Matthew LaClair and the textbook that lies for Jesus

10 04 2008

Back in late 2006, a public high school student named Matthew LaClair objected to his history teacher’s use of the classroom as a pulpit from which to proselytise Christian fundamentalism, and reported the teacher to the principal, producing tape recordings of the proselytism when said good Christian teacher lied about his activities. The town of Kearney, New Jersey, and many of LaClair’s fellow students rallied around the teacher, the school board tried to sweep it under the carpet,  and LaClair himself was bullied and ostracised, though things have since improved for him.

LaClair is now engaged in a campaign against the use in American secondary schools of a civics textbook–American Government, by conservatives James Wilson and John Dilulio–alleging bias and falsehoods regarding global warming and the separation of church and state. His fight has been taken up by scientists and legal scholars, as well as the Center For Inquiry which has produced an extensive critique of the textbook, highlights of which are available at Friendly Atheist.

Though the silence of David Horowitz on this issue is curiously deafening–you would think he would be vociferous in support of a student combating bias in academia–this is about much more than “academic freedom.” People can argue until the cows come home about political bias, but no matter what the authors personally think about global warming, for example, the notion that global warming is a source of “profound disagreement” among scientists is as much a misrepresentation of the facts as the notion that evolution is a source of “profound disagreement” in the science community. And something is seriously askew with an education system that (i) adopts unchallenged a textbook presenting opinions and glaring inaccuracies as facts (ii) has to be called on its oversight by a high school student!

Heads up: Paul (who I assume is Matt’s father).

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