Texas Schools Teaching that Judaism is ‘Incomplete' and Africans Were ‘Cursed' (Video)
A new report titled, Reading, Writing and Religion II, distributed by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund reveals that publicly funded schools in Texas are teaching from an evangelical, conservative Christian perspective. The study, conducted by Mark A. Chancey who is a Professor of Religious Studies at Southern Methodist University, cites examples of lessons that are rooted in fundamentalist dogma, include instructing children that the Earth is approximately 6,000 years old, Judaism is a "flawed and incomplete religion" and Africans are decedents of Ham who were cursed by Noah, a story that has been used to justify racism in the past.
Other disturbing lessons include:
• The United States is a Christian nation founded on biblical principles
• The Bible is literally true
• Christians will be "raptured"
• Watching an episode of the television series "Ancient Aliens" which is presented as a "historic documentary"
Public School Bible Courses
Bible courses can be an effective way to teach public school students about the importance of religion in history and literature. However, Bible courses in public schools must be taught in an academic, non-devotional manner that refrains from promoting or disparaging religion or promotiong one particular faith perspective over all others. Many courses fail this most basic test and jeopardize the religious freedom of students. Below are original reports from the TFN Education Fund that reveal how challenging it is to create courses that are both legally and ethically appropriate as well as academically sound.
Reading, Writing & Religion II (2013)
Reading, Writing & Religion II: Texas Public School Bible Courses in 2011-12 documents a widespread failure to implement key guidelines passed by the Legislature in 2007 to improve the academic quality and legal status of Bible courses in Texas public schools.
This report by Mark Chancey, a professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, reveals that at least 57 school districts and three charter schools in the state taught courses about the Bible in 2011-12. That's more than double the 25 school districts teaching such courses in the 2006-06 school year. In 2007 the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1287, which included guidelines designed to improve the quality of such courses while protecting the religious freedom of students and their families.The new report shows that state agencies and many local school districts have largely ignored those guidelines.
The report is based on information obtained from requests to school districts under the Texas Public Information Act. Those requests asked for copies of instructional materials, records related to teacher training and other relevant documents regarding Bible courses taught in the districts' schools.
Key findings in the 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.
- A number of courses and their instructional materials incorporate pseudo-scholarship, including claims that the Bible provides scientific proof of a 6,000-year-old Earth (young Earth creationism) and that the United States was founded as a Christian nation based on biblical Christian principles. At least one district's Bible course includes materials suggesting that the origins of racial diversity among humans today can be traced back to a curse placed on Noah's son in the biblical story of the flood. Such claims have long been a foundational component of some forms of racism.
- Despite the state's failure to implement HB 1287 effectively, a number of school districts did succeed in offering Bible courses that largely comply with legal and constitutional requirements, are academically serious and avoid many of the serious problems noted in most other districts. These successful courses can be found in urban, suburban and rural districts.
Texas Public School Bible Classes: ‘Theories of Creation’
Today we offer another example of what Texas students are learning in their public school Bible classes. A number of these classes incorporate pseudoscience, especially when it comes to promoting creationism. Suggestions that the biblical creation story is literally true are not uncommon. Neither are attempts to show that the Bible’s account can be reconciled with modern science.
In this example from the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund’s new report, Reading, Writing & Religion II: Texas Public School Bible Courses in 2011-12by Prof. Mark Chancey at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, students in the Ector County Independent School District in Odessa are asked to match the theories on the left with the descriptions on the right.
It’s one thing to teach students in such classes that some people believe the Bible’s creation story is true but that such views are not shared by others. But that’s not what this Ector County exercise is doing. This exercise presumes the biblical creation story is true while suggesting that there are valid “theories” about the specifics. Moreover, scientific theories about the formation of the universe and about the development of life on Earth are simply ignored. This exercise might have a place in a Sunday School classroom, but not in a public school. And it’s certainly out of place in a truly academic study of the influence of the Bible in history and literature.
The TFN Education Fund’s new report includes many other examples of serious flaws in Texas public school Bible courses. You can read a short overview of the report here. Read what some Texas courses teach about race and Judaism and how they portray the Bible as “one of the most accurate history books in the world.”
The new report and other TFN Education Fund reports on public school Bible courses are here.
on Jan. 23, 2013 at 9:29 AM