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Ear to the Ground

What Happens When Texas Public Schools Teach the Bible?

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Posted on Jan 29, 2013
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The Earth is just 6,000 years old, racial diversity is the result of a curse being placed on Noah’s son, the sun can stand still and move backward and the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation based on biblical principles. These are some of the startling things Texas students are being taught, according to a new report that looks at how public schools in the Lone Star State are promoting “religious fundamentalism” disguised as Bible courses. 

The Texas Freedom Network’s “Reading, Writing & Religion II” report, which examines the 57 school districts and three charter schools that teach classes about the Bible, reveals that more than half of the school districts are ignoring the 2007 guidelines set forth by the state that were designed to simultaneously improve the quality of religious courses while also protecting the religious freedom of students.

As a result, many students are essentially being taught what the report describes as “pseudo-scholarship.” In addition, they’re learning things such as “The Bible is the written word of God … The Bible is united in content because there is no contradictions in the writing [sic]. The reason for this is because the Bible is written under God’s direction and inspiration.”

Here are some key findings from the Texas Freedom Network’s report:

-Many Bible course teachers lack the proper training required by the Legislature. Moreover, curriculum standards adopted by the State Board of Education are far too broad to help school districts create academically sound and legally appropriate courses. Consequently, many courses are not academically rigorous and include numerous errors, distortions and other problems.

-Many Bible courses reflect the religious beliefs of the teachers and sectarian instructional materials they use in their classrooms. In every course in which religious bias is present, instruction reflects a Protestant—most often a conservative Protestant—perspective, including a literal interpretation of the Bible.

-Many courses teach students to interpret the Bible and even Judaism through a distinctly Christian lens. Anti-Jewish bias—sometimes intentional but often not—is not uncommon.

According to Mark Chancey, a professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas who wrote the report, public schools must take the study of the Bible as rigidly and seriously as they do other subjects like science in order to adhere to the state’s guidelines.

“But the evidence shows that Texas isn’t giving the study of the Bible the respect it deserves,” Chancey said. “Academically, many of these classes lack rigor and substance, and some seem less interested in cultivating religious literacy than in promoting religious beliefs. Their approach puts their school districts in legal jeopardy and their taxpayers in financial jeopardy.”

Mother Jones has more on some of the wackier lessons being taught in the state’s public schools:

Some Bible classes in Texas public school appear to double as “science” classes, circumventing limits placed on teaching creationism. Eastland ISD, a school district outside Fort Worth, shows videos produced by the Creation Evidence Museum, which claims to posess a fossil of a dinosaur footprint atop “a pristine human footprint.”

Perhaps the wackiest Bible lesson was the one presented to students at Amarillo ISD titled: “Racial Origins Traced from Noah.” A chart presented in the classroom claims that it’s possible to identify which of Noah’s three sons begat various racial and ethnic groups.

Read more

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

 

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