High school teachers' knowledge of legal parameters regarding church/state issues
AuthorCampbell, Jeffery R.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis study considered the nature of a disconnect that appears to exist between high school teachers' understanding of church/state legal parameters and actual church/state legal parameters in the public school context. A survey was given to the 175 high school teachers in a Southwestern high school district. 115 teachers (approximately 66%) from each of the two high schools in the district responded. The survey described thirty-three church/state scenarios in the public school context and teachers were asked to indicate whether they thought scenarios characterized situations that were constitutionally appropriate, constitutionally inappropriate, or whether they didn't know. It was concluded that respondents in this sample had considerable misperceptions about church/state legal parameters. Rather than disclosing what specific topics were least and most understood, it was found that teachers classified scenarios sometimes correctly and sometimes incorrectly within the same topic area. Consideration of these findings in light of communications theory, particularly as it pertains to theories of Supreme Court influence, suggests that teachers' knowledge of church/state legal parameters could be more accurately described as a set of cognitive heuristics (rules of thumb), as opposed to a deep understanding of case law. Narrative responses and analysis of specific church/state topic areas also lent credence to this conclusion. Potential kinds of heuristics emerging in the data were also considered. Implications for teacher training teachers were discussed. Areas for future research were suggested.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Teaching and Teacher Education