August 10, 2005
Fundamentalist Christians Abuse "Bible As Literature" Curricula to Propagandize Public School Students
-- by Thomas Leavitt
[I found out about this, because the Nixa R-2 school district (which is near my mother's home town) is considering adopting the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS) "curriculum".
You can read the Texas Freedom Network's report, or an executive summary, on their Bible Curriculum page. The site has a link to a petition/endorsement form for academic religious scholars - if you know someone in this field, encourage them to read the report and sign on.
The NCBCPS Board of Directors includes the Chief Counsel for the American Family Association Center for Law and Policy, and an attorney from the Alliance Defense Fund (both ultra-conservative "Christian" legal foundations). There are some familiar (and scary) names on their advisory board, too: Dr. D. James Kennedy, "head of Coral Ridge Ministries and the Dominionists", and Howard Phillips (the Constitution Party candidate for President in 1992/1996/2000), and Dr. Marshall Foster head of the Mayflower Institute (see below).
The mission of the Mayflower Institute is to proclaim the untold story of America's history, to prepare individuals and families to defend their Judeo-Christian heritage in all spheres of culture, and to inspire a new generation to rise up and restore America to "One Nation Under God".
According to the NCBCPS web site, the "curriculum" these culture war fanatics are pushing is being taught in 312 school districts across the nation (including in California?!? where?!?), and "175,000 students have already taken our course."
TFN and Clergy Call on Education Officials to Warn Parents, Public Schools about Inappropriate Bible Curriculum
August 1, 2005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AUSTIN – The Texas Freedom Network and an interfaith group of clergy today called on education officials to alert parents and public schools about an error-filled, sectarian Bible curriculum being aggressively marketed across the country.
“This curriculum is simply an attempt to use public schools to interfere with the freedom of families to practice their own faiths and pass on their own religious values to their children,” said TFN President Kathy Miller. “The curriculum’s supporters are demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of what religious freedom really means.”
Miller announced the release of The Bible and Public Schools: Report on the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, a report that examines the Bible study class. Authored for the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund by Dr. Mark Chancey of Southern Methodist University, the report can be found at www.tfn.org (or by clicking here). TFN also released copies of letters to the U.S. secretary of education and the Texas education commissioner about the Bible curriculum and report. TFN is also sending letters about the curriculum to every school district in Texas.
Dr. Chancey, a professor of biblical studies in the Department of Religious Studies at SMU, said the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS) course is inappropriate for use in any public school classroom.
“This curriculum on the whole is a sectarian document,” Dr. Chancey said. “It attempts to persuade students to adopt views that are held primarily within certain conservative Protestant circles but not among most Roman Catholics, other Christians, and Jews, and certainly not within the scholarly community.”
The North Carolina-based NCBCPS claims that 1,000 high schools in 37 states – including 52 school districts in Texas – use its curriculum, The Bible in History and Literature. The group has not released a list of those schools, but school districts in Odessa (West Texas) and Grand Prairie (North Texas) have recently considered the curriculum.
Dr. Chancey’s in-depth analysis of the NCBCPS curriculum documents numerous errors, examples of shoddy research and inappropriate use of outside sources throughout the course materials. For example, about a third of the curriculum’s pages appear to be material copied directly from sources with minimal or no rewording.
“It would be unreasonable to expect teachers without advanced training in biblical studies to recognize all of these flaws, but it’s not unreasonable to expect a good curriculum to be free of them,” Dr. Chancey said. “This curriculum fails that test miserably.”
Clergy from various faiths also expressed concerns about the curriculum.
“I’m all for teaching kids about the Bible. We do it in our church every Sunday,” said Rev. Ragan Courtney of The Sanctuary, a Baptist congregation in Austin. “But this curriculum is disrespectful to families who do not share a specific brand of Christian faith. No public school student should have to have a particular religious belief forced upon them.”
Here's a couple of bullet points from the TFN fact sheet on NCBCPS (available on their site):
* The NCBCPS Board of Directors and the group’s Advisory Board include many prominent religious-right figures, including Mr. Steven Crampton, chief counsel for American Family Association’s Center for Law and Policy; Mr. Mike Johnson, an attorney for Alliance Defense Fund; Dr. D. James Kennedy, head of Coral Ridge Ministries and the Dominionists; David Barton, head of WallBuilders and a Republican operative on the 2004 Bush/Cheney reelection team; and Mr. Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus.
* The NCBCPS has been endorsed by such religious-right organizations as the Christian Coalition, American Family Association Center For Law and Policy, American Center For Law and Justice, Liberty Counsel, Center For Reclaiming America, N.C. Family Policy Council, Louisiana Family Forum, Southern Baptist Convention, Eagle Forum, Concerned Women for America, National Association of Christian Educators/Citizens for Excellence in Education, Family Research Council and Liberty Legal Institute.
The NCBCPS dismisses this as an attack by a "radical humanist" organization, "a small group of far left, anti-religion extremists" with a "radical agenda", and says, "bring it on" with the lawsuits. I hope someone takes them up on that offer.
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I think the various denominations are going to have to slug this one out between themselves, and I hope they do. It's about time they stood up for their own rights.
It's not that bad an idea to teach at least an optional "Bible as Literature" class in the public schools. There are too many cultural and historical factors that can't be understood by those totally ignorant of the Bible. For example, in art history classes, students have to know something about Bible stories to comprehend what they're looking at, and most don't have the background they need.
However, this should not be a required class, and it should not be dominated by any particular religious interpretation.
To be clear, this is always proposed as an "elective" class (I took a non-religious Bible as Literature course in high school, I think, myself), but it IS dominated by a particular religious interpretation: a conservative Christian one.
Posted by: Thomas Leavitt at August 11, 2005 4:40 AM
Take a look at The Executive Summary:
The curriculum cites a "respected scholar" who claims that archaeological evidence "always confirms the facts of the Biblical record" [page 170]. Yet that "respected scholar" claimed elsewhere to have seen Jesus' school records in India, records from the lost continent of Atlantis and evidence that Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza was used to transmit radio messages to the Grand Canyon thousands of years ago.
If that's not bat shit crazy enough for you, try this:
The curriculum uses a discredited urban legend that NASA has evidence that two days are missing in time, thus "confirming" a biblical passage about the sun standing still [pages 116-17].Are scientists missing two days in April or two days in September? Are they missing two Fridays? Or a Sunday and a Wednesday? Which days are missing? Maybe this is like the case of The Missing Quark, which was recently discovered.
Most folks would at least want factual accuracy in the "school text books" their children use:
The answer key to a quiz [page 87] identifies a pharaoh as "Hyksos." Hyksos was the name of an Asiatic-Semitic people who once ruled Egypt.
Demonstrating once again that facts are very flexible in the right hands.
Good stuff, Gary! This sounds very much like California's Narcanon scandal... clearly, progressives need to keep a closer watch on what "programs" and "curricula" are making it into the classroom.
Posted by: Thomas Leavitt at August 11, 2005 1:25 PM
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