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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Students debate religion’s role in public education

Agnostic and Atheist Student Group at Texas A&M Vice President Melanie Edwards and Public Relations Officer Adam Kemp, debated Joshua Dwyer, and Jeremy Mollenkopf, Class of 2003 and public school teacher, on “The Role of Religion in Public Education” Monday night.
“There are specifics that we are going to differ on, but those specifics are only parts of a much larger picture,” said Dwyer, a junior political science major and an opinion columnist for The Battalion. “We are defining religion as a system of beliefs and a world view that provides an outlook on life, that definition will encompass every religion that you could think of.”
From the beginning, Edwards, a plant breeding graduate student, and Kemp, a senior computer science major, disputed Dwyer’s views, including his definition of religion.
“I, as well as most people, define religion as having some element of the supernatural involving magic, deities, angels and whatnot,” Edwards said.
Dwyer said every individual holds some form of a worldview, and thus every individual is biased.
“Neither side is unbiased. Just as (Christians) have a view of the world, atheists, Hindus and others also have a view of the world,” Dwyer said. “The question really is ‘should schools teach all world views or no world views’?”
Dwyer said that since neither side had the ability to be fully unbiased, the United States should adopt a policy of moving away from public education.
“The government forces education here in the U.S., a truancy officer will come to your house if you don’t send your kids to school,” Mollenkopf said. “Why do we impose our views like that? Some people argue that ‘well its good for society’ but why do we impose a society that overrides the family? Is society more important than the family?”
Dwyer and Mollenkopf advocated the abolishment of the public education system in the United States due to its massive flaws. Edwards and Kemp disagreed, saying that parents have a choice.
“If parents want to, they can opt to send their children to a private school or even home school them,” Kemp said.
Dwyer said the option forces parents to pay double so their children can be educated according to beliefs that the parents view as correct.
“Everyone in the U.S. pays property taxes for their local public school,” Dwyer said. “If they opt to put their children in private school, they not only have to pay taxes but tuition for private school as well.”
Edwards said there are numerous individuals throughout America, including herself, who have no children but still have to pay taxes that fund public education.
“One of the things that makes the United States different from other countries is that our laws are based on reason and social contract rather then on divine mandate,” Edwards said. “The founding fathers created our nation in such a way that the state would never have a religion through which religious minorities could be persecuted.”
Lucas Hawk, a sophomore math major said he felt that Dwyer and Mollenkopf didn’t fully address the issues, and pushed their own religious views as a basis for the debate.
“I thought that their arguments were totally off the wall,” Hawk said. “It seemed like throughout the argument, (Dwyer and Mollenkopf) were skirting around the issues.”
Hailey McKay, an English and French double major disagreed, saying Dwyer and Mollenkopf provided a solid foundation and were giving a social and historical context to their argument.
“I think they did a better job of presenting the different arguments, while the other side didn’t really cite their sources as well,” McKay said.

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