If you have a class in religious studies, or even history, this is absolutely permissible as religion plays such a large part in the class that you're taking, but as a general admissions requirement, this is just ridiculous. And insomnyuk, your correlation between BJU, a private religious school, and UNC, a public governmentally funded school is ridiculous. Those are my tax dollars going to pay for mandatory religious study, which I am against in any form, be it Islam, Christianity, Judaism, or anything else.
posted by statusquo at 8:11 AM on July 24, 2002


The difference, insomnyuk, is of course that Bob Jones is not a state school. The state schools do have certain additional obligations that private religious insitutions do not.

However, this is just completely insane. The study of a religious work does not necessarily constitute the establishment of religion--I assume they are trying to sue based on idea that this is religious instruction in violation of the Establishment Clause. So students are not allowed to study texts of any religion? I suspect that the FRN might make an exception for one particular text...
posted by lackutrol at 8:11 AM on July 24, 2002


I bet Chapel Hill will back down, they already have by offering to have students write a paper on why they did not read the book. and any leaving out of the juicy and hateful parts of the quran is wrong. I find it scary there is no choice (of texts)offered.
"the wests fascination with Islam..." is this why they picked the book, a work that (allegedly) leaves out the bad stuff. Why not "the Trial" (do the kids more good)

"But I bet they would love it if they were reading the Christian Bible at NCU." i Doubt it knowing a few of there teachers

"Easy Solution: Holy Books should be read on your own time, not the publicly funded schools."

I do defend the right to use religous texts in schools for phil-sophy and comparitive lit etc.
posted by clavdivs at 8:15 AM on July 24, 2002


Yes, but might I remind you that Bob Jones does receive Federal funds because it accepts students who receive Federal grants. And with State money always comes State control, eventually.

Anyway, this story is not an excuse to stop public funding of education, which would be worse than requiring religious education.

So, you would prefer that all students be forced to learn the 'truth' of Islam rather than eliminate public funding of schools? That's curious.

Those are my tax dollars going to pay for mandatory religious study, which I am against in any form, be it Islam, Christianity, Judaism, or anything else.

Some people treat and teach Marxism or socialism with religious fervor. The same goes for the way some people religiously hold to their athiesm. I don't want my tax dollars paying for that, or for subjects tinged with a marxist/athiest bias. The fact is, you can't escape biases, and I'm sick of my money essentially paying for the education of people I don't know in subjects which I disagree with. I believe Bastiat called it legalized plunder. Some of you would prefer to nobly call it good old fashioned Robin Hood government.
posted by insomnyuk at 8:17 AM on July 24, 2002


From what I understand of local coverage, if you don't want to read it, you just have to write a one page essay stating reasons why you don't want to. I see no problem with the suggested reading. You can suggest the Bible to me and I wouldn't read it. Who even reads the stuff on those lists anyway? Is there a Cliff Notes for the Qur'an?
posted by allpaws at 8:21 AM on July 24, 2002


I'm sick of my money essentially paying for the education of people I don't know in subjects which I disagree with.

Insomnyuk, I'm glad that you are in favor of education and enlightenment. Oh no wait, my bad, you seem to be advocating state sponsored ignorance and stupidity. While most profs. A have bias in the subject they teach, the reason they teach is to educate and enlighten not indoctrinate. I wish I could say as much for the Family Policy Network.
posted by Bag Man at 8:24 AM on July 24, 2002


Insomnyuk, I'm glad that you are in favor of education and enlightenment. Oh no wait, my bad, you seem to be advocating state sponsored ignorance and stupidity.

Clearly, that is what I said. Clearly, no public education = I want poor people to be stupid. What?

I suppose in Massachusetts before 1831, everyone was ignorant and stupid. It was state sponsored, of course. What's your point again?

While most profs. A have bias in the subject they teach, the reason they teach is to educate and enlighten not indoctrinate.

Most? I have had some good professors, but what if they think they are educating and enlightening but are in reality indoctrinating? Don't you think the mullahs in Pakistan believe they are enlightening people to the truth of Allah, while you and I may believe that they are merely indoctrinating people? Of course most professors have biases. I don't want my money being taken from me to support those biases, or the teaching from them.
posted by insomnyuk at 8:33 AM on July 24, 2002


> So, you would prefer that all students be forced to...

To study all major religions. It is important to understand what almost everyone else (I am not religious) believes. Require religious studies, have all students devote at least a few weeks to each major religion. Studied side by side, it is clear that there is no right religion.

(As for the derailer argument: taxes are good and necessary. Stop complaining about paying for what you use.)
posted by pracowity at 8:38 AM on July 24, 2002


I'm sick of my money essentially paying for the education of people I don't know in subjects which I disagree with.

You're right insomnyuk - Let's close the public schools so only the elite with money and the "proper" opinions on the issues of the day can attend private college. I'm sure they'll do a very good job ruling us unwashed.
posted by jalexei at 8:38 AM on July 24, 2002


I don't understand what the flap is about. They pick a different book every year for this little book report. Since the middle east is in the news, they picked a book that covers some facet of the subject (not the actual religious text, but a book about it).

What if they chose Catcher in the Rye? Would students sue because they were subjected to reading 1258 mentions of the word "goddamn" and a mention of the f-word (I know, it doesn't mention actual passages from a religious text)? What if the university chose the Diary of Anne Frank? Might that force judiasm on everyone?

It seems that picking a slightly controversial book would interest the students more than a dry topic. Also, introducing incoming students to new ideas is part of what college is about. I happily took religious studies courses at a state-run college due to requirements that forced everyone into comparitive religion or diversity classes. They were a blast, and didn't mandate an establishment of religion, they were simply a history course of the world's religions.

Will this group sue the biology department for forcing all intro students to study evolution?
posted by mathowie at 8:43 AM on July 24, 2002


So, you would prefer that all students be forced to learn the 'truth' of Islam rather than eliminate public funding of schools? That's curious.

From my experience, when religion is taught in college it is not taught to indoctrinate. In undergrad I took two religious courses, "The Jewish Tradition" and "Understanding Islam" (taught by a orthodox Jew no less). These classes included the reading of most of the sacred texts of both Judaism and Islam. Neither of these class have made me into any type of zealot, in fact, nether of these course changed any of my fundamental beliefs. I'm not a more pious Jew nor Muslim believer because of the classes I took. Why is this? Becuase that was no their aim. And how is this? It is because of the way religion is tough at the Undergrad level (and I'm guessing this what UNC is going for). It is taught from the perspective of how do the people within a given religion view their own beliefs? What are their practices and traditions? And how have their beliefs informed the execution of their practices and traditions? Religious courses in college are typically aimed at addressing those basic questions.

What I came away from these two classes with is a better understanding of how different people view themselves. I also gained some basic understanding of where various practices come from and some of technical aspects of Jewish and Muslim religious practice. I feel I am a better and more rounded person after taking the religious studies class that I took. I suspect this what UNC is aiming to achieve.

Don't you think the mullahs in Pakistan believe they are enlightening people to the truth of Allah

UNC Profs. = Muslim fundamentalists? Perhaps it's time to come back to reality.
posted by Bag Man at 8:50 AM on July 24, 2002


(As for the derailer argument: taxes are good and necessary. Stop complaining about paying for what you use.)

Given the chance, I would immediately opt out of 90% of the government 'services' I receive if I had the chance to also opt out of the taxes.

Studied side by side, it is clear that there is no right religion.

You're going to need more proof for a statement as broad as that, especially when practitioners of many religions believe that theirs is the one true way. I'm not against comparative religion classes, I think there is much benefit in studying different beliefs. But no one is being 'forced' to do this, as I said before, since they voluntarily attend the school. You sound like you want to mandate such a thing across the board. Try primary education, since that is required by law, unless you're Amish (you can quit after the 8th grade).

You're right insomnyuk - Let's close the public schools so only the elite with money and the "proper" opinions on the issues of the day can attend private college. I'm sure they'll do a very good job ruling us unwashed.

That is sheer insanity. There is an elite that rules today anyway, first of all. Furthermore, the assumption that if there are no public schools, the poor do not get educated, is utter claptrap perpetuated by people like John Dewey who wish to 'socialize' everyone into a set way of thinking. America, pre-public education America, that is, had some of the highest literacy rates in the world. Those po' folks sho' weren't gettin no edumacation, huh?
posted by insomnyuk at 8:52 AM on July 24, 2002


Insomnyuk, weren't we debating the appropriateness of this ridiculous First Amendment claim, not the viability of public education itself? You're saying that public education is wrong because your tax dollars may fund the expression of opinions that you might not share?

The idea that you tax money should only go to things you agree with is unworkable at best. Can I specify that my tax dollars shouldn't go to pay Ashcroft's salary? No. Am I prepared to accept that as the price of living in this society? Yes.
posted by lackutrol at 8:53 AM on July 24, 2002


"the school is infringing upon the religious free exercise of its students and violating the establishment clause of the United States Constitution by forcing incoming freshmen and transfer students to study Islam against their will."

"Chief Counsel Steve Crampton said, 'It is hard to believe that a university with the stature of UNC would be unaware of established law prohibiting the religious indoctrination of students.'"

This lawsuit is weak. Since when is making students "study" something the same as "indoctrinating" them? According to Merriam-Webster:

-- "study" means contemplation and also "application of the mental faculties to the acquisition of knowledge"

-- "indoctrinate" means (according to #2, which is what I think FPN means) "to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle"

A good education teaches you to read a text critically, to challenge it, so you can come up with your own opinions. Indoctrination means wanting you to have a particular opinion. UNC is engaged in the former -- students have to "prepare a one-page report for discussion" (CNN).

This is just plain stupid.

(Not that UNC has the high ground. Leaving out inflammatory passages of the Koran -- that's pretty dumb, too.)
posted by Tin Man at 8:54 AM on July 24, 2002


God forbid those offended students actually learn anything about Islam before attacking it.
posted by trox at 8:57 AM on July 24, 2002


The idea that you tax money should only go to things you agree with is unworkable at best.

That's what I've been trying (albeit probably failing) to point out. Which is why taxes should be used to fund as little as possible.

Can I specify that my tax dollars shouldn't go to pay Ashcroft's salary? No.

If only you could. Maybe then the racket of the FBI, IRS, DEA, ATF and all those innumerable federal agenices would go out of business.

Am I prepared to accept that as the price of living in this society? Yes.

That's too bad. I would prefer to work to change it rather than accept it. Most things in this society that are good are not paid for through costly taxation. At some point, the cost becomes to great.
posted by insomnyuk at 8:59 AM on July 24, 2002


I had to read parts of the Bible for a History of Literature class. Since I'm atheist, can I use the University of Wisconsin system?
posted by chemicalpilate at 8:59 AM on July 24, 2002


Drat. I meant "sue" the System.
posted by chemicalpilate at 8:59 AM on July 24, 2002


There is an elite that rules today....

Sure is: the roundly, soundly, broadly educated. Pinch-faced, narrow-minded, ear-plugged know-nothings are usually not a part of it.
posted by TurkeyMustard at 9:03 AM on July 24, 2002


Given the chance, I would immediately opt out of 90% of the government 'services' I receive if I had the chance to also opt out of the taxes.

Wow, so I guess if your house burns down, you won't mind if the firemen don't show up?
posted by MegoSteve at 9:06 AM on July 24, 2002


There are courses in Relgion. There are courses in the Bible as Literature, which often study texts from various religions....I have taught suych courses at the college level though never a course in Religion. Reading is good. Sometimes the TV set breaks down and you need something to do while smoking a joint
posted by Postroad at 9:08 AM on July 24, 2002


Wow, so I guess if your house burns down, you won't mind if the firemen don't show up?

Sounds good to me. I can take care of my own house, or maybe hire a private firm to fight the fires for me.
posted by insomnyuk at 9:08 AM on July 24, 2002


Gee, I hate to find myself in agreement with a bunch of wackos like the FPN, but they do have a point. This book is required reading for ALL incoming students, regardless of major, and that doesn't seem right. If it were part of a religious studies program or something like that it would be different, but it isn't. Granted, it is a book about the Qur'an, and not the actual Qur'an itself, but I don't think there's much difference. And I have a feeling that if a state school was requiring all incoming freshmen to read some sort of Cliff's Notes version of The Bible the tone of this discussion would be much different.

Wouldn't the world be a much nicer place if people could just learn to keep their religious convictions to themselves?
posted by spilon at 9:11 AM on July 24, 2002


What Bag Man said. What's so terrible about studying religious texts as literature? If anything, I'd say that religious texts have been important enough in the course of human development that it'd be irresponsible for any school purporting to offer a liberal-arts education to not study them.
posted by zerolucid at 9:13 AM on July 24, 2002


Spilon: I'd say the same thing I just said above if this thread were about studying the Bible. I did that in high school, and it didn't hurt me, nor did it make me a Christian; all it did was equip me to better understand the world I live in.
posted by zerolucid at 9:16 AM on July 24, 2002


Insomnnyuk, your arguments are looking better now, though I may still disagree with them. At first you seemed to be going for some cheap libertarian points. I think you're still willfully misunderstanding some of my points, though.

By "accept" I mean that I am prepared for my taxes to pay the salaries of duly elected officials that I might disagree with; after all, sometimes the candidates you prefer lose. I will certainly be looking to pay a different Atty General's salary at the time of the next election.

The Mackinac article you link proposes a voucher system, more or less, with subsidies for parents who cannot afford tuition payments for their children. Do you agree with this? I personally would prefer a system in which I do not pay for religious indoctrination, which is basically what you get when you go to a voucher system. If we agree that some form of education should be guaranteed for all (maybe we don't), I personally would prefer one in which there are the constitutional protections that now exist for publicly-funded schools, whatever their flaws, rather than schools that are not publicly accountable at all.
posted by lackutrol at 9:17 AM on July 24, 2002


"Drop in a book by Salman Rushdie or another critic alongside it -- give the students an opportunity to weigh the argument," said Glover. "But don't shield them from the truth about a religion that incites people to fly airplanes into buildings, killing 3,000 Americans at a time..."

The idea of an organization whose mandate is so firmly rooted in moral absolutism, isn't it a bit odd to evoke Rushdie as an equalizing influence?

Or more likely, Mr. Glover hasn't bothered to read any of Rushdie's work, but -- much as he is suggesting we should treat the Koran -- he has simply paid half-hearted attention to media descriptions from dubious sources, and has jumped to false (but fiercely held) conclusions about the nature of a particular piece of literature.
posted by milkman at 9:17 AM on July 24, 2002


Not that UNC has the high ground. Leaving out inflammatory passages of the Koran -- that's pretty dumb, too.

From FOX News: Michael Sells asserts that his book, the book in question, is not a comprehensive study of Islam. Rather, it is a collection of the early verses of its most important text to shed light on why people coverted Islam back in the day. Sells is not claiming to portray all Islam, but address a narrow point. UNC is not arbitrary excluding passages, but it is trying to address a single aspect of Islam. The "inflammatory" passages are not included in the book or the reading assignment because they were perhaps not written during the period UNC wishes to discuss and do not shed light on early Islam.

Note: In my "Understanding Islam" class we briefly discussed the more insidious aspects of Islam. Why? I took a comprehensive survey course, which took a look at the religion as a whole. However, this broad view of Islam does not seem to be the purpose of the UNC assignment. If UNC has a comprehensive Islam course (which I'm sure it does, along classes about most of the world's religions) all aspects of Islam are likely addressed.
posted by Bag Man at 9:23 AM on July 24, 2002


> I can take care of my own house, or maybe hire a
> private firm to fight the fires for me.

And in the sort of unsociety you would get without taxes and strong government, I could as easily hire a company to burn it down.

In a civil society, people work together and don't mind sharing costs and services. Government is an attempt to have everything work for everybody -- you help pay for the education of the guys you need to pump your gas and sell your food and drive your purchases to the stores and educate your children and protect your borders and so on. Your country works because everyone shares costs and rewards. The day you and others who can afford it stop paying for public education is the day your society begins to collapse.

I'm not going to suggest the old "love it or leave it" line, but do you know of anywhere in the world where they don't have taxes? Where is this wonderland and why isn't that place jammed with those rare geniuses who see the uselessness of taxation?
posted by pracowity at 9:24 AM on July 24, 2002


That is sheer insanity.

Hyperbole on my part, granted - I'm not assuming public schools are perfect and fix everything. That they don't provide more value than if they weren't there is laughable.

America, pre-public education America, that is, had some of the highest literacy rates in the world. Those po' folks sho' weren't gettin no edumacation, huh?

Your link leads to this statement: The literacy rates of the mid-1800s were as high as 97 percent which I'm assuming (and please correct me otherwise, I didn't have time to search for the source) means 97 percent of white males were literate at the time. Yep, that's a time we need to return to, the mid 1800's...
posted by jalexei at 9:25 AM on July 24, 2002


That is sheer insanity.

Hyperbole on my part, granted - I'm not assuming public schools are perfect and fix everything. That they don't provide more value than if they weren't there is laughable.

America, pre-public education America, that is, had some of the highest literacy rates in the world. Those po' folks sho' weren't gettin no edumacation, huh?

Your link leads to this statement: The literacy rates of the mid-1800s were as high as 97 percent which I'm assuming (and please correct me otherwise, I didn't have time to search for the source) means 97 percent of white males were literate at the time. Yep, that's a time we need to return to, the mid 1800's...
posted by jalexei at 9:25 AM on July 24, 2002


First hand experience leads me to say this is very important, and I hope the FPN wins this lawsuit. Demonic agendas were pushed at the University of Oregon by biased subversives, and their indoctrination was very clever. After two days of comparitive religion I converted to Judaism. My circumcision came in handy two weeks later when I converted to Islam. I believe it was a cultural anthropology course which showed me the error of my ways and led to devoting my life to first Hinduism, then Jainism and eventually of course Buddhism. I started getting concerned at the appeal of the Tao but History of Western Civ. reexposed me to the Bible and BAM! Full circle, back to Christianity. It's obvious that College is the last place the impact of religion on history and culture should be discussed.
posted by Mack Twain at 9:25 AM on July 24, 2002


How about seeing this as a current affairs issue? Americans are inundated with "Christian culture" every day in this country - much to my dismay. We have little or no exposure to Islamic culture.

If we educate students about what Islam proclaims to be we will have: 1)students who understand the news 2) students who can judge for themselves the words that come from people like bin Laden and decide if they seem in keeping with Islam 3) they can also evaluate the words that come from folks like Pat Robertson and decide if the words seem to be in keeping with Islam.

In other words, a college class to develop amore informed electorate. Wouldn't that be nice?
posted by Red58 at 9:37 AM on July 24, 2002


I could as easily hire a company to burn it down.

You could do that now, it's called hiring the mob.

Your country works because everyone shares costs and rewards.

No, our country does not do that voluntarily. Our country works because people can freely (to some extent) exchange goods and services and live in a free society. People that are forced to hand over the fruits of their labor slowly lose the incentive to work hard and innovate.

but do you know of anywhere in the world where they don't have taxes?

I can't think of one, but there are States, such as Bermuda, and the formerly free Hong Kong, which have or had at one time extremely low taxes.

The day you and others who can afford it stop paying for public education is the day your society begins to collapse.

No, society will not collapse. What held America together when there was no public education? But you are right up to a certain point, because government molded society will certainly collapse. It's a simple premise, really: if you send your child to a Catholic school, they will learn that the Catholic Church is good. If you send your child to a Baptist school, they will learn that the God of the Bible is the one true God. If you send your child to a non-religious private charter or preperatory school, they will learn Latin, learn how to reason, and learn that man is good (as they will study humanism. But if you send your child to a government school, they will learn firstly that government, and obedience to government, is good.

The Mackinac article you link proposes a voucher system, more or less, with subsidies for parents who cannot afford tuition payments for their children. Do you agree with this?

I would prefer a tax credit system. I think voucher systems are highly suspect, especially because they could lead to state intervention in private schools. The reason I linked to the Mackinac article was because it provided examples of succesful non-governmental educational systems and high literacy rates in such environments.

means 97 percent of white males were literate at the time.

I linked to the article to point out that literacy rates are not dependent on government schools. Even the slaves were learning to read (the rate was around 10% I think), without the help of any kind of educational institutions. So many were that many Southern states decided to outlaw teaching them how to read, which just goes to show how successful people were at teaching even slaves (in a homeschooling style).

How about seeing this as a current affairs issue? Americans are inundated with "Christian culture" every day in this country - much to my dismay. We have little or no exposure to Islamic culture.

I am attending a small liberal arts school dominated by white, christian students in the midwest. We don't receive federal funds or federal student grants or loans. Offered nearly every semester is a study course on Islam, along with a comparitive religion course, and next semester there is going to be a seminar course relating to Islam, which a large part of the student body will take as a certain number of seminars are required. Be careful not to paint with such a broad brush.
posted by insomnyuk at 9:50 AM on July 24, 2002


But if you send your child to a government school, they will learn firstly that government, and obedience to government, is good.

This may be ideologically in keeping with your philosophy, but in practice, that's a ridiculous statement. By this logic, I should be a committed Catholic for having attended Catholic school for 12 years (I'm not), and all of my students should believe that they should always obey the government (they don't).

Your statement doesn't take into account the fact that students are not sheep, and have different points of view - the same mistake the FPN is making by assuming that this UNC reading assignment is akin to indoctrination.
posted by Chanther at 10:01 AM on July 24, 2002


So if I understand the argument correctly. They are welcome to claim that their 1st amendment rights allow them to remain ignorant about a religion that has a billion followers around the world. They aren't free to suggest they deserve a college degree without some knowledge of the world around them.

This is absurd! They aren't being forced to convert. Assuming they are christians they aren't being asked to controvert a single principle of their religion by learning more about another one.

Maybe the new revised version of the new covenant reads "Love thy neighbor - Just don't read his books"
posted by revbrian at 10:05 AM on July 24, 2002


In other words, a college class to develop amore informed electorate. Wouldn't that be nice?

Sure. It'd be very nice. It's also a severe misnomer to discuss things as objectively good with regards to education. Anything that can be taught to children in schools can also go against the desires of the parents. And, as such is mandated by law, the government is coercively educating the children against their parents will. Whether we consider it to be "good" that they learn about other religions is irrelevant unless we're willing to scrap the sovereignty of parents over how their children are raised (which, to an extent, we already do). The only way around this is to define certain standards of education as objectively good, and sweep the minority opinions off the table (or scrap mandatory public education). I think it would do this country a whole lot of good if children were taught that alternate religions should be accepted. I think a parent who teaches their children that all others are evil heathens is a bastard. I also think it would be downright shameful to use a government apparatus to push my opinion on that parent's child.

It's a helluvan irony that those who proclaim the relativism of morality and truth tend to support public education the loudest, an institutionalization of an objective morality/truth if ever there was one, and those who proclaim objective morality/truth push for decentralized education.

All that said, this lawsuit is pretty nonsensical. Used historically, sacred books should be (and are under previous case law, to my knowledge) treated as acceptable subjects of study, no different from any other text.

And, while insomnyuk can clearly defend himself, it'd be nice if you all stopped throwing these ridiculous strawmen at him.
posted by apostasy at 10:20 AM on July 24, 2002


insomnyuk, I don't see that you've shown my point incorrect. One small midwest college that offers a few seminars on Islam and comparative region, which students could avoid (it sounds like) by taking other seminars, still qualifies as "little or no exposure." That's true for both the students of that institution, and for others who are not currently in college (most people in the US, yes?), or who didn't have the chance to take such a course when they were.

Very few people in the US have any exposure to Islam or Islamic people.
posted by Red58 at 10:21 AM on July 24, 2002


Given the chance, I would immediately opt out of 90% of the government 'services' I receive if I had the chance to also opt out of the taxes.

you can, its a long drawn out process of paperwork and all kinds of crap, you basically lose all your rights, you cant vote, the bill of rights doesn't apply to you anymore, you can be jailed for any reason, and lose access to all public services.

and you can at the US' discretion be deported

PS: I have a mac with IE, I can avoid hitting refresh, I must be a genius
posted by vincentmeanie at 10:24 AM on July 24, 2002


First of all, they should read the real Koran, not some Cliff Notes version.

The lawsuit is a legal equivalent of a doctor's note. I thought about this, and I agree with the previously stated arguments in support of assigning actual work to college students. The university is well within its rights, even as a publically funded institution, to make a determination as to what counts as a college education.

Many people, surprisingly, argued against this. I think that the objection stems from people's resistence for having a judgement of another person, supposedly more "intelligent" and "cultured," tell you what counted as a college education, rather than allowing you to use your own judgement. What if everyone at your place of employment, which for conveniency's sake is also a federal contractor, was required to read Mein Kampf and "really think about it." Would you simply accept the imposition of another's judgement on your own? I hope we would have enough integrity to make that judgement for ourselves and quit that damn job.

Students have always been within rights to argue that their professors work for them. For example, students had to petition, rally, strike, and sit-in until finally CSUs started adding Chicano Studies, Ethnic Studies and African-American Studies. Will there be FPN-studies at this University in the future? Why not?

At the same time, the refusal to follow the curriculum, or even do assignments, has consequences of which pro-FPN students should be aware. It seems to me that the crucial lesson of college is to think critically and not get hornswaggled by snake-oil salesmen. When the school assigns reading for a critical discussion, students should accept that because it is their job to be critical. And if they don't know how to do that, then the professor can show them how. It is their job to read the novelization of the Koran. It is a necessary predicate of student protest to first accept their role as students. Similarly, it seems totally morally acceptable to read Mein Kampf in the right context of critical inquiry.
posted by rschram at 10:32 AM on July 24, 2002


I'd like to see a required text that explores how religion has been at the center of most of humanity's needless suffering, war and death. And asks the question: "What exactly is so great about [insert religion here] to warrant such violence?"

Given the chance, I would immediately opt out of 90% of the government 'services' I receive if I had the chance to also opt out of the taxes.

I'd be impressed to see you outline even 10% of gov't services from which you do not directly or indirectly benefit. That is not to say that gov't could probably stand to manage money better but eliminating even a few of the traditionally gov't run services would be, as others have said, a disaster.

The important roles of government are to provide for everyone things which not all could afford to obtain from a private provider. Those things are: (1) Physical security. (2) Public health infrastructure (3) Education. The consequences of not providing these things for everyone, even the ones who don't seem to deserve it, are enormous.

I think everyone understands the importance of Physical Security (who wants to live without enforceable laws against violent crime, or without military protection from potential invaders?)

Public Health is one where much more action is needed by our government (not less) because people without access to adequate sanitation and medical care (read: poor and/or uninsured) are the breeding ground for new or drug resistant strains of disease. If you get one of these new critters, it doesn't matter how rich you are, there won't be a treatment you can buy at any price!

Finally, Education is necessary to support economic growth and to give VOTERS the critical thinking skills to participate effectively in their gov't so they don't vote away important gov't services we all need. Besides, do you really wanna live in a country where only wealthy people are educated? I doubt it.
posted by plaino at 11:21 AM on July 24, 2002


I'd be impressed to see you outline even 10% of gov't services from which you do not directly or indirectly benefit.

Medicare? Nope, but they sure love to waste billions on fraudulent claims. Public health? That's a really sticky issue, but government mismanagement has really made things worse, not better. Canada's bankrupt national medical system is one example, although the people there buy the lie that it's "free." I don't benefit from Social Security, and I probably never will. The whole system is based on IOU's. And yet I pay FICA every year, which the Congress promptly spends on its way to a deficit. I don't benefit from the Farm Bill, which gives billions of subsidies to agri-business. I can't think of a single federal service from which I benefit. Welfare? Nope, I'd rather flip burgers than receive a welfare check. Oh yeah, they issue passports, so thats nice, but you can always get a micro-state to issue you one. Military protection? You mean the kind that failed to stop terrorists and is generally used to secure oil interests? I don't benefit from that. I have to help pay for it, including the rising cost of the enmity of many nations. Not to mention the brilliance of organizations such as the FBI and CIA, who generally just piss people off, when they're not propping up third world dictators and 'fighting' the Holy War on Drugs. Federal funding of education? I went to private schools in high school and am in a private college, so again, no. The Post Office? They don't do anything UPS or Fedex can't do, and they still have to raise prices, even though they suck in billions of dollars. How about state and local services? Police, fire, water, roads, and parks? All well and good, but I can buy my own water, attend private parks, and protect my property from fire and crime better than the government (especially our inept local police). Roads as well can be privately owned. Of course I use the government services provided me, because I am forced to pay for them, it would be insane not to, and I can't easily opt out. I'm not to the threshold yet where it would be worth moving. But maybe one day it will be.

The important roles of government are to provide for everyone things which not all could afford to obtain from a private provider.

I disagree. I believe government should be instituted merely to protect people and their property from fraud, violence, and oppression. What they do in those capacities should still be extremely limited, because the state has a monopoly on force, the most dangerous kind of monopoly. I do not believe the government should be the provider of goods and services. People ought to be responsible for their own well-being. I believe robbing Peter to pay for Paul's school lunches is theft. And before anyone says it, yes OF COURSE I WANT POOR CHILDREN TO STARVE. Also, I definitely hate poor people since I don't want the government to give them money they don't have to work for.

Besides, do you really wanna live in a country where only wealthy people are educated? I doubt it.

I already pointed out the false straw man which says if there are no public schools, only the rich will be educated. Based on America's history (see my above post) that claim is bunk, claptrap, malarkey.

Finally, Education is necessary to support economic growth and to give VOTERS the critical thinking skills to participate effectively in their gov't so they don't vote away important gov't services we all need.

I thought people should vote to protect their freedom from government intrusion, not to secure it. As I pointed out, I don't need or want these government services. I want to be able to choose for myself. The problem is, the second that government services become optional (including the taxes that pay them), millions of people will immediately opt out, and the system will collapse. Eventually, when the people still supporting the system realize it can no longer be foisted upon everyone, they may decide to abandon it as well.
posted by insomnyuk at 1:00 PM on July 24, 2002


Oh yeah, sorry for derailing this thread into an argument for free market anarchism.
posted by insomnyuk at 1:40 PM on July 24, 2002


Insomnyuk, I don't know what private college you attend, but the public/private distinction has become increasingly confused. My own "public" state university system actually gets most of its funding from "private" sources (corporations, etc.), while many "private" universities are actually receiving large doses of federal dollars. Unless you're at Hillsdale, our taxes are in all likelihood still supporting your education.

I'm also puzzled by that literacy link you posted. When I checked the footnote, it provided no source for the 97% estimate; the link only leads to a database providing current literacy rates. Moreover, it wasn't possible to tell what standard they were using to measure literacy: the ability to sign one's name, a common yardstick, actually tells us little about the writer's ability to read.
posted by thomas j wise at 2:07 PM on July 24, 2002


I'm at Hillsdale, actually. There are two or three other colleges in the country that receive no federal funds.

My own "public" state university system actually gets most of its funding from "private" sources (corporations, etc.)

Good point. So when push comes to shove, the schools go to private citizens and institutions for assistance, not the government.

As for the sources, what can I say? I ought to have clicked through the footnotes. Even still, it is commonly held by historians that early America had very high literacy rates, and Alexis de Tocqueville mentions as much in Democracy in America (which he wrote in the 1830s, when public schools were not widespread). Here's an interesting University of Arkansas article which notes that free blacks may actually have had higher literacy rates than Southern whites (pre civil war), who were no slouches themselves. Also, the article points out that people in the South regarded literacy and the ability to write as two different things. I would also refer you to this well researched paper by Dr. Matthew Brouillette. I've read the whole thing, it's pretty good. He gets his literacy figures from Sheldon Richman's book Separation of School and State, but I can't find a web based version of that to verify Richman's numbers.
posted by insomnyuk at 2:30 PM on July 24, 2002


Has anyone actually looked at the book? It comes with an audio CD, you know, to help students appreciate the fascinating musicality of the passages in Arabic. The first 35 pages are a brief overview of the history of Islam and the Qu'ran, then come 100 or so pages with a sutra on the left and corresponding analysis -- not mere translation -- on the right. Then come 35 more pages on the translation/poetry issues, ending with 20 or so pages about sound, gender and the Qu'ran.

Aside from the atypical-but-hardly-unique formatting, how is this different from a history that quotes long passages from any other religious text? It's not.

The FPN's lawsuit is so weak it's ridiculous. Our local AM talk radio host went ballistic over this one today, shrieking about how this is "having someone else's religion shoved down your throat by the government." Of course, he's the same guy who shrieked at folks who dared to suggest that the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance were the equivalent of "forcing" anyone to do anything. Now that UNC's given students an out, this should be a complete non-issue, right? Well, it's not. Clearly, anti-Muslim bias is at work here.

Oh, and the publisher's description might explain why Sells used the early surahs: "These early revelations to Muhammad involve little of the political and legal detail found in the suras of his later career. Here they speak directly to every human being, regardless of religious confession or cultural background."
posted by mediareport at 2:34 PM on July 24, 2002


I can't think of a single federal service from which I benefit.

You aren't looking hard enough then. If it weren't for the federal government, you wouldn't be talking to me over the internet right now. (Not that that's any great shakes. :) )
posted by MegoSteve at 3:49 PM on July 24, 2002


mediareport, the book sounds really interesting. i wish I'd known about it sooner. I have a paper on Islam that I really need to finish either tonight or tomorrow, so it's probably to late to get a copy and have time to read it, at least if it's going to benefit this paper. I would love to hear the audio, though!

(Incidentally, I am writing the paper for a World Religions class in a public university. The topic of "Islam" was specifically assigned. So the timing of this post was a bit amusing to me.)
posted by litlnemo at 6:09 PM on July 24, 2002


Oh yeah, sorry for derailing this thread into an argument for free market anarchism.

insomnyuk, I'll tell you at least one way in which Federal Government programs, such as welfare, benefit you. They hold back the poor from revolting and turning what we call society on its head (wait, this could be a good thing; too bad I like my Ikea furniture so much. I think I’ll keep on paying my taxes). Just your hard earned tax dollars at work!
posted by Bag Man at 6:44 PM on July 24, 2002


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