Another Trial, Everyone?

| 37 Comments

It looks like the case of six private school students against the University of California system will go forward to trial, as reported by Sean Nealon. The UC system sets course standards for admission, and has not approved certain courses, including biology, offered at the Christian private schools that the students attend. The students claim a violation of free speech and religious rights. The judge hearing arguments on UC’s motion to dismiss has said that he is leaning toward sending this one to trial.

Update: See also my post on the Austringer and Ed Brayton’s longer discussion on Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

37 Comments

Since when is it a violation of free speech to demand that someone be competent?

Since when is it a violation of religious rights to demand that someone’s training conform to the objectively verifiable data?

If the religious basis of these students’ factually-inaccurate beliefs is sufficient to justify their acceptance, can I please start up my own religion now?

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Maybe I’m missing it in the article, but all I can find is that the classes that have not been certified are two literature courses and an English course. None of those seem to touch biology, unless one of the literature is on “reading scientific journals and studies”. Not that such a course wouldn’t be a welcome addition to the school curricula.

Hope that helps,

Grey Wolf

After reading through this, from what I can tell is that it boils down to: * These schools have three courses that don’t meet the standards for UC admission so they don’t let them count for admissions. * There may be a lawsuit over this.

I did a little research: And found this link - Which brings up two interesting points: *Apparently the courses aren’t considered adequate for admission. *No one else has considered the UC standards discriminatory, including other religious schools. Or at least there’s no OTHER lawsuits right now.

Sounds to me like the courses just don’t cover enough to count for the UC. If they have a religious nature, perhaps they’re too narrowly focused.

Doesn’t sound like a big deal. Evolution/Creation hasn’t been dragged into it that I can see, and probably won’t be.

Doesn’t sound like a big deal. Evolution/Creation hasn’t been dragged into it that I can see, and probably won’t be.

In that case I retract my grandstanding. Thanks for the research.

Wesley:

Are the biology courses still part of the complaint? The link you post doesn’t mention them, and this seems to suggest that they’re suing only over English, government and history courses.

I’ve been wondering why no universities have been sued (that I know of) for what the plaintiff considers “religious descrimination.” There are quite a few kids home-schooled, and while some get a high level of education, there are many who are stuck with the “evolution is an evil lie, and people used to ride dinosaurs” level of education. How do they fare when they get to college? I did have one classmate in a biology course I took who was clearly parroting the “right answer” to get the grade, but she didn’t bring up religion once–I was quite impressed, actually. She sniffed once that she was “skeptical,” but it was hardly a scene out of a Jack Chick tract. Have any students insisted that being graded on evolutionary theory was a violation of their freedom of religion? I’d be curious to see how that would pan out.

Sounds a lot like another case of imaginary martyrdom. I’m not sure why “Your education was not rigourous enough for immediate admission” is a violation of anything. It would seem on its face to be a perfectly natural enforcement of standards. Otherwise, why bother going to high school at all? If it’s bad form to require students to actually be ready for college in order to attend it, why not just start applying to college when you’re twelve years old and skip all that unnecessary time spent learning things?

This case seems pretty ridiculous, if that’s all there is to it. Can anyone come up with something more?

So far as I know, no revised complaint has been submitted in this case, so the biology courses are still part of the issue. I’d be happy to have someone revise this if an amended complaint was filed.

Don’t forget that Wendell Bird is one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys in this case. The laws patterned on a draft by Bird were at issue in both the McLean v. Arkansas and Edwards v. Aguillard cases, and Bird was an active member of the legal team in the Edwards case. I don’t think for a moment that Bird has given up on challenging the UC non-certification of the A Beka and Bob Jones -based biology courses.

Is the private school they are attending certified or accredited by any external group, such as NAIS? One question would be how the school evaluates its curriculum or how it is evaluated by such a group. How have their graduates fared in the past? How does the school measure how it prepares students for college work? If the school can show that it uses various tools (standardized testing, external visiting committees, graduates’ records) to keep itself current and rigorous, they may have a good case.

Wesley:

It appears you’re correct, and the newspaper articles don’t propoerly describe the compaint, which is here, if anyone feels like wading through a hundred pages or so of legalese. The biology courses are indeed part of the complaint.

From the article:

Three classes in question – two literature courses and an English course – cover the needed material but add a Biblical view, an attorney for the school said.

So this is a shoddy piece of reporting if the complaint does indeed extend to the biology course.

Is the UC objecting to the lack of content of these courses, or the additional “Biblical” content?

Has anyone asked the paper to print a correction?

The newspaper article I linked to was about the arguments heard concerning UC’s motion to dismiss. If biology wasn’t specifically mentioned in those arguments, then that neatly explains what we see in the report. I can understand if the plaintiffs only mentioned the lit and English courses in court, since that’s probably the murkiest set of curricula at issue and it would be pretty easy to cast their claims as arguable in those circumstances.

I have some more comments here, including snippets from the complaint.

I think that the UC’s fear is that the addition of the Biblical content is a malicious attempt to inocculate against a liberal education (“liberal education” in the old sense of the word).

This is the easiest form of brainwashing: teach the student the truth, as well as the Truth for antithesis. Then, when they encounter the truth again in more detail and with more evidence, the Truth is there to close the door.

They probably want to avoid this situation:

misanthrope101 Wrote:

I did have one classmate in a biology course I took who was clearly parroting the “right answer” to get the grade, but she didn’t bring up religion once.

This seems like a reasonable thing to prevent, I just don’t know if it’s legal.

This story just shows that there are not that many judges of Judge John Jones caliber. The suit is ridiculous - the university has an obvious right (and obligation) to adhere to certain standards in their admission policy. Textbook on biology from Bob Jones university is found not to meet reasonable standards - no wonder given what is known about that university - therefore UC justifiably views the students in question ill-prepared for college education. They always can go to Bob Jones university where they will be welcome, and continue their quasi-education; or they can go to that Baptist seminary where Dembski poisons the minds of future pastors. They do not deserve a place at UC. It has a limited space so each time a student from Calvary school is accepted, this deprives some really deserving candidate of quality education. The judge should have dismissed this suit as lacking any merits. If the final result will be the six young litigants winning, any ignorant fool will be able to point to the precedent and demand admission to UC, or Harvard, or Yale, etc, despite having no necessary background to master the university courses. University education is not a right but a privilege and should be allowed only to those well prepared to occupy the valuable slot in the high-tier educational institutions.

It has a limited space so each time a student from Calvary school is accepted, this deprives some really deserving candidate of quality education.

I’d tend to phrase that as “some candidate who has the basic knowledge necessary to take full advantage of the course” or something like that. The question of who “deserves” the place is a somewhat messier proposition.

It seems to me that UC should have argued that the logic of Settle v. Dickson, in Tennessee (from the 6th Circuit, if I recall correctly). In that case Ms. Settle claimed a free speech right to do a paper on Jesus, though the criteria for the assignment clearly ruled that out for her (the paper had to be on someone the student knew little about). The federal courts determined that one may not claim a religious exemption to get out of doing homework, or the assigned work.

In the California case, Bird is arguing that the students have some vague religious right not to study the courses required by the university for admission.

Yes, California is in the 9th Circuit, not the 6th – still the case should be a compelling precedent.

What actually is the legal landscape like on this one?

Say, for example,you had a fundamentalist sect that really, truly believed, based on some literal biblical passage that the sun goes around the earth.

Say they were denied admission to a UCLA science program because their education was perceived as lacking.

Their argument is that this is purely a matter of faith, and their faith specifically does not allow them to accept anything else, and they do not dispute that for except that faith, they would have studied conventional planetary mechanics.

But the act of learning that stuff is specifically at odds with their religion.

Since the UC system is a de-facto organ of the government, and the government in America is specifically forbidden from discriminating against any given faith, and the point of contention is arguably a matter of faith, how does that work in the American legal system?

GuyeFox Wrote:

So this is a shoddy piece of reporting if the complaint does indeed extend to the biology course.

It looks like just poor phrasing to me. “Three classes in question… cover the needed material but add a Biblical view.” They don’t say “The three classes in question”. Maybe they were trying to say three of the classes in question fit this description, but others of the classes in question didn’t?

Is the UC objecting to the lack of content of these courses, or the additional “Biblical” content?

From what I remember there’s an entire list of regulations that have to be followed for a UC college to accredit a course. For example when this lawsuit was originally being threatened, an example I saw was that one of the courses in question had been barred for having “too narrow of a focus”. These requirements have nothing to do with religion and apply to religious and nonreligious schools alike, so either UC is selectively enforcing rules to hurt religious-flavored courses (“Driving While Black” syndrome), or these schools are demanding that they not have to follow the rules everybody else just because they’re religious and they should get to do what they want.

Looking around it appears these are the UC guidelines. Am I correct? Are these the same rules the courses in the lawsuit courses failed at (there’s a page on here that says that the guidelines were updated in 2005)? If so the rules seem quite vague.

It seems to me useful things to know here would be:

1. Is there a place in this complaint where they list *specifically* which courses were rejected and why? Or is that information just kind of interspersed throughout? I skimmed it but it’s hard to work out how the document is organized. Right now I’m looking at a part where they complain that UC accepts agricultural biology and veternary classes, which they say are “not true science classes at all”.

2. Are there known examples of UC rejecting secular courses on these same guidelines, or accepting religiously-themed courses, from other schools? What are they?

3. How exactly do home-schooled, or out-of-state, students qualify? They can’t be expected to meet the course guidelines, and surely they don’t all have to get 1500 SATs or whatever.

Gerard, the link to the complaint was great– has UC filed any kind of defense yet?

coin Wrote:

They can’t be expected to meet the course guidelines, and surely they don’t all have to get 1500 SATs or whatever.

Why not? Isn’t the SAT supposed to measure your readiness for college? If you’re not competent in elementary algebra, how can you expect to take college level calculus? Or am I missing your point?

Coin Wrote:

Gerard, the link to the complaint was great— has UC filed any kind of defense yet?

ACSI’s paperwork is here. I can’t find the text of the UC motion to dismiss, just ACSI’s reply. Ed Brayton also has an excellent review of the case so far.

Hope this is not out of context, I didn’t check too carefully. W.r.t the texts used in the classes:

The Economist Wrote:

And it says that if the courses had used these textbooks “as supplementary, rather than primary, texts, it is likely they would have been approved.”

So methinks the UC is rejecting the courses because of bad-content, as opposed to no-content or bad-additional-content.

Homeschooled students can qualify for admission to UC through examination, as can anyone who doesn’t qualify for the other admission pathways.

For an example of the homeschooling admission process, see the UC Riverside site here: http://my.ucr.edu/prospective/Nontraditional.aspx - Riverside is the only UC campus I know of that has a specific admission protocol for homeschooled students.

This is the general “Eligibility by Examination” webpage: http://www.universityofcalifornia.e[…]ibility.html

Why not? Isn’t the SAT supposed to measure your readiness for college? If you’re not competent in elementary algebra, how can you expect to take college level calculus? Or am I missing your point?

…well, I’m about to launch into OT-land here, but…

I was referring to a point in the complaint where they claim that you can avoid the class accredation requirement by scoring above a 1400 on the SAT I. The general point I was trying to make is that a score of 1400 is widely considered to be significantly above basic competency. According to wikipedia the average SAT score on the 1600 point system was 1028; the complaint claims a score over 1400 is in the top 4% of SAT takers. (That’s on the old 1600 point system; the maximum was recently raised to 2400. As far as I can tell this suit predates that.) A school which is aiming for academic excellence could maybe reasonably demand a 1400 or higher SAT for all students (though at some point it is important to recognize standardized testing has limitations), but UC targets a wider audience than that and there will be very many worthy students with scores below 1400. For example, what about a student with a 1200, who got an 800 in english and a 400 in math? If they are an art history major, does the low math score matter? If an ESL student gets a 400 in English, and they’re going into engineering, could we really hold it against them? Etc.

Now, I’m not saying the 1400-SAT path to UC entry is unreasonable; the obvious purpose of that rule is so that students who are clearly bright, but who for whatever reason did academically poor in high school, will still have a way in to UC. But the point is, the SAT-based qualification path is clearly not meant to apply to most or all students; the people who formulated the rule obviously didn’t design it expecting schools to be flaunting the qualification requirements, they were thinking of it as a second chance for individual students who fail to meet the GPA requirements. Thus my original question, which is how that homeschoolers or out-of-state students (or GED holders, for that matter) clear the course qualification requirements. I doubt, for example, they would require an Iowa school to meet California course quality requirements.

The complaint claims (around page 16 somewheres) that there are only two ways to qualify for UC: attend a high school that teaches a sufficient number of UC-accredited courses, or get a 1400&1760 on the SATI&II. Is the complaint telling the truth here? Is there no way to get “extra-curricular” credit for a given course if UC rejects the version your high school taught?

Oh, and there is also the transfer student option - a student who’s highschool education doesn’t meet the subject requirement test can make up the missing subject requirements by taking and passing said subjects (college credit transferable courses, minimum grade C, minimum average gpa 2.0) at a different institution, and meeting the other requirements for transfer students.

UC is a tough school to get into, and tougher for out of state and non-traditional students to get into.

And frankly, I think that’s fine.

The students claim a violation of free speech and religious rights.

But ID/creationism isn’t religion. No sirree Bob.

This one is a loser for the fundies right out of the starting gate.

Halfway through reading the complaint, I feel that I am reasonable close to determining the limit to the number of times one can read the phrase “largest Christian publishers” before one’s brain explodes. Aneurysms tickle!

The awful thing about this is the disservice this school is doing to their high school biology students!

Coin,

I see that I did indeed miss your point. I got it now. (sometimes ya’ gotta hit me with a stick)

Thanks for elucidating.

Lou

I fail to see how applying universal standards of competency in academic performance to everybody of all religious affiliations counts as “religious discrimination.”

I fail to see how applying universal standards of competency in academic performance to everybody of all religious affiliations counts as “religious discrimination.”

The judge will fail to see that also. This case is just a volley in the perpetual fundamentalist public relations campaign. “We’re so persecuted!”

If the fundies win the court case, it shows that UC is filled with militant secularists trying to stamp out religion. If the fundies lose the court case, it shows that our Federal courts are stacked with activist judges helping liberals to promote their gay agenda.

It’s just a huge waste of money. All the money spent on the court case could be used instead to buy some reasonable biology textbooks for those pitifully ignorant fundie kids. Oops – I’m stereotyping! Not all fundie kids are scientifically ignorant.

Registered User Wrote:

Not all fundie kids are scientifically ignorant.

Of course not. But many of the ones who aren’t will learn to misprepresent science to the ones that are.

If the right-wing creationists would only be so consistantly stupid!

Sad to say they will bail out just like they did in Dover leaving the local school board holding the bag.

There are quite explicit rules, and a clear set of forms that must be satisfied in order to qualify a course from a K-12+2 setting to either the University of California, or to the State University system (the later the creation of Ron “Raygun”).

Having done both of these tasks, I can easily invision sseveral fatal problems for the creationists.

Since the UC system is a de-facto organ of the government, and the government in America is specifically forbidden from discriminating against any given faith, and the point of contention is arguably a matter of faith, how does that work in the American legal system?

The Constitution is a double-edged sword, not the one-sided blade the average fundie might have you believe. In this matter it cuts the “person of faith” and he/she is going to lose because, as much as the Government can’t endorse religion, it also can’t pander to religion.

You can believe the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it all day long. You can also apply to Berkeley and get admission as long you meet the secular standards. But what you can’t do is refuse to meet the secular standards and use your faith as a wedge.

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This page contains a single entry by Wesley R. Elsberry published on June 28, 2006 10:26 AM.

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