Last in a SeriesThis series was an address given at Wright State University at the symposium marking the tenth anniversary of the U. S. Supreme Court’s Schempp decision and the founding of the Public Education Religion Studies Center. The entire symposium is available in both cassette and booklet form from PERSC, Wright State, Dayton, Ohio 45431.
The schempp decision requires that study of the Bible or of religion as part of a secular program be done “objectively.” Whether objectivity is at all possible has been seriously questioned. Certainly it cannot mean that the teacher is to speak in absolute terms, as if with divine authority, since the whole sense of the Court decision is quite the opposite of this. Does “objectivity” therefore envision a kind of presuppositionless mind, as if man’s mental apparatus were a tabula rasa on which only nature or experience writes? That in itself would be a philosophically biased view. No one can be wholly free of presuppositions; if man did not presuppose the law of contradiction, for example, neither theology nor science nor education nor law would be possible. Nor can objectivity mean that study about the Bible and religion has its paradigm in computerized analysis. Even history—whether military or political—is increasingly acknowledged to be a highly selective discipline.
On the other hand, just as no education would be possible were man wholly devoid of presuppositions, just so none would be possible were the entire process of education totally subjective. What the Schempp decision means by objectivity is probably some form of inter-subjectivity, that is, an approach that involves a certain recognition of the transcendence of truth, and ...1
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