As America faces increasing global competition and the need for quality fact and science based education becomes more urgent if the nation is to prosper, a number of schools in Texas -what a surprise - have taken a 2007 law encouraging the state’s public schools to teach about the influence of the Bible in history and literature and turned it into a route to teaching utter batshitery as part of their curriculum. While the Christian Taliban no doubt rejoice at such idiocy, taxpayers ought to be outraged. The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund has released a report, authored by a religious studies professor at Southern Methodist University, that examines what students are learning in the 57 school districts that teach Bible related courses under the guise of the 2007 law. Here is some of the crap actually being taught to students:
- Instructional material in two school districts teach that racial diversity today can be traced back to Noah’s sons, a long-discredited claim that has been a foundational component of some forms of racism.
- Religious bias is common, with most courses taught from a Protestant — often a conservative Protestant — perspective. One course, for example, assumes Christians will at some point be “raptured.” Materials include a Venn diagram showing the pros and cons of theories that posit the rapture before the returning Jesus’ 1,000-year reign and those that place it afterward. In many courses, the perspectives of Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Jews are often left out.
- Anti-Jewish bias — intentional or not — is not uncommon. Some courses even portray Judaism as a flawed and incomplete religion that has been replaced by Christianity.
- Many courses suggest or openly claim that the Bible is literally true. “The Bible is the written word of God,” students are told in one PowerPoint presentation. Some courses go so far as to suggest that the Bible can be used to verify events in history. One district, for example, teaches students that the Bible’s historical claims are largely beyond question by listing biblical events side by side with historical developments from around the globe.
- Course materials in numerous classes are designed to evangelize rather than provide an objective study of the Bible’s influence. A book in one district makes its purpose clear in the preface: “May this study be of value to you. May you fully come to believe that ‘Jesus is the Christ, the son of God.’ And may you have ‘life in His name.’”
- A number of courses teach students that the Bible proves Earth is just 6,000 years old.
- Students are taught that the United States is a Christian nation founded on the Christian biblical principles taught in their classrooms.
- Academic rigor is so poor that many courses rely mostly on memorization of Bible verses and factoids from Bible stories rather than teaching students how to analyze what they are studying. One district relies heavily on Bible cartoons from Hanna-Barbera for its high school class. Students in another district spend two days watching what lesson plans describe a “the historic documentary Ancient Aliens,” which presents “a new interpretation of angelic beings described as extraterrestrials.”
The report blames part of the problem on Texas' failure to properly develop course guidelines for Bible related classes. I suspect that the larger cause is that the State Board of Education which has been under the control of religious conservatives has refused to adopt serious curriculum standards to help guide school districts as they planned their courses.
The irony, of course, is that members of the far right are those most likely to whine about America's decline in the world, yet their joyful embrace of ignorance and idiocy is one of the factors holding America back. Not to mention their racism, bigotry and misogamy in general.