An informal analysis of the A Beka curriculum
First, a little backgrounder on A Beka and how it relates to dominionism.
A Beka is one of three curriculum packages (the others being Bob Jones University and Accelerated Christian Education/School Of Tomorrow) that are commonly used in school programs run by dominionists--both private schools operated by dominionist churches, and correspondence schools operated as "Christian Homeschool Programs" in the dominionist community.
A Beka is regarded (rightly or wrongly) as the most "liberal" of the three--all three are hardline dominionist and even Christian Reconstructionist, but BJU and ACE tend to be even worse than A Beka in most aspects.
Very often, advertisements for "Christian" private schools will advertise they use A Beka--this is meant as a code term to dominionist parents that the school follows the "party line" of dominionism. More recently, with the rise of dominionist homeschooling in the late 80's/early 90's, A Beka has been selling materials directly to dominionist homeschoolers and is heavily promoted in literature geared towards dominionist homeschooling (examples of this are here and here).
A Beka was started approximately thirty years ago by Pensacola Christian College (per this Wikipedia entry); Pensacola Christian College itself is operated by an "independent Baptist" (which in practice, "independent Baptist" is much like "non-denominational pentecostal" in that it is a church with practically no outside supervision) church that is explicitly fundamentalist and dominionist. This linkhas a listing including the school's "statement of faith" and the school rules (similar to Bob Jones University; BJU also has known ties to dominionists).
People interested in a history of dominionist homeschooling in general may check this older post, which I'll gladly mirror here upon request.
The rest of this article will focus on A Beka exclusively, and I am explicitly inviting further information from persons who are experts in the fields noted.
The following material that will be quoted and analysed will be from A-Beka's own advertising material, specifically from the website at http://www.abeka.com/Distinctives.html and via descriptions of course material from websites catering to dominionist homeschoolers. I will be interspersing this with my own observations, and links to relevant sites where necessary. I apologise in advance for the extreme length.
A fair amount of the analysis is also courtesy of two specific articles at Rethinking Schools, which were noted in my original post on dominionist school curricula; however, in particular with the subjects of maths and sciences, I will also be making my own commentary in addition.
Anyways, let's start with the first:
Okay, there are a few dominionist "weasel words" in here, but I do think it's important to note some things here.
a) It is stated very clearly here that Biblical teaching--and in particular, the sort of biblical innerancy believed in by dominionists--is quite literally paramount over anything else taught in the program--anything that disagrees with a specifically literalist reading of the Bible is to be rejected.
b) The bit on "unmixed with the systems of man" is the specific "code phrase" for dominionist/literalist content.
I'll give a bit of background here: Most mainstream Christian denominations now advocate an "interpretive" approach to the Bible that not only teaches the Bible largely as a moral code but also includes instruction in the social context of things. In many churches, it even notes there are varying interpretations of a specific lineage, and multiple English translations are welcomed as it is realised that many of the concepts in the original Hebrew or Greek may not translate entirely well (or may be reinterpreted as research continues in Koine Greek and ancient Hebrew).
Interpretive approaches tend to see things like the creation story of Genesis as an allegory or as the best explanation that people had at the time for how God created things, and emphasize living by the spirit of the Law rather than the letter of it. Interpretive approaches also see the Bible as an inspired work of God that was written by falliable men.
Fundamentalist denominations--of which very nearly all dominionist groups qualify as--emphasize, instead, a literalist approach in which every word of the Bible--unless the Bible makes it clear that it's an idiom--is seen as quite literally true. Interpretive approaches to the Bible are generally dismissed as being "mixed with the systems of man" and corrupting it; in fact, interpretive approaches are seen as well-nigh blasphemy and "attempts to rewrite the Bible in the image of man". (This was part of the sad story of how the Southern Baptist Seminary's School of Social Work was destroyed; much of the "purge" that ran out all the non-dominionist members was based on nearly all the members of the school taking an interpretive approach to the Bible emphasizing Jesus' call to social work--something that did NOT set well with the fundamentalists who took it over and largely have converted that denomination to a bona fide dominionist group.)
Literalist approaches generally see the Bible as being literally dictated by God to the scribes and thus infalliable. Some dominionist branches (in particular some pentecostal sects) go even further and claim only particular translations of the Bible--usually the King James version or New International Version (the latter of which is essentially a modern English version of the King James version and which contains some of the same errors along with a few new ones specifically from the dominionist translators)--are valid translations for use as the others are claimed to have "liberal" biases.
Dominionist groups, by and large, consider the use of the "interpretive approach" by mainstream Christian denominations as a reason they are "lukewarm" or "worldly" or otherwise "not really Christian" (they have a mess of other criticisms targeted at Catholics and Orthodox, but I'm talking mainstream Protestant groups for the most part here).
In other words, it's being fairly explicitly marketed to dominionists as promoting Biblical inerrancy.
Now to the next part of their marketing spiel:
Here's quite a few dominionist "code phrases" here, and a few very explicit phrases espousing dominionism, but we'll start on the blatant stuff first and get to the code phrases and other weirdness as we progress.
Firstly, it claims flat out that government is ordained by God for the maintenance of law and order. This is one of the bedrock statements of Christian Reconstructionism, as well as a platform for the more "pentecostal/charismatic oriented dominionist" sects of dominionism.
It also touches on an interesting, recurrent bugaboo in dominionist circles--the fear of a "one world government" not run by the dominionists. In the more pentecostal/charismatic oriented dominionist circles this is literally equated with Gog and Magog in Revelation (and that the "one world government" is to be lead by the Antichrist); for something over sixty or more years the Red Scare has lived in dominionist churches far after the fall of the Berlin Wall. (Even political calls to pull out of the United Nations are part of this; it's a popular urban legend in dominionist circles, and often taught in textbooks, that the United Nations is part of the Satanic Conspiracy.)
I will note from the following article how this tends to work in actual practice:
This is in regards to A-Beka's curricula on African history and how indigenous religious are demonised:
In general, A Beka's history textbooks emphasize Africa's need for Christian evangelism. In addition to derogatory comments about the religious beliefs of non-Christian Africans, the textbooks assert that their religious beliefs have been the major cause of the continent's lack of cultural and material progress and political instability and repression.
This is what the A-Beka books have to say about Middle East politics, and Islam in particular:
In A Beka's elementary world history text, fifth graders read that Islam is "a false religion." Seventh graders read that although "over 500 people saw the resurrected Jesus Christ, no one witnessed Mohammed's supposed encounters with the angels."
Here's what they have to say about Indian politics in their history books:
Hinduism comes in for, perhaps, the strongest antipathy. In A Beka's texts, the term "pagan" is frequently used to describe the Hindu religion and the beliefs of its adherents. The term "evil" is also used.
Catholicism isn't immune, either:
Anti-Catholic bias is most prevalent in books published by A Beka. One particularly striking aspect of the texts is the sense that theological battles of the Protestant Reformation continue unabated to the present day. In the texts, bias against Roman Catholics and the Catholic Church is exclusively theological rather than socio-cultural.
(Yes, you read that right. Apparently Catholicism is the cause of all of Europe's problems and aren't really Christians anyways. No matter that Irish monks are known for having saved some of the last copies of classical works (see the book "How The Irish Saved Civilisation") or how the fall of Communism in Poland is largely attributed to the assistance of Pope John Paul II (Poland, unlike most of Eastern Europe, is heavily Catholic and it was largely the Catholic population who overthrew the Communists). No matter that the Catholic Church was the first group to compile a "canon" Holy Bible (one that, ironically, is not accepted as legitimate by dominionist groups in large part even though the Septuagint still used in the Orthodox church post-split is the closest we have other than the Dead Sea Scrolls or Ethiopian Coptic versions of the Bible to the original scripts of the New Testament).)
This further firms up, as an aside--the anti-Catholicism, that is--that A-Beka is heavily based on a dominionist, literalist interpretation of the Bible and very likely also approving only of the two most commonly used versions (the King James Version and NIV) in the dominionist community. (Even the Revised Standard Version is rejected in many dominionist circles because some of its texts are based on the Latin Vulgate.)
Now, of course, I did say there was blatant dominionism being taught in A-Beka, too. Here's some on that, with American history, from the other article at Rethinking Schools:
Yes, you read that right. A-Beka promotes a particular canard in dominionist circles--that somehow the Founding Fathers in fact intended the United States to be a dominionist theocracy.
Needless to say, this is false; most of the Founding Fathers were Deists and some--Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin, among others--were avowedly not Christian. (If anything, the Unitarian Universalists are closest to any religious ideals the Founding Fathers held.)
Deism is a living philosophical movement, and Deism.org has excellent material on the subject; it includes multiple quotes from almost all of the Founding Fathers that not only speak to the fact they were religiously inclusive (Moslems, referred to by the term Mahommedan, and Hindus were explicitly referred to) but that they actively feared theocracy. The first capital of the US was even in Philadelphia, which is not coincidential--Pennsylvania was one of the few states not set up as a restrictive theocracy (the state's first European-style government was formed by Friends and Deists fleeing persecution in the other colonies, and was the first colony explicitly set up where all religions were free to practice).
More on the decidedly peculiar view of American history, per A-Beka:
Yes, you read it right--the books, flat out, ADVOCATE THEOCRACY and in particular theocracy run by dominionists. (This is completely aside from the whole "Christian Nation" canard taught--they're saying there should be one anyways!)
Needless to say, it should be obvious why the state of California thought this might not pass muster. And how the dominionists intend to get a theocracy is probably something that all the readers of this community are all too familiar with at this point.
The use of the terms "socialism" and "socialistic" in connection with Democratic presidents and their policies is particularly problematic. For example, in A Beka's senior high school world history book, the authors state, "A serious flaw developed in American culture during the Cold War period as America began to drift away from the institutions and heritage that made her great. For example, the U.S. government continued to move toward socialism following the `New Deal'; under the Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter administrations, government spending grew enormously as welfare programs sapped the economy and resulted in a heavier tax burden upon the American people."
This involves both the use of "code words" and blatant demonisation.
Again, as I've noted...the Red Scare has lived in dominionist denominations (in particular the pentecostal-derived dominionist churches) since practically their founding. In many churches it still lives to this day (moves to unite countries under the European Union are seen as Russia trying to use this to take over the world; many dominionist churches explicitly both preach and sell books claiming that the Russians are faking the entire fall of communism; entire libraries have been published during the Cold War itself of claims by dominionist groups that the head of Russia was literally the Antichrist, and even in modern "antichrist conspiracy theories" Russia is STILL seen as the Main Bugaboo).
Even the United Nations has been historically seen as suspect due to "Russian influence" and the EU are seen as decidedly evil now both due to criticism of US foreign policy and due to those countries generally having more of a socialist (not Communist) system where more government support for necessities like housing and healthcare is available.
In fact, here's some more of that:
Not surprisingly, the texts devote a great deal of space to the issue of Communism. While virtually all government intervention in the economic sphere is described in negative terms, the coverage of Communism and socialism is distinguished by its depth, frequency, and extreme hostility. The authors' rhetoric can best be described as passionate, and their depth of feeling is matched only in their more abbreviated discussions of abortion, prayer in the schools, and the dangers of religious and political liberalism. The end of the Cold War does not seem to have affected their stance toward Communism and socialism.
Again, lots of dominionist code phrases in regards to the Antichrist being a communist (apparently they've not realised that the Russian Mob is rather capitalist) and the UN being the literal Spawn of Satan.
So, in other words...to put it bluntly...in dominionist circles, liberals and Democrats are literally being equated with the Antichrist and thus as devil worshippers.
Now, more info on A-Beka and its peculiar look at history (and yet more advocation of dominionism):
Criticism of contemporary culture focuses on alleged breakdowns in social order and family values during the 1960s and 1970s. Eighth graders read that "although the United States has been a sinless nation, conditions of the 1960s and 1970s saw much open defiance of God's standards" with the result that "hard rock music, drugs, and open immorality continue to plague America." A Beka's high school world history book argues that even after the "hippie" decade of the 1960s, "America's immorality grew worse as abortion and immoral life styles were considered `normal' by many people."
Yes, apparently, it's the hippies and metalheads who are the reason America is going downhill, according to A-Beka. No matter that hippies did things like making sure that one could legally vote at the same age as induction into the military, no matter that women's rights substantially improved thanks to hippie protests.
They aren't all that fond of women being all that outspoken to begin with:
The importance of the family is underscored again and again; however, the family must conform to God's mandate, which is linked, in turn, to the proper relationship of human beings to government. " The A Beka civics text notes, "Governmental authority flows from God to human institutions and to the individuals responsible for ruling others within those institutions [according to] a definite order of command from God to human leaders to their followers. For example, the husband is the head of the wife and the parents are God's representatives to rule their children. Individuals obey God when they submit to and obey the God-appointed authorities over them."
This is actually a combination of three very interesting things here:
a) The "thou shalt not judge men of God" aka "thou shalt not touch my annointed" canard.
This is a very common tactic among "Bible-based cults" and among coercive religious groups in general--that the leaders of a group are explicitly blessed by God, are capable of taking or revoking that blessing, and to criticise them courts literal damnation.
I myself have had personal experience with this--one of the times my mother attempted "exorcism" on me with a bottle of Wesson oil was when I noted that TV preachers were not behaving in that much of a Christian manner and I thought our preacher was emulating TV preachers a bit much. The rant of "thou shalt not touch my annointed" and "thou shalt not judge a man of God" quickly followed.
When I noted that I didn't think the TV preachers were particularly "men of God" to begin with, that's when she really flew off the handle, claimed I was possessed by a "demon of rebellion" (or rather, she refused to speak to me at ALL and started screaming "DEMON OF REBELLION GET OUT OF THIS CHILD", as is per usual for dominionists into "deliverance ministry", and got out the Wesson oil. :P (For people who need a visual depiction of this, Google Marguerite Perrin's "God Warrior" meltdown on "Trading Spouses". I actually lived with that for 26 years, and can sadly attest it's a rather typical reaction among those dominionist sects heavily into "deliverance ministry" if any sort of challenge is given to their belief system.)
At any rate, it is such a common tactic in coercive religious groups that the vast majority of tests of "coerciveness" of religious groups, including the ABCDEF (or Advanced Bonewits') Inventory, the BITE Model and many other checklists consider this a "red flag warning" of a potentially coercive group. (In later posts, I'll actually be posting "tests" of the dominionist movement, with emphasis on the "Third Wave" dominionists like Ted Haggard's New Life Church, by some of these checklists.)
b) The "Leaders are annointed by God" canard.
This is a common theory in dominionist circles--that God specifically "chooses" certain people to lead. King David is particularly mentioned in this regard, as are the Mosaic priesthood; Katherine Yurica has written a number of excellent articles on this in relation to George Bush (and dominionist imagery he uses) in particular.
Yes, many dominionists are quite convinced that Dubya was specifically annointed to be the leader of the country; this, in combination with a) and c), is why they will defend the present administration no matter how many foot-bullets they may shoot. They literally believe that to question authority is to damn themselves to hell in this regard.
Mind, they don't find Clinton particularly "annointed"; only "born again Christians" can be "annointed" per their own theology.
c) A very specific bit of dominionist theology--popular in pentecostal/charismatic oriented dominionist churches as well as in "Christian Reconstructionist" circles--that men are meant to be the ruler of the household (as God rules everyone), women are meant to submit to their husbands as their husbands submit to God, and children are meant to submit to both parents in similar fashion.
Yes, the coerciveness extends to the family, and dissent is considered literally satanic in those households (in the case of those groups into "deliverance ministry" or "spiritual warfare", such as what I was raised in, they go so far as to claim women who assert themselves in the home or children who "act out" are possessed by "spirits of rebellion"). As noted above and in...well...pretty much most of the posts I've made to Dark Christianity (and several other forums such as Talk2Action and Ex-Pentecostals Forum, I've experienced this firsthand; in the case of kids, this is why things like Dobson's books (one of which details him literally beating the hell out of the family Dachshund for "rebelling" as a defense of violence against children as an acceptable method of childrearing) and "chastening rods" and "Christian boot camps" are so popular in dominionist circles.
In other words, kids are being educated via these textbooks into a coercive mindset--the only education being received is what is delicately referred to by sociologists as "thought reform" (and by the general public as, well..."mind control").
Public schools, not terribly surprisingly, are condemned:
A Beka's senior high school United States history textbook presents public education as suffering from a process of deterioration: "Because basic phonics, traditional math, drill, and repetition had been virtually eliminated from many school curriculums, students were not learning. Grades fell, and a reliable study classified thirty percent of all public school students as `learning disabled.' As the federal government began to hand out large amounts of money to educate these `learning disabled' students, critics suggested that some educators labeled students `learning disabled' in order to qualify for more government aid."
(Sort of makes you see those "Hooked on phonics worked for me" adverts in a new light, doesn't it?)
In other words, tough cookies if you have a legitimate learning disorder, or even a different style of learning, you will memorise or burn in hell.
(This shouldn't really shock people. One of A-Beka's largest users is the Assemblies of God, a blatantly dominionist denomination, in their own schools (and lest one doubt the AoG's associations with dominionism--a large number of politicians, a general directly associated with the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and even via the the church leaders backhandedly telling folks to vote on "values" issues and even explicitly bankrolling John Ashcroft's 2000 gubernatorial campaign should enlighten one; Australians can also tell you about the "Family First" party, which is a a de facto political wing of the AoG in Oz). AoG also runs the largest "Bible bowl" competition called "Bible Quiz" which is essentially a contest on how many Bible verses one can learn via rote memorisation.
(And yes, again, speaking from experience, their Sunday schools tend to frown upon one paraphrasing a verse (I myself do tend to think oddly and "visually"--whether I'm reading or speaking to someone I tend to think of a concept visually and have to "translate" it to words--and have always been horrid at rote memorisation and better at remembering facts for this reason. Multiple people have told me I'm probably a textbook case of Asperger's Syndrome, but I don't know how much of how I think is semi-autism and how much is the fact my home environment was...well...broken for the first 26 years of my life. laughs) No matter that converting from word > mental image and back again (mental image > word) is how I THINK. I had the same trouble in geometry with proofs (skipping steps that were extraneous because I didn't "see" them in my head). :P I am thankful to this day my folks were too poor to attend "Christian" schooling :3)
And speaking of the poor, the ones Jesus said were supposedly blessed in the Beatitudes, let's see what A-Beka has to say:
Unemployment also is caused by personal weakness or the actions of government. The market, unencumbered by the restrictions of the minimum wage, is the best solution for unemployment. A Beka's eighth-grade U.S. history text, speaking of welfare programs during the Kennedy Administration, argues that "because it is human nature to try to get something for nothing, many people took advantage of government handouts."
Apparently, the official Christian thing to do--a la A-Beka--is not to render to Caesar what is his, and Jesus would say "(expletive deleted) the poor".
And now you know why people in the hurricane-hit areas of New Orleans are having an absolute bear of a time getting help.
(Whew! And that was just the HISTORY section!)
Anyways, let's go on through the A-Beka Catalogue's advert to see other...interesting perspectives:
This is where I start getting into some minor maths geekery; I apologise. (I, alas, was an Engineering Maths major, before they had separate majors for the computer sciences, and as a result I fear I am permanently warped. Especially in the dominionist view :3)
Anyways, some interesting history regarding mathematics for starters. Some of our first records re maths are from the Sumerians, the Greek (via the Egyptians) then took off with things re geometry. The Pythagoreans actually made a bit of a religion out of geometry, including both the pentacle and--ironically--the "ichthus" (known as the vesica piscis (in fact, it's actually now thought the ichthus symbol was originally borrowed by the Christians from Pythagoreanism, as the number of fish Jesus catches is equal to one of the two numbers in the ratio formed (using whole numbers) in the vesica piscis and is thought to be a hidden reference; this is a pattern that would be repeated in alchemy years later). Much of the Pythagorean work (again, likely via the Egyptians, based on both historical records and traditions from alchemists) ended up as foundation for the principles of sacred geometry in alchemy as well as sacred geometry in Islam.
After the fall of the Roman empire, mathematical study was kept alive by the Islamic empires, and algebra was invented by them. (Interestingly, Spain--which would suffer a horrifying progrom that we know now as the Spanish Inquisition only a few hundred years later--was, under Moorish occupation, one of the leading centers for mathematical study in Europe!) Moslems also extended our knowledge of geometry. Info was shared also with other cultures, in particular Hindu and Buddhist nations, including the invention of the zero and positional notation (aka listing tens, hundreds, etc. as 10, 100, etc. rather than as X, C, etc.)
Around the 1500s--the time of the restoration--alchemists such as a certain Isaac Newton were doing their own researches on sacred geometry and figuring out how God built the universe in the purpose of their own spiritual refinement (often from substantially pre-Christian sources, and couched in a great deal of Christian imagery to avoid being burnt at the stake; quite a bit of alchemical knowledge actually dates back to at least Greek times (as evidenced by the references to Hermes Trigesimus) and sometimes even Egyptian sources). Mr. Newton incidentially invented calculus in this, and his work as well as those of other scientificially-minded folks helped spawn the birth of Deism as a philosophical movement.
(In other words, the very foundations of theoretical maths were set far in the past, and things like set theory are part of a progression that has gone pretty much uninterrupted for several thousand years--only having had to be rediscovered after the Dark Ages and carefully hidden away by other nations, monks and alchemists till then.)
Now, as to set theory and their hatred of that. There's actually a logical (pun intended) reason. :3
Set theory is, in essence, an extension of work in regards to discovering that there are an infinite number of real numbers--thus a way was needed to sort infinities. (Yes, it is possible to have multiple infinities in higher maths. (This is one of the concepts that break people's brains.) A good example of set theory in action:
All real numbers (which is an infinity) are in set A. All real numbers that are divisible by 2 (which is also an infinitely long list of numbers) are in set B. All real numbers that are divisible by 3 (a separate, but also infinitely long list of numbers) are in set C.
Sets B and C will intersect; set A will include both set B and C, but there are numbers in set C that aren't in set B and vice versa.
You can even extend this--if number X is not divisible by 2, and is not divisible by 3, it goes in set A outside set B and set C.
One of the niftier things with this is that by doing this you can sort of "size" how big an infinity is. Set A is a huge infinity, B and C are smaller infinities. The intersection of B and C is a smaller infinity yet.
You can also sort stuff that's not infinite with this, too.
Set theory is, in essence, the basis of much modern logic and proofs, and is the foundation of a LOT of computer science (the whole and/or/not statements you learned in computer programming or that are on your scientific calculator are directly related to set theory).
Ironically, the symbol primarily used to denote infinities in set theory is the Hebrew letter Aleph (which was chosen specifically for its symbolism in Hebrew and specifically Quabalistic thought--the Quabalists did a LOT with number theory in their own extensions of sacred geometry and numerology)
In pretty much ANY maths above the pre-algebra level (including geometry, parts of precal, pretty much ALL of calculus, even forms of business math like finite math and such) you are going to HAVE to know at least a little about set theory. Needless to say, if you don't know about set theory, you...aren't really going to do well at all in college course material.
There's also very important research going on where set theory is almost a prerequisite to understand things--especially (keeping this nice and Internet related!) in regards to the fields of cryptography. (One of the big questions in set theory now--which directly relates to things like your browser's security, the security of your GPG keys and so on--is whether "P" equals "NP" (in fact, it's THE biggest question in computer science, and the person or persons who successfully come up with a provable proof either way will likely become a millionaire). Whether P=NP or not has huge implications for things like the security of cryptography--if P does equal NP, theoretically it is MUCH easier to crack a secure cryptographic key (such as used in GPG or the SSL in your web-browser used for secure web pages); some people even think the NSA has a proof of this but isn't willing to give it out for fear of people knowing they can crack PGP keys! So yes, there ARE practical applications for set theory)
Now, dominionists (to put it mildly!) probably don't like set theory and see it as absolutely evil for two reasons:
a) the whole concept of infinities within infinities (which doesn't set well, if you'll pardon the pun, with their concept of only one God, and two sets of humans that will never interact--the Saved and the Damned)
b) the entire concept of number theory and, for that matter, logical thought systems (in that entire systems of mathematics may be proven or disproven mathematically via logical proof; the entire idea of logic is frowned upon, partly because it encourages independent thinking and testing of a theorem (whereas dominionists are explicitly taught to trust their leaders and have faith, not thought) and in general doesn't work in a coercive society).
Another example of where A Beka's likely objections to set theory lie is in a particular part of advanced set theory known as the Axiom of Choice. What the Axiom of Choice is, in a sense, is it is an explicit acknowledgement that the particular system you use to work with a set is one's choice, and you're essentially choosing specific members of that set to work with. (A much better layman's description (well, if you've had high school maths, anyways) is at http://www.math.vanderbilt.edu/~schectex/ccc/choice.html and sci.math has an entire FAQ on it.)
The Axiom of Choice has some interesting implications, and not just related to maths--much of it touches on the whole nature of how we construct numbers and maths at all (in some variants of the Axiom of Choice, it's acknowledged numerical systems are an artificial construct or "function", for instance).
The Axiom is important in computer science, for instance, because with some things it's acklowledged one must make compromises in certain calculations, and the Axiom of Choice is one of the factors used in, for instance, determining if one focuses on precision rather than speed in a calculation. (This is also one of those things where the whole P=NP/P!=NP debate comes up--if P=NP, by the Axiom of Choice one can optimise for searching out P problems in a set, which makes it much easier for, say, Three Letter Agencies to break PGP keys and such.)
The entire idea of mathematics being a construct is...to put it mildly...something that severely breaks the brain of your average dominionist. It doesn't set so well with mathematics being God's clockwork set. (I've actually seen similar objections to quantum mechanics in the dominionist community too--the whole "God Doesn't Throw Dice, Much Less Throw Them Where He Can't See Them" argument.)
Needless to say, it is no shock whatsoever to me (again, as a maths geek and maths major) that California's state university system considers A-Beka's curriculum deficient as far as its maths go! Especially in such things as computer science, there is no way you can really go about it unless you've had at least pre-cal, and I ran into set theory in geometry and algebra in high school! Kids who are educated in A-Beka are essentially being sent to college with the equivalent of pre-algebra, if that. Most public school systems wouldn't allow you to graduate without at least learning algebra and geometry (both of which touch upon set theory, if in a basic form).
Also, regarding that whole "truth and order" bit: I guess they have not heard of, nor would be terribly comfortable with, the implications of chaos theory (aka "sensitive dependence on initial conditions").
Now, on to the bit everyone is talking about (A-Beka's "science" curriculum--yes, there's a reason I use quotes on that!)
There is so much with this that is pure bovine excrement (such as a level that even Hercules himself would have trouble clearing the stables of it!) that it's not funny (and has required me to split this to a two-part post in its original format in Dark Christianity!). I will begin best as I can, however:
a) Science, not even modern science, is "against God" or "against faith". Many scientists--much like the alchemists of earlier times--see their scientific work as a way of finding how God does his thing, and actually finding science renewing of their religious faith. (At the end of this section, I'll detail a little bit about one of those folks, paleontologist/minister Robert Bakker.)
What science does teach is the specific testing of a theory--based on available evidence--and, if the evidence shows the theory doesn't fit, changing the theory. (This is, incidentially, EXACTLY what mainstream Christians and Jews and Moslems do! Even the Catholic Church--based on the evidence--at least partially accepts evolution, even if they feel it was directed by God; the dominionist groups are quite literally the only branches of Christianity that are holding onto young-earth, 7-day creationism even despite reams of evidence to the contrary. Most of the rest of us accept the scribes of ancient Israel didn't know of microbes, Archaeopteryx et al and move on.)
As dominionist groups that use A-Beka--and the A-Beka curriculum itself--is a heavily dominionist and even borderline Christian Reconstructionist educational curriculum, scientific testing (either in the case of mathematical proofs, as noted above, or scientific proofs of theories based on evidence) cannot be tolerated because the basic theology holds everything in the Bible as being not only inerrant but literally dictated by God Himself. To entertain the concept of even questioning things like whether God meant "seven days" or "seven ages" (much less HOW he created the animals and plants and whatnot) is considered literal blasphemy and (in some circles) even "allowing footholds for demons of rebellion"; if you remove the plank of young-earth creationism, not only does the whole theological stack of cards come down, but--even more dangerously for dominionist groups--one begins testing things and logically thinking.
Dominionist groups--and in fact all coercive religious groups--actively discourage independent thinking. (In most dominionist groups it's actually denounced as Satanic in some form; at best you are told you are "walking by sight" and not "walking by faith", and very frequently one is told one is either being oppressed by "demons of doubt" or is "allowing footholds for Satan to enter your life and steal your salvation".) If one thinks independently, one can compare, and realise that the situation is harmful; the recommended technique in dominionist groups if one is starting to doubt things (like the Bible's inerrancy) is to pray even harder and read the Bible even more.
These are all classic coercive tactics--as noted, the curriculum itself is designed to essentially work as a form or extension of existing "thought reform" techniques practiced by dominionist groups--as documented here:
5. SACRED SCIENCE. The group's perspective is absolutely true and completely adequate to explain EVERYTHING. The doctrine is not subject to amendments or question. ABSOLUTE conformity to the doctrine is required.
7. DOCTRINE OVER PERSON. Pre-group experience and group experience are narrowly and decisively interpreted through the absolute doctrine, even when experience contradicts the doctrine.(emphasis mine)
Any sort of "reality testing" is specifically discouraged in coercive religious groups, including dominionist groups; it is not a surprise that it is explicitly discouraged here.
b) The science curriculum is blatantly dominionist (in terms of theology).
One of the lines here--specifically the bit about subduing the earth--is a blatant giveaway that the curriculum, here as in the rest of it, is blatantly dominionist.
Most of you know this already, but I'll go ahead and refresh for those new here. The term "dominionism"--and the specific "code phrase" they're using--both are referring to the same Bible verses, Genesis 1:26:
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.(original emphasis in Wikipedia entry on dominionism)
The sentiment is made even more explicit two verses down, Genesis 1:28:
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.(emphasis mine)
I have heard the latter verse literally used both as biblical justification for dominionism (in particular, the "deliverance ministry"/"spiritual warfare" sorts of dominionism) and as biblical justification for destruction of the environment.
c) The book promotes a flavour of creationism seen as extreme even in most Christian circles.
Per Talk.origins, there is confirmation that A-Beka books teach specifically young-earth creationism. As I've noted previously, just about the only groups pushing the whole "world made in 6 days and then God took Saturday off" theory are religious groups affiliated with dominionism.
In fact, so do people who were taught using the curriculum.
Most Christian groups either endorse (if creationist at all in the traditional sense) either "old earth" creationism (aka creationism that fits the geneological record) or some flavour of evolution (either "directed evolution" where God set up evolution as the method of creation and gave friendly nudges now and again--this is the flavour the Catholic church has accepted so far--or traditional evolution with God giving the "spark of life"). Talk.origins has a wonderful series of FAQs regarding the matter.
As it is, one of the interesting predictions of the theory of evolution--one that has been proven scientifically--is the concept of genes (ironically originally discovered/confirmed by Gregor Mendel, who was a monk working with various breeds of pea in attempts at hybridisation, and the ultimate basis being found in chromosomes and genes later).
Another interesting prediction--recently proven in rather spectacular fashion--is the concept of "transitional species"--aka species evolving from a common ancestor that show changes over time. This has been observed so far in not just microbes, but with fruit flies even without geological records. Most of us know about the various sorts of "cavemen" and australopithecines; very recently (within the past three years) an absolutely astounding number of remarkable dinosaur finds have been found with feathers and, in particular, lots of transitional forms between Archaeopteryx-like birds and dromaeosaurs (like Velociraptor and Deinonychus) and feathers (and other birdy traits, like four-chambered hearts and most recently birdlike "bellows" lungs) have been found in dinosaurs that are rather more removed from birds (such as feathered tyrannosaurids and even a psittasaur--a type of dinosaur related to some of the horned dinosaurs like Triceratops et al--with quills like a porcupine!)
The Chinese dinosaur remains are especially interesting as many of the dinosaurs (including groups like oviraptors that aren't as related to Archaeopteryx as, say, velociraptors) were literally brooding like chickens when they died; there have also been relatives of velociraptors (Microraptor gui) found that have flight feathers on all four limbs, showing for the first time that both the ancestors of Archie and Velociraptor (and Sinornithosaurus, one of the other feathered dromies found) were feathered and that birds probably evolved from gliders. We now actually have an almost complete transitional series between Archaeopteryx and Utahraptor (the largest of the dromaeosaurs)--and enough fossils of non-flying dinosaurs with very birdy traits--that even ornithologists who've resisted the idea (and been believers in the theory of evolution, but theorising Archaeopteryx was something other than a dinosaur) are now starting to come around to the idea that modern birds are the last surviving dinosaurs.
(Yes, I am an unashamed paleontology geek. :) I'm also one of those folks who finds paleontology enhances one's spirituality, so to speak.)
Of course, some creationists (including young-earth creationists) think that the scientists are deliberately making fossils (yes, I have heard this seriously argued) or that God put them there to "test our faith" or even that dinosaurian remains are "lies of Satan".
d) The books give an inaccurate description of science history, and of history period.
Firstly, they claim man "returned to the Scriptures after the Protestant Reformation", again pointing to their belief (mentioned in the last article) on how supposedly Catholics and Eastern Orthodox are not Christians at all (by the way, this is why dominionist chaplains in the military are targeting even Iraqi Catholics and Iraqi Orthodox for conversion, even though the chaplains' own religious tradition is not yet 100 years old and the Iraqis' are closer to 2000).
Secondly, many of the people who were practicing scientists were Deists or alchemists who were actively trying to puzzle out how God created things (in the specific case of the alchemists, in hopes of getting closer to God); also, much of the practices in alchemy were pre-Christian (sometimes substantially so; many religious and philosophical groups that descended from alchemical colleges trace their history back to ancient Greece or even Egypt, and there is a fair amount of historical record to back this up; Hermes Trigesimus, for instance, is an ancient representation in alchemy that is obviously derived from Hermes, and has also in some alchemical traditions been equated with the Egyptian Ptah). A great deal of alchemical imagery was specifically wrapped up in Christian imagery to protect its practitioners from being burned as witches or sorcerors (a very real risk in those times).
Thirdly, many of the philosophies represented by dominionists as "getting back with God post-Reformation" are in fact very recent innovations; in fact, for instance, the entire concept of the Rapture has only been in Christian theology since the late 1800s.
Now, mind, this is just my criticism on the bits regarding evolution. Their "health" texts essentially tell kids not to stick their naughty bits in anything till they're married and don't even THINK of admitting you're gay. :P Public health authorities in general have already stated their mortification at the sort of "preventative health" taught in A-Beka's courses et al.
Needless to say, again, it's not exactly shocking why University of California sees this as unfit.
As a minor aside: This is an example of how dominionists will even happily damn other Christians in the interests of pushing an agenda. One of the paleontologists that has done the most in regards to advancement of our views of dinosaurs is Robert Bakker--who, in addition to having been one of the first modern paleontologists to write on the dino-bird link (down to the first drawings of feathered dinosaurs in "The Dinosaur Heresies") but is also an ordained pentecostal minister. Bakker has even given specific talks on paleontology for religious colleges on how Christianity and evolution are not incompatible and how many early paleontologists (including evolution promoters) were in fact sponsored by religious colleges, and has debated "young earth" creationists.
Bakker, of note, is one of those whose interest in paleontology has actually brought him closer to his faith; much of his research into the Church and Christianity was due to his inability to reconcile the Genesis account of creation wit
An informal analysis of the A Beka curriculum | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden)
An informal analysis of the A Beka curriculum | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden)