Texas Public Schools are Still Teaching Ridiculous Things About the Bible

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Six years ago, SMU religious studies professor Mark Chancey teamed with the Texas Freedom Network to produce a report on the Bible classes that were proliferating in the state's public school classrooms.

Chancey's not-very-surprising finding was that these classes were not so much even-handed, academically rigorous surveys of the text in its proper historical context as they were thinly veiled sermons that were filled with factual discrepancies and tended to promote a particular flavor of Bible Belt Protestantism. He took particular issue with school districts' use of material provided by National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, which he said was filled with "shoddy research, factual errors and plagiarism."

State legislators actually stepped up to the plate, passing legislation in 2007 stipulating, among other things, that Bible courses must be taught by educators who have undergone special training and must follow curriculum guidelines developed by the State Board of Education. Problem solved.

Not quite, says Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, a SBOE watchdog. While the measure looked good on paper, the Legislature opted not to fund any sort of teacher training program, and the curriculum guidelines developed by the SBOE were vague and left districts a large amount of wiggle room.

That hasn't stopped districts across the state from adding Bible classes to their course offerings. In response, Chancey and TFN have teamed up once again to see how academically rigorous -- and constitutional -- the new batch of classes are.

This time around, Chancey surveyed 60 courses from around the state. Eleven of them, including Plano ISD, were found to be "especially successful in displaying academic rigor and a constitutionally sound" approach.

"The rest of the courses still have the same sorts of problems that we documented back in '06," Chancey said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

As for the other 49, "some courses were a mixed bag, some were terrible," he said. He classified 21 of those, which contained blatant factual inaccuracies and strongly favored a particular religious viewpoint, as "especially egregious." Those districts are spread around the state with two -- the Life School, a Dallas-based charter, and Duncanville ISD -- in the immediate neighborhood and a third, Prosper ISD, not far away.

Duncanville ISD gets called out quite a bit in Chancey's report, since the teacher of its Bible course, who holds a doctorate from some place called the Orthodox Baptist Institute, "relied heavily on Bible cartoons from the Hanna-Barbera series The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible. But it's not the only district, as Chancey's report highlights:

- "Students in the Point Isabel ISD course spent two days watching what lesson plans describes as 'the historic documentary Ancient Aliens,' which presents 'a new interpretation of angelic beings described as extraterrestrials.' Students were then asked to write a small paragraph on how valid they think the ancient alien theory is."

- A PowerPoint slide in Klein ISD explains to students that "The Bible is united in content because there is no contractions in the writing [sic]. The reason for this is because the Bible is written under God's direction and inspiration."

- "Students in Prosper ISD ... are taught that they themselves may be living in the last days. A discussion of the seven churches of Revelation 2-3 suggests that 'each church represents a period of history' and concludes with 'the lukewarm church of the 20th century, today the last period of church history."

- "Eastland ISD, among other districts, assumes that Christians will at some point be 'raptured,' presenting students with 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 afterwards."

- "[A] Life School worksheet on Luke claims that 'many people set out to disprove the Bible including the archaeologist Sir Water Ramsay (who went to Asia Minor himself on such a quest), found this book to have been written with incredible accuracy [sic]. In fact, he could not even find one error."

- "The 'Moses and the Red Sea Crossing: Truth or Fiction' slide show in Ector County ISD's Permian High School includes this claim: 'Sad to say mainstream anti-God media do not portray these true facts in the light of faith. But prefer to sceptically [sic] doubt such archaeological proofs of the veracity & historicity of the Biblical account, one of the most accurate history books in the world"

- Amarillo ISD's course materials included "a chart titled "Racial Origins traced from Noah" that uses modern racial and national terminology to identify the ancient tribes mentioned in the text as descendants of the three sons. According to the chart, 'Western Europeans' and 'Caucasians' descend from Japheth, 'African races' and Canaanites from Ham, and 'Jews, Semitic people, and Oriental races' from Shem. (As Chance pointed out in today's conference call, this theory -- specifically that "African races" were the sons of Ham -- were often deployed to justify slavery. "We've basically updated the genesis story to the science of the 1850s," he said.)

- "Belton ISD's course ... makes available to its students an American Tract Society pamphlet titled 'One Nation Under God' that begins 'The United States was founded on the principles of liberty in the Holy Bible and the reverence of the Founding Fathers. ... It then asks, 'Would you like to place your trust in Jesus Christ and receive Him as your Savior from Sin?'"

For Chancey, the takeaway from all this is that Texas "has a long way to go before we can say that we are giving religious literacy and religious liberty their due." Miller tends to agree.

"First, the Legislature should appropriate funds to create a proper teacher training course for these Bible classes," Miller said. "Second, the State Board of Education needs to revisit its" curriculum guidelines. She hopes those things will happen during the current legislative session.

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24 comments
David Kilpatrick
David Kilpatrick

now if we can just get them to issue guns to every child, we will truly have entered a new age of enlightenment.

MisterMean
MisterMean

Another reason to revoke the tax exemptions on churches.  

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

This stuff is bat shit crazy. I can't believe they waste the time teaching religious mythologies. This is Sunday school reading and has no business in a public school.

This is why our children are becoming dimwits. They are told all of this magical thinking and supernatural fiction is true, while the theory of evolution remains untaught.

Michael TruckMonth Ricker
Michael TruckMonth Ricker

Steve, a teacher "making a reference to faith, or Jesus, or biblical stories" sounds a little bit different than using curriculum that explicitly states that the Bible is inerrant. You sound like an idiocy apologist right now, breaking down straw men like no man before.

Steve Handy
Steve Handy

Are these classes electives? If so who gives a shit? Texas public schools have never been praised for their educational value, which to me is far more offensive than thinking that my kids might have someone teach them a class on the bible that is theologically slanted. Oh, but that's right, I don't expect the schools to be the ones raising my kids. I can recall many times when I was in school when an educator made a reference to faith, or Jesus, or biblical stories and whatnot, and lo and behold I still emerged unindoctrinated. Why? Because I had parents that advocated learning, personal exploration and expansion, and to not let anyone else's beliefs become my own. If you get bent out of shape over the fact that you don't want your children exposed to religion or religious thought, that's your right. It's not possible, and the chances are far greater that you children will be drawn to religion in that whole rebellion phase or in that whole assimilation phase. You have the ability to keep your kids from being indoctrinated, but it doesn't come from shielding them from it.

Heather Golubski
Heather Golubski

^also didn't experience none of this English and grammar teaching

Luis Cruz
Luis Cruz

I didn't ever experience none of this bible teaching but I wouldn't be surprised if it happens.

Edd_Doerr
Edd_Doerr

Mark Chancey and TFN are to be commended for riding herd on the goofies who are trying to subvert the public schools. Aren't there enough churches in Texas to provide all the religious education anyone might want? -- Edd Doerr (arlinc.org)

John1073
John1073

I would love to see Eastland's Venn diagram

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Ancient Aliens is a lot more factual than the bible.

The fact that Giorgios Tsoukalos' hair defies gravity is proof.

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

Schools teach all sorts of wacky stuff that has to be unlearned, then then it's on to university, where they REALLY fuck with your mind. Some people don't recover until they're over 30, some never do.

ChrisDangerShow
ChrisDangerShow

As a former resident of The DuncanHood, I can tell you that "city" is full of religious looneys and crackpots..When we refuse to fund science and math education on the state level, yet throw around money on this crap, it shows how idiotic we really are. 

fistofsouth
fistofsouth

@primi_timpano Where is evolution not taught?  Why is it wrong to study Biblical myths and yet we're fine with Greek and Scandinavian myths?  Of the three aforementioned myths, which has a direct application to our nation's laws and mores?  Hmmm?

No value in understanding the documents that resulted in the values we have today?  

Bat Shit Crazy is walking around claiming they don't teach evolution in Texas Schools as part of a required subject, but they do teach religion as part of the core curriculum. 

hilllbillle
hilllbillle

kids ain't required by law to go to church. these folks want to force their bullshitbeliefs on other peopls kids by law.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@John1073 Just how do you show "pros" and "cons" with a Venn diagram?


Wouldn't look something like this:   O   O ? (pros in the left circle, cons in the right circle)

CADeere
CADeere

@ruddski Some do not go to university, and they just grown angry and ignorant for the rest of their lives, voting and bitching in fear

OnlyLogical
OnlyLogical

@fistofsouth @primi_timpano  If they're actually presented as "myths" then go ahead and teach them. Oh. Yeah. Those who want this in schools don't think they're myths.
Separation between church and state. Period.
That's not saying "christianity" is bad, like extreme right wing people say it is.
You can teach kids to do the right thing without invoking religion in a public school.

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