Bible Curriculum Battle

There are now two competing curricula available for teaching about the bible in a public school elective course, the NCBCPS curriculum and the Bible Literacy Project. The former, you will recall, was thoroughly trashed by SMU religious studies professor Mark Chancey, whereupon the NCBCPS and their followers called him all sorts of names and then admitted he was right by making many of the changes he suggested. The new curriculum, however, is still heavily sectarian and contains many factual inaccuracies. The Bible Literacy Project, on the other hand, is brand new and is the end result of a good deal of work by reputable scholars to put together an objective course that teaches about the bible without endorsing its content, which is the only constitutional way to go about it.

Bill Wilson, who bills himself as a "senior analyst" for "KIN" (which stands for Koenig's International News, an end times prophecy ministry), has issued a press release comparing the two and endorsing the NCBCPS curriculum. In the process, he pretty much manages to discredit the constitutionality of the curriculum he endorses. He writes:

According to the Supreme Court, the public schools cannot endorse religion by teaching it, but the Bible can be taught as a literary or historic curriculum as an elective. And the conservative National Council on Bible Curriculum In Public Schools has been offering a King James Based-based curriculum, used in some 1,100 high schools in 37 states.

The National Council on Bible Curriculum, however, is now challenged by The Bible Literacy Project, who will offer a textbook-based curriculum in schools next year. Its standards are endorsed by the National Education Association, and the liberal National Association of Evangelicals. These standards were developed in part by Charles Haynes, who once worked for Americans United for Separation of Church and State and was on the advisory board of The Pluralism Project, comprised also of people like Wicca priestess Margot Adler. Haynes and others involved with the project are "communitarians", who believe individual needs and rights are secondary to the interests of the state.

Notice how he starts right off with attempts to poison the well by picking out one (out of dozens) of scholars involved in the writing of the BLP curriculum and making the entirely irrelevant statement that he was an advisor on a totally different project that included - gasp! - a Wiccan! Does this sort of argument actually work with anyone with an IQ over room temperature?

Dr. Dennis Cuddy, a former Education Department official and currently a commentator on education issues, reviewed both curriculums. He describes the Bible Literacy Project's textbook as the liberal's answer to the Bible-based approach of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools. He said the Bible Literacy Project's textbook could lead children to believe that parts of the Bible are mythology and cause them to question whether God is good. He said there are problems he has with the Bible Literacy Projects program that he does not have with that of the Council's.

First, Cuddy says, the BLP's textbook does not have a complete curriculum; second, he believes there are factual errors in the presentation of the Bible; and he strongly believes that the BLP's textbook does not teach the Bible as the inerrant word of God.

Now let's pause and review. First he says that the Supreme Court has ruled that you can teach about the bible as long as you don't endorse its content (which is true). Then he says that, unlike the NCBCPS curriculum, the BLP curriculum "does not teach the Bible as the inerrant word of God." Is that not an admission that the NCBCPS curriculum does teach the bible as the inerrant word of God, i.e. that it does endorse the Bible as being 100% true, in violation of the very standard he cites above? Bad move, Bill.

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I'm one of those folks who thinks that courses in comparative religion, or about the bible as literature, can be a valuable thing. Unfortunately, they just don't work in the real world. There's really only two ways to teach such a course. You either teach that the Bible is absolutely true (in which…
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"Does this sort of argument actually work with anyone with an IQ over room temperature?"

Depends on the room I suppose. But I'm afraid you are committing the common fallacy amongst scientists of assuming that a high IQ equates to critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, it does not. Guys like Behe for instance undoubtably have a relatively high IQ, but his grasp of logic is woefully inadequate.

By dogscratcher (not verified) on 30 Nov 2005 #permalink

dogscratcher wrote:

Depends on the room I suppose. But I'm afraid you are committing the common fallacy amongst scientists of assuming that a high IQ equates to critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, it does not. Guys like Behe for instance undoubtably have a relatively high IQ, but his grasp of logic is woefully inadequate.

Well, not really. I was just using it as a figure of speech. In fact, I put very little stock in IQ and find the whole notion rather ridiculous. So please don't take me literally when I use a phrase like that about IQ.

I suppose you could argue that a Bible curriculum could teach that the Bible is supposed to be the inerrant word of God, without saying that it actually is. But of course that would ignore all the people who say it isn't supposed to be, and thus would be endorsing a particular viewpoint.

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 30 Nov 2005 #permalink

Oh and another thing. You're a lot more in touch with Christianity than I am, Ed, so maybe you can help me out with this:

"Bill Wilson, who bills himself as a "senior analyst" for "KIN" (which stands for Koenig's International News, an end times prophecy ministry),"

How do these people get away with this crap? Jesus was pretty clear that end times prophecy is a big no-no. He even came up with a parable about it. What do these guys say when people bring that up?

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 30 Nov 2005 #permalink

"the Bible Literacy Project's textbook could lead children to believe that parts of the Bible are mythology"

teach the controversy, I say ... oh wait, now they DON'T think children's critical thinking will be improved by being exposed to both sides of an argument?

By snaxalotl (not verified) on 30 Nov 2005 #permalink

I found an an article on CNN

On the other side, Dennis Cuddy, a Christian who has worked as a consultant for the U.S. Department of Education, said the book raised doubts about God and prompted students to ask the wrong questions.

"If you are going to teach the Bible, are you going to teach it as if it were the word of God? At the least, it should be taught as truthful. It shouldn't be presented as something that is false," he said.

Uh, what if it is false? What if it says that bats are a type of bird, that insects have 4 legs and that you can breed spotted livestock by putting sticks in their water trough? Are you not allowed to teach that the Bible says these things, or are you not allowed to teach that these things are indeed false?

Oops, the second paragraph should also be in the quoted block.