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Friday, May 01, 2009

Don't Like Evolution in Alberta?

Let's say you live in Alberta and you oppose evolution because it conflicts with your religion. Is this a problem if your kids attend public school?

Maybe it is right now but if the Alberta government passes its new bill you will be able to take your kids out of class whenever evolution is discussed [Evolution classes optional under proposed Alberta law].
"This government supports a very, very fundamental right and that is parental rights with respect to education," said Premier Ed Stelmach.

Although Stelmach has confirmed the bill will give parents the authority to exclude their kids from classes if the topic of evolution comes up, Education Minister Dave Hancock said it won't change anything.

"With respect to values, religion and sex education have always been areas of concern for parents, and they've always been areas parents have had the right to be notified about and to exempt their students from," Hancock said.
I can't imagine why a parent would want to keep their children from learning about evolution. Are they so insecure about the strength of their religion that a lesson or two about evolution could turn their children into atheists?

Hopefully, this bill won't pass without being amended. If it does, then Alberta will look even more like some of the hick states in the USA that have tried to ban evolution in the schools.


  1. It's only Canada. Fortunately not an important country...

  2. "With respect to values. . ."

    Values is one of those slippery abstract words difficult to define and even more difficult to capture.


    Are there any "important" countries?

  3. Of course this covers a wide area. If evolution is banned then parents should take their students out to keep them from whatever conflicts with the idea of a young Earth. That includes topics like geology, astronomy, paleontology, anthropology, etc.

  4. I assume this means that they won't be tested on the subject, i.e. they will be able to graduate without knowing anything about it.

    In that case, why stop at evolution? Why don't we make it so they can opt out of every subject (math, english, music, french), yet still graduate? In fact, why don't we just give everyone who reaches the age of 18 a high school diploma, whether they attend school or not?

    Makes sense to me.

  5. ^
    that's about where things are going.

  6. "And looky here -- you drop that school, you hear? I'll learn people to bring up a boy to put on airs over his own father and let on to be better'n what he is. You lemme catch you fooling around that school again, you hear? Your mother couldn't read, and she couldn't write, nuther, before she died. None of the family couldn't before they died. I can't; and here you're a-swelling yourself up like this."

    Huck Finn, chapter 5

  7. Re John S. Wilkins

    It's only Canada. Fortunately not an important country...As opposed to Australia?

  8. If you take a look at Bill 44, the section that can be interpreted this way is one of only two additions to current legislation. Much of the rest of the bill explicitly adds sexual orientation as a protected category.

    I thought it might have been possible that the section 11 that is modified by the bill might have something to do with parents' rights or schools or something, but it doesn't. Take a look at the current act, section 11:

    Reasonable and justifiable contravention
    11 A contravention of this Act shall be deemed not to have occurred if the person who is alleged to have contravened the Act shows that the alleged contravention was reasonable and justifiable in the circumstances.
    That's it. That's what the parental yanking legislation is being appended to. There is no mention of parents, students or schools anywhere in the pre-Bill 44 legislation.

    Now the addition seems innocuous enough, in that it seems to deal with things that parents are already allowed to take their children out of class for: "subject-matter that deals explicitly with religion, sexuality or
    sexual orientation" (inviting the question, though, why add it into law this way?).

    There are, however, several worrisome parts:

    Ed has stated that evolution is one of those topics that can fall under the "religion" part of the law.

    It also legislates "no academic penalty", which could conceivably come at quite a cost; a good third of Biology 20 here (evolution is discussed even when it comes to things like Cystic Fibrosis and the like) could be skipped - and these students would get full credit? Would we have to make special assignments, midterms, quizzes and exams for "exempt" students?

    There is the similar worry that stretched resources will simply force compromises that make parts of the course optional for everyone. We have already seen baseline courses that do exactly that.

    The "notification" part of Bill 44 is equally onerous. It requires that notice be given to the parents, but given that evolution can ostensibly fall under the "religion" part of this term, this is an incredibly vague addition.

    You cannot reasonably expect a board to follow such legislation about notification when it seems to legally require imagination to come up with things to notify parents about. If they're going to legally define a "board", they had better legally define the objectionable subject matter, too.

    Finally, this is human rights legislation. For violations of this to be so casually categorized as a human rights violation is abominable.

    Given the fallout and implications recognized by union leaders and legislators already, I don't think I'm interpreting this unduly, especially in light of laws of a similar timbre south of the border.

    I invite others to write to their MLAs on this matter. IceFarmer had an informative link for those who don't know their local representative.

  9. I don't have a problem with that, provided that the names of the students who leave the classroom when evolution is being discussed are noted down, and they are prevented from entering a scientific or medical program at university.

    After all, who wants a doctor or scientist for whom science comes second.

  10. This seems interesting.

    I almost support this as it means people persuaded enough to hold religious views will naturally inhibit their education.

    It almost creates a two-tier knowledge economy. Those people smart enough to handle reality learn, and the religious right will rot.