Public school regulators in Texas are not adequately overseeing the quality of elective courses that teach the Bible, according to a review released last week by a professor at Southern Methodist University and a watchdog group that exists to scrutinize the Lone Star State’s religious right.
Texas lawmakers passed a law in 2007 that allows school districts to offer classes on the Bible. Approximately 60 districts in the state now teach some type of class using the sacred book of Christianity. However, as the Austin American-Statesman reports, coursework is often biased toward a particular viewpoint.
Mark A. Chancey, an associate professor in the religious studies department at SMU, wrote the report, which is entitled “Reading, Writing & Religion II.” Along with Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network, he has called for stricter standards.
“If the Bible and the study of the Bible isn’t getting the respect it deserves, and the faith of our students is not getting the respect it deserves [in] these classes, this is instruction should be taking place in congregations and at home and not at our public schools,” Miller told KTBC, Austin’s Fox affiliate.
“Districts are just assigning a course to a teacher giving no guidance and the teacher is doing the best he or she can with no resources and no guidance,” Chancey added.
The state school board is to blame, Chancey says, because it failed to set forth the suitability standards contemplated by the legislature when the law was originally passed.
Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, a watchdog group that stands athwart the Texas Freedom Network, disagrees with Chancey’s findings.
“You have to look at this complaint from this left-wing group from the lens of the bias that they already bring to this issue,” Saenz told KTBC. “They’re very hostile to people of religious beliefs, particularly Christianity, so it’s no surprise that they will be hostile to anything related to the Bible in public schools.”
According to the report, some of the 60 Bible courses in schools across Texas are “especially successful in complying with legal requirements and maintaining academic rigor.” Others, not so much.
The Dallas Observer highlights a few examples of curricular bias. Among them:
In Amarillo, materials for the Bible class included a chart entitled “Racial Origins traced from Noah.” Students learned that Western Europeans have descended from Noah’s son Japheth, “African races” and Canaanites from Noah’s son Ham, and so on.
In Point Isabel, students were treated to two days of Ancient Aliens, an “historic documentary” about “angelic beings described as extraterrestrials.” They were then assigned to judge the validity of the ancient alien theory.
In Duncanville, the instructor utilized Bible cartoons from a 1980s Hanna-Barbera television series called “The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible.”
In the appropriately wealthy suburb of Prosper, students learned that they could well be living in the last days described in the Book of Revelation.
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