As for other lawsuits that bug me, last night Sadie and I had a little conversation about this lawsuit here in Montana. Apparently two Native American students, age 11, cut class, had some alcohol, and died out in the snow. Their deaths were the result of hypothermia and alcohol poisoning. The parents allege that the school knew there was an alcohol problem (the 14 year old brother of one of the children died 3 months earlier in a fire after an all night party, with a blood alcohol level higher than 0.16%. The sentence from the lawsuit that really bugs me is "Despite the fact that the school was put on actual notice that the youths were truant and may be in risk of doing something to endanger their lives, no positive action was taken by the school to search for, look and find these children, or report them to the authorities," the lawsuit alleges." Okay, so the kids weren't in class - just how much of an effort do we expect school officials to make? Do parents think that schools have lots of extra staff that they can send out to look for kids that didn't show up to class? Would they prefer every time their kid doesn't show up, that staff call the police? And then call them again five minutes later when the kid comes back from the bathroom? Granted, I'm idealistic and believe that the primary purpose of schools are to educate our youth - not to serve as guardians and babysitters.
The reason I really hope that the case finds the schools innocent is the precedent a judgment against the schools could establish. If it's determined that schools have to maintain such a close degree of monitoring of students, what's to keep things such as tracking students all day from becoming more and more common? What are we telling our youth if they are being monitored constantly? Call me an extremist, but next thing you know they'll be installing automated piss tests on urinals tied to RFID readers, so every time you go to the bathroom, they'd be checking if you'd smoked pot or not. I mean, I've heard of schools where students had to swipe into classes - which doesn't bother me as much as the ubiquitous tracking that RFID allows. Studies show that students are most receptive when they first arrive in a classroom - so taking attendance at the beginning of a class means you're wasting your most valuable instruction time. Good teachers will start teaching, and take attendance in their heads while scanning the classroom, or maybe once the students have time to work on something. So, would a teacher be liable if they didn't notice a student was missing till they were 10 minutes into class? Where do you draw the line. So, in defense of the lawsuit, the boys were 11 years old, which implies the schools should be much more attentive - but I have to wonder what the community norms are - do kids skip regularly? Is it socially acceptable to parents in that community that kids aren't in the classroom? i.e. Was there a history where school staff had called parents when students were missing, only to discover that the parents didn't care, or worse, were upset that they had their day interrupted by something so asinine?
And lastly, what about the Cobb County Board of Education approving a policy that allows the teaching of Creationism in schools? To me this isn't bad, as opposed to the people in Ohio who are trying to push intelligent design. Of course, advocates are saying that ID isn't the same as creationism, maintaining the separation between church and state, but really . . . ID argues that life is too complex to have occurred w/o someone/something intelligently designing things - to avoid the idea of a deity, the most common argument is that aliens helped life along . . . are you kidding me!??!
Of course, neither decision is horrible. Both allow for the teaching of other views, which is vital for good science - we want to encourage people to think critically, while not requiring that any view be presented. The true issue is whether high school, or younger, students are able to critically analyze ideas that are presented with lots of hand-waving proofs. On the surface, ID looks like good science - they have scientists backing the idea, statistical models, and all kinds of things . . . until you get to the aliens helping along evolution. But really, our society is so docile, that if you have a charismatic teacher presenting this in a way that sounds like they believe in it, the students will accept it. Same thing with creationism . . . you do enough hand waving, say that life started near spontaneously, maybe parallel it to the Big Bang, and suddenly you have students believing that creationism is scientifically valid . . . argh . . . crazy . . .
Wow, that was quite the rant.