Wednesday, September 13, 2006

You'll be shocked, shocked, to find that right-wing Protestant sectarianism is going on in Texas public schools:

...A yearlong investigation by the Austin-based Texas Freedom Network found that the majority of Bible courses offered as electives in the state's high schools are devotional and sectarian in nature and not academic, as required by a host of rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court on down.

"With a few notable exceptions, the public school courses currently taught in Texas often fail to meet minimal academic standards for teacher qualifications; curriculum, and academic rigor; promote one faith perspective over all others; and push an ideological agenda that is hostile to religious freedom, science and public education," states the study, which will be made public today....

Here's the executive of summary of the report. A few highlights:

...Most Bible courses are taught as religious and devotional classes that promote one faith perspective over all others.

...In most cases the instructional materials, especially those produced or recommended by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS), betray an obvious bias toward a view of the Bible held by fundamentalist Protestants....

Examples abound ...:
1. support for a literal biblical view of a 6,000-year-old Earth, a six-day creation and the coexistence of dinosaurs and humans;
2. belief that recent events confirm that the apocalyptic return of Christ at the "end of days" is imminent;
3. promotion of Christian readings of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament passages as prophetic of Jesus;
4. suggestions that the creation story of Adam and Eve divinely ordains an inferior role for women in society; and
5. assertions that Christianity supersedes or "completes" Judaism.

Most Bible courses advocate an ideological agenda that is hostile to religious freedom, science and public education itself.

Texas Bible courses regularly promote creationism and other forms of pseudo-science. Some teachers, for example, present videos and lectures from the Creation Science Museum in Glen Rose, Texas. That "museum" advocates a six-day creation, a 6,000-year-old Earth and the coexistence of dinosaurs and humans. Another example of the kind of pseudo-science that one encounters in some Bible courses is the suggestion that perceived racial differences (such as personality and character traits) among humans can be traced back to Noah’s sons and their descendants after the Great Flood. This racist theory was commonly used to justify slavery and discrimination against African Americans in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Moreover, Bible courses often foster notions of American identity as distinctively Christian, sometimes introducing themes from the socalled "culture wars." ... One district uses WallBuilders'
America’s Godly Heritage, a video so inaccurate in its content and so unabashedly sectarian in its goals that one federal court has prohibited its use in public schools....

(WallBuilders was founded by David Barton, a Christian Reconstructionist who believes that separation of church and state is a myth; he's also the vice-chairman of the Texas Republican Party, and he's worked with Bill Frist, Tom DeLay, and the Bush-Cheney campaign. For background on Barton, go here, here, and here; a critique of America's Godly Heritage by non-wingnut Baptists is here, and a list of quotes Barton seems to have made up to support his beliefs on church-state separation is here.)

I've only glanced at the full report (PDF), but I did stop short at this test question from one school's curriculum:

Which of the following is not a proof that dinosaurs lived after the Flood?

a. cave paintings by early native Americans
b. dinosaur engravings around Bishop Bell’s tomb at Carlisle cathedral in Britain
c. Barney
d. Bible description of Leviathan
e. fossil footprints


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