Education Letter to the Editor

Mixing ‘Private Truths’ With the Public’s Business

March 30, 2005 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

I found Andrew Coulson’s essay arguing for school choice as a way of dodging an evolution controversy to be both thought-provoking and deeply flawed (“Ending the Evolutionary War,” Commentary, March 9, 2005.)

In the first place, there is no significant controversy among the world’s scientists about the basic tenets of evolution. The theory holds its own alongside the theory of gravity or atomic theory. Mr. Coulson seems, in addition, to view truth—or Truth—as something “inherently political,” with details of school curricula properly determined by “elected and appointed government officials.” Presumably, such officials could enhance a history course by voting on whether or not God really did want Pope Urban to declare the First Crusade. This is not unlike the position of parents who try to coach basketball from the cheap seats, giving private opinion precedence over expertise.

Mr. Coulson’s argument hinges on his view that “in a pluralistic society, there are countless different and incompatible worldviews” and that “a monolithic school system ... has failed to forge common ground [and] has also bred animosity and discord.”

It’s not the job of schools to confirm or deny pluralistic worldviews. It’s the job of schools to teach students to think rationally and empirically so that they can understand reality in the most objective way possible.

That’s the “common ground” that the Founding Fathers—children of the Enlightenment—sought when they separated church and state. They understood that the public arena is not the place for pluralistic private Truths; likewise, the private arena is not the place for universal consensus.

It is our right to hold whatever private beliefs we wish. And it is our responsibility to keep our private beliefs out of the public’s business. Public schools, legislatures, and all public agencies should be free to do their work rationally, without distortion by anyone’s private Truths.

Jim Haas


Master of Arts in Teaching

Webster University-Kansas City

Kansas City, Mo.


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
Challenging the Stigma: Emotions and STEM
STEM isn't just equations and logic. Join this webinar and discover how emotions fuel innovation, creativity, & problem-solving in STEM!
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: February 7, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 31, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 17, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education In Their Own Words The Stories That Stuck With Us, 2023 Edition
Our newsroom selected five stories as among the highlights of our work. Here's why.
4 min read
102523 IMSE Reading BS
Adria Malcolm for Education Week