University of California and its misadventures with dominionists
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Sun Nov 20, 2005 at 09:29:30 PM EST
The University of California-Berkeley is the subject of considerable criticism due to its ruling that multiple "Christian curricula" packages are no longer seen as educationally sufficient for prospective attendees--supposedly because these packages don't teach about evolution.

What the critics are not saying is in regards to their links to dominionist groups, the fact that the criticisms aren't just about "intelligent design", and that the specific curriculum packages now listed as "unacceptable" for potential University of California are in fact training manuals for raising a new generation of dominionists...

Firstly, a bit of backgrounder for those who aren't familiar with what is one of the latest tempests in a teapot in the dominionist community.

What started this is University of California's school system passing a change to their minimum requirements for pre-collegiate education requiring that something had to be taught regarding the theory of evolution.

Per this article, two specific curriculum packages listed as unacceptable were from A Beka Books and Bob Jones University.  (I'll get into this more in detail in a bit, but both school curricula packages are very hardline dominionist.)

Needless to say, this sent dominionist groups on the warpath.

First in line was Calvary Chapel School and ACSI, who promptly sued the University of California school system for "religious discrimination".  

(A bit more on these two groups.  Calvary Chapel is known for some very interesting hijinks in and of itself.  The leader of Calvary Chapel, Chuck Smith, has fairly scary and blatant links to dominionist groups, including armageddonist  "premillenial dispensationalist" dominionists.  Right now, Calvary Chapel is probably most infamous for the attempted hijacking of WAVM-FM (a low-power high school station near Boston, Massachusetts) via a subsidiary group called Living Proof, Inc. (evidence of the links at this link); Calvary Chapel also has a documented history of spiritual abuse via shepherding or "prayer cells" (again, above link has multiple links to this).  As a minor aside, FCC license policy has been notably lax towards "Godcasting" networks in general--possibly due to the links between the FCC's head of broadcast policy and the National Religious Broadcasters (which is the broadcast wing of the National Association of Evangelicals, now controlled by Ted Haggard of the hardline dominionist New Life Church in Colorado Springs).

(ACSI is an accreditation group for "Christian"--largely fundamentalist--schools and homeschool programs across the US.  Their "accreditation" procedure quite literally consists of sending in a form along with a membership fee, a statement of faith, and (in the case of groups not multiply "accredited") a list of curriculum used.  In other words, it's a flat out accreditation mill that is willing to give accreditation to any school following its "statement of faith" and willing to shell out the cash.   Notably, ACSI is based out of Colorado Springs, home of many other dominionist groups.)

Shortly after ACSI and Calvary Chapel started screaming foul, so did practically every other major dominionist group in the US (and quite a number of minor ones, too).

The thing is, University of California does have a legitimate reason for rejecting those curriculum programs.

In a Rethinking Schools report on the voucher movement (which is also heavily supported by dominionist groups as a "stalking horse"), there are two articles of specific note because they are one of the first real exposures of the actual content in schoolbooks like A Beka's curriculum, Bob Jones University et al.

I've written an initial article referencing the Rethinking Schools articles on Dark Christianity, a likeminded community to this (if far more informal!).  (My writing is largely in reference to the issue of dominionist-run homeschooling programs, of which there is a major push in dominionist churches, but is applicable to private schools in dominionist churches as well.)

Regarding the A Beka curriculum in particular--I am familiar with that in part as a walkaway from a coercive Assemblies of God church (that is also highly involved in the dominionist movement; one of its deacons, Frank Simon, is the head of the Kentucky state branch of the American Family Association) that has promoted its use in its private school curriculum.

Because of this, and because A Beka is actually considered the most "liberal" of these, I have done a very informal evaluation (as a maths/sciences/history geek for the most part; if someone ever wants to run with this for more research, be my guest!) of the general content of A Beka's curriculum.  The first and second parts are available to give you a hint as to how in practically every area of education A Beka is not only factually inaccurate and wildly underprepares students for college, but is more often than not more interested in indoctrinating students for being "future God Warriors" than actual preparation for college or work.

(If someone wants me to post the whole essay up as a one-parter, let me know--it's huge, and even for Livejournal posting I had to eventually split it to a two-part essay.)

One of the things I cover in the A Beka Essay is how--in addition to literally demonising the teaching of evolution, and those who promote it.  (Ironically, one of the people they likely condemn is pentecostal minister and paleontologist Robert Bakker (yes, the Dinosaur Heresies guy), who does believe in evolution but also sees paleontology as his way of getting closer to God and maybe even showing other people the face of God--he doesn't see religion and paleontology as incompatible.)

A Beka even goes into not only demonising evolution but also promotes a blatantly Christian Reconstructionist view of history (both US and world history), promotes blatantly fundamentalist views of the Bible in its "Bible course", and apparently even thinks set theory and other modern maths (aka practically all modern mathematics) is somehow a Satanic plot and drops them out of their courses (which, needless to say, is going to leave students wildly unprepared for college-level maths courses).  Even the methods of English teaching are more geared towards indoctrination than education.

And this is with the most liberal of the curriculum packages--from all accounts that I've seen, Bob Jones University is even worse as far as being a Christian Reconstructionist manual disguised as an education curriculum.

on how well their students do in college?

by Jenarm on Tue Nov 22, 2005 at 10:11:54 AM EST
There are statistics on homeschooled children versus public school educated kids, but these tend to lump in ALL flavours of homeschooling (dominionist homeschool programs along with "unschooling", homeschooling due to lack of special-ed or gifted/talented facilities, Montessori-style homeschooling, etc.) together.

I am not aware of charts that measure, say, performance in college between people educated using dominionist homeschool/private-school curricula like Bob Jones University or A Beka in comparison to, say, standard curricula used in public schools or Catholic schools.

(As it is, there is an increasing push in dominionist communities to send homeschooled/private-schooled kids to dominionist-run colleges like Liberty University and Patrick Henry College; in some of these, women are explicitly discouraged from attending college or attending higher-level courses (in keeping with their theology that teaches that a woman's place is in the home and being "submissive to her husband as her husband is to God").  Getting statistics is probably going to be more difficult.)

The real fear in dominionist communities is twofold:

a) If University of California's ruling is approved in court, this could lead to state universities all across the country rejecting dominionist "accreditation mills" for school credit.

b) This could also focus scrutiny on state-level requirements for curricula (many states have minimal standards for homeschool curricula, in most states simply requiring one to mail in a list of what books you are using to prove you're teaching the "three R's"; in part, these lax standards are the direct result of lobbying by a dominionist homeschool association, HSLDA)--states could start putting in minimum requirements based on their university system's minimum requirements, which could mean the end of hardline dominionist indoctrination disguised as education.  (Even a requirement that teaching be equivalent to that in the public school systems could doom dominionist curricula--A Beka is explicitly dominionist in its history and science sections (neglecting to teach anything non-dominionist except to demonise it) and even neglects to teach set theory (upon which practically ALL modern maths, and a fair amount of computer science theory, is based).  Most school systems would NOT consider it "equivalent".)

by dogemperor on Tue Nov 22, 2005 at 10:45:10 AM EST

Thats an odd one.

I wonder what they have against that.

Thanks for explaining. I knew the colleges existed, I didn't think they wanted their kids going to liberal arts schools and I wondered what the brouhaha was about. But they definately would not want closer monitoring of home schooling. How they have gotten away with it this long is beyond me. Those standards have been way to lax.

by Jenarm on Tue Nov 22, 2005 at 11:14:42 AM EST

Their maths promotion section hints at their reasoning:
Mathematics is the language God used in His creation of the universe, and thus it is logical, orderly, beautiful, and very practical in science and in daily life.

No subject matter better reflects the glory of God than mathematics. To study mathematics is to study God's thoughts after Him, for He is the great Engineer and Architect of the universe.

Unlike the "modern math" theorists, who believe that mathematics is a creation of man and thus arbitrary and relative, we believe that the laws of mathematics are a creation of God and thus absolute. All of the laws of mathematics are God's laws. Our knowledge of God's absolute mathematical laws may be incomplete or at times in error, but that merely shows human frailty, not relativity in mathematics. Man's task is to search out and make use of the laws of the universe, both scientific and mathematical.

A Beka Book provides attractive, legible, workable traditional mathematics texts that are not burdened with modern theories such as set theory. These books have been field-tested, revised, and used successfully for many years in Christian schools. They are classics with up-to-date appeal. Besides training students in the basic skills that they will need all their lives, the A Beka Book traditional mathematics books teach students to believe in the absolutes of the universe, to work diligently to get right answers, and to see the facts of mathematics as part of the truth and order that God has built into the real universe.

Being a student of maths (engineering maths/computer science major), I'm willing their major objections focus on both the concept of multiple infinities and of the "axiom of choice" which is part of advanced set theory ( has an excellent layman's guide explaining the Axiom of Choice to non-mathmeticians).  Both these concepts would cause severe problems with the dominionist mindset being engendered in these curriculums (especially the Axiom of Choice, as one of its predictions is that you are accepting that even such things as numbers are constructs).  

(For those unfamiliar how set theory may come into play with computer science, I've posted a brief "layman's introduction" to sets and set theory in my A Beka rant (part 2); to make a long story short, one of the great unsolved problems in maths that relates to set theory has major implications for computer encryption and security.)

by dogemperor on Tue Nov 22, 2005 at 12:40:45 PM EST

Actually, the rules used to be much stricter in most states--there were no specific exemptions or regs for homeschooling.  Most of the changes in laws and enforcement of laws has been in the past ten years thanks to legal pressure by one particular group, Home School Legal Defense Association.

More on HSLDA's links with dominionist and even frankly Christian Reconstructionist groups:

In many areas (as detailed in several of the articles above) HSLDA has specifically attempted to have themselves declared the only certifying body for homeschooling curricula (deliberately locking out unschoolers and other non-dominionist homeschoolers).  South Carolina had this exact situation for years, and HSLDA has tried to do this in other states including Texas:

In other states, HSLDA has tried to shut out nondominionist homeschool programs by putting in legal requirements that homeschools must operate as correspondence schools or otherwise go through ornerous requirements--which makes it very difficult for unschoolers and non-dominionist homeschoolers n general (who often custom design their own curricula)  but gives dominionist homeschool programs (run as "correspondence schools" from dominionist private schools for the most part) a free pass:

by dogemperor on Tue Nov 22, 2005 at 01:26:44 PM EST

Since I had the A Beka curriculum from kindergarten - 6th grade (and then other fundamentalist curriculum from 7th - 12th) I can only speak from my first hand experience.  

When I chose to go to a liberal arts college (even a conservative one like Calvin College) I was completely unprepared for how different my understanding of history was than my classmates.  We did not have similar contexts for determining the importance and the meaning of historical fact.

In english, I was astounded by the depth and the scope of the literature which my classmates had read.  Our high school reading lists had been very selective and included such works as Foxes Book of Martyrs and the Diary of Anne Frank.  

Because our ACSI school was small, we did not have a lab for chemistry experiments.  I was never taught more about evolution than simple arguments against its validity.  Our school did not offer calculus, just algebra I, II and geometry.

My first couple of semesters of college were very difficult.  I did not know what I did not know.  

However, the most valuable thing that I learned from my ACSI education was how to be self disciplined.  I also knew how to memorize, and I knew how to argue and how to write a decent sentence.  I loved the freedom to be able to question a premise, argue it and not be immediately shut down because my argument happened to differ from my instructor.  

I ended up doing fine in College, once I got past the academic culture shock.  

by Amazon4God on Wed May 31, 2006 at 02:12:41 AM EST

You clearly bring a lot of experience and information to this project.  

Do you have any thoughts about how to find out whether particular schools are accredited through the ACSI?  There are several 'Christian academies' in my county, as there are in most of the south.  They were founded when the public schools were desegregated.  Yet I have the impression that over time, some have become part of the dominionist network and others have not, the latter being 'simply' an institution for the children of socially conservative and bigoted families.

I'm also wondering about what kinds of issues can be used to wedge dominionist home schoolers from the others.  It seems likely to me that the organization and funding of the d.h.s.ers has given them an edge and allowed them to take a leadership role in promoting legislation and regulations that benefit all home schoolers, buying them support and alliances that I'd like to see weakened.  Do any posters or commenters here have experiences that bear on this, or resources for further investigation?

by Nell on Tue Nov 22, 2005 at 02:58:01 PM EST

I've now followed several of the links in your comment just above mine, and they explore exactly the issues I'd raised.  Very informative! Thanks again.

by Nell on Tue Nov 22, 2005 at 03:11:36 PM EST

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