Moral Dilemma at School

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Consider the following situation:

Your obedient LDS son or daughter will shortly be writing the final exam in ‘History of the Americas’, a first year university coarse.

The review materials indicate that a potential question on the exam may be on the topic of ‘Please describe the impact of the horse and gun on the societies of the aboriginal American inhabitants.’

Said son or daughter feels like this is a good time to correct the many errors in the history book she bought for the coarse and plans on ‘taking a stand’ and filling in the instructor on how horses and chariots pre-dated the Spanish arrival in the Americas, and thus the ‘arrival’ of horses with the Spanish had no effect whatsoever.

How do you council your child to behave during the exam Should they just write what the marker wants to see? Should they take a stand against the obvious lies in the history book? Is there any middle ground?

14 thoughts on “Moral Dilemma at School

  1. Whoa. I would definitely counsel AGAINST trying to teach the teacher, especially things that may not be true.

    First of all, I’m pretty sure that horses in the BoM is far from a settled issue. Some believe that it refers to native animals that Joseph called “horses” for lack of a better word. At any rate, there is no historical evidence for pre-Columbian horses, and this is a history test, not a religious test.

    Secondly, most FARMS scholars believe in a limited geography model for the BoM. Even if the Nephites had horses (a big if) they had certainly all died out way before the Spanish came. So when the Spanish brought horses, it had a huge impact on the New World.

    There is no reason to martyr one’s grades for erroneous conceptions of our religion.

  2. If the child feels strongly about taking a stand, I encourage him to take a stand and still get points on the exam, in the following manner:

    “For reasons not covered in the course, I do not believe that horses were first introduced to America by Europeans. However, it is clear that horses became much more widespread after Europeans came. The increase in horses among the aboriginal inhabitants had the following effects…”

  3. I may be wrong, but in schooling experiences, I think that if the ideas she presents are well crafted and researched she will do well. The professor may be excited to see an original viewpoint, and not just recycled text book material. Then again, the professor may be stubborn or anti-religious if he sees the correlation to the Book of Mormon, which would affect her negatively.
    Then again, I studied Engineering and jut wanted to get through liberal arts courses. I’m not proud of it, but I generally gave professor’s in English and History what they wanted in order to concentrate on work related to my profession. If I were an English or History major, i may have felt differently about this.

  4. I have always taught my kids to take a stand for what they believed in (had one son in high school suspended for this for 6 days until the school realized he was right and reintstated him). As long as you have facts to back you up… stand up for it.

  5. Play by the rules of the class. If you can’t provide acceptable documentation for your claims in a history class, you shouldn’t make the claim. As much as I like the Book of Mormon and believe it to be true, I would never cite it it as history in an academic setting.

    I would be careful about calling what’s in this particular history book “obvious lies”. While there are plenty of history books with questionable information masquerading as fact, there’s no reason to suppose that historians claiming that horses came to the New World via the Spanish are doing so in bad faith.

  6. OK, to address the issue of this type of moral dilemma in general; certainly one should not make false claims to agree with something. However you shouldn’t be required in a classroom setting to make the statement(nor need it be presumed) that you personally agree or disagree with anything at all.

    Certainly it could be appropriate to challenge something if you can back it up using acceptable academic standards. And certainly there may be an obligation to be confrontational when situations involving non-academic moral issues arises (such as discrimination, slander and offensive non-academic opinions)

    But in the absence of these exceptions, your only obligation in this academic environment is to show that you have been paying attention to and comprehend the material in the curriculum.

    Therefore, you could just precede everything you say with “according to…[insert this or that textbook or historian]”.

    If you truly take issue with something, I think you can very breifly and tactfully clarify that you maintain a different view for personal reasons, but then respectfully proceed to present what other academics have concluded in their research or studies.

  7. so are you saying that you should follow the crowd just because the teacher said so? Even if you have proof that they are wrong? What on earth is that teaching our children? You are supposed to be quiet??

  8. Maybe she could slip the teacher a pass-along card and a Book of Mormon instead of writing the exam.

  9. It is very possible that “horses” referred to something else. It is also very clear that when the spanish arrived they were the only ones riding horses, which gave them a tremendous tactictal advantage. So there is really no stand to take on this.

  10. It’s not impossible that “horses” referred to something else. But I’m not terribly convinced that Joseph Smith used the word horses because he didn’t have a more specific word for the beast in question. Since the Book of Mormon mentions the existence of cureloms and cumoms, it appears to me that Joseph was perfectly capable of introducing a new word when one was called for, and wasn’t limited to his own zoological vocabulary.

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