Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Bible Electives in Public Schools

One of the growing trends around the country is school boards allowing schools to teach an elective course on the bible. The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS) has been very active in lobbyign school boards to do so and selling them their textbooks for such a class in the process. Such courses are legal as long as they are, in the words of first amendment scholar Charles Haynes, “taught academically, not devotionally.” Schools can teach about the bible, about what people believe about it, but they may not endorse biblical teachings or any particular religious belief. But in practice, of course, this distinction rapidly breaks down. Such classes are being approved by school boards precisely because they want to endorse Christianity and that is exactly what the curricula are generally designed to do. And this morning’s New York Times points out just how far such courses go in achieving that goal.

The National Council says that their curriculum is used by 312 school districts in 37 states, reaching more than 175,000 students. And as the times notes, “The national council’s efforts are endorsed by the Center for Reclaiming America, Phyllis Schlafly’s group the Eagle Forum, Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council, among others.” But in truth, this may well be little more than a way of smuggling in creationism:

Some of the claims made in the national council’s curriculum are laughable, said Mark A. Chancey, professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, who spent seven weeks studying the syllabus for the freedom network. Mr. Chancey said he found it “riddled with errors” of facts, dates, definitions and incorrect spellings. It cites supposed NASA findings to suggest that the earth stopped twice in its orbit, in support of the literal truth of the biblical text that the sun stood still in Joshua and II Kings.

“When the type of urban legend that normally circulates by e-mail ends up in a textbook, that’s a problem,” Mr. Chancey said.

Tracey Kiesling, the national council’s national teacher trainer, said the course offered “scientific documentation” on the flood and cites as a scientific authority Carl Baugh, described by Mrs. Kiesling as “an internationally known creation scientist who founded the Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Tex.”

This is all quite laughable except that 175,000 students around the country are being taught this nonsense. Carl Baugh is an utter fraud, acknowledged so even by his fellow creationists. He and Kent Hovind are the only major creationists still using the Paluxy footprints as “proof” that humans and dinosaurs lived together at the same time, decades after this claim was debunked by their fellow creationists. And this ridiculous story about NASA’s computers proving that the sun stood still is the sort of thing believed in only by the truly stupid or delusional. The folks who put together this curriculum are scraping the bottom of the barrell for claims that even their fellow creationists realized were false a very long time ago.

In addition, the curriculum also quotes approvingly from Christian Nation apologist David Barton and claims that the bible was “the blueprint for the Constitution.” As Haynes says, they must not have read the Constitution. If the Constitution is based upon the bible, then one should be able to point to provisions in the Constitution and to their analogs in the bible, but there are none. On the other hand, one can trace provisions of the Constitution directly to the work of Enlightenment thinkers like John Locks and Montesquieu, the men who actually did lay down the blueprint for our Constitution.

Comments

  1. #1 Ben
    August 1, 2005

    Re: urban legends in textbooks–

    A textbook for a business technology class related the Chevy Nova (http://www.snopes.com/business/misxlate/nova.asp) legend.

  2. #2 Raging Bee
    August 1, 2005

    Have any Muslims, Jews or Pagans applied for permission to teach elective classes on their religions?

    And can one sue the schools for teaching demonstrable falsehoods, elective or not?

  3. #3 Matthew
    August 1, 2005

    On what level?

    I always get confused when the teaching of evolution, teaching of the bible, and this sort of thing is discussed. Are we talking about grade school children here, high school, college?

    In the former 2 I would be adamently against it, but on the college level I can understand how such a course might exist (and do exist at many campuses).

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