Revisionist history in the public schools
Michelle Goldberg printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Dec 28, 2005 at 11:40:22 AM EST

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Between the holidays , the triumphant conclusion of the Dover intelligent design lawsuit and the NSA spying scandal, this story has gotten a little lost in the last week, but I think it's significant.  Last week, the Odessa, Texas school board voted to adopt a bible study curriculum created by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools , a dominionist outfit whose advisory board includes D. James Kennedy, David Barton and Howard Phillips.
It's legal to teach about the bible in literature or as part of history, but that's not what this course does. The Texas Freedom Network -- a civil liberties group based in Austin -- commissioned an analysis of the curriculum earlier this year by  Mark Chancey, a professor of biblical studies at Southern Methodist University.  Among his conclusions:

It attempts  to persuade students to adopt views that are held  primarily within certain conservative Protestant  circles but not within the scholarly community,  and it presents Christian faith claims as history: The Bible is explicitly characterized as inspired by  God. Discussions of science are based on the claims of  biblical creationists. Jesus is presented as fulfilling "Old Testament"  prophecy. Archaeological findings are cited as support for  claims of the Bible's complete historical accuracy.  Furthermore, much of the course appears  designed to persuade students and teachers that  America is a distinctively Christian nation -- an  agenda publicly embraced by many of the members  of NCBCPS's Board of Advisors and endorsers.

The National Council on Bible Curriculum in not new. It claims that its course has been implemented in 312 school districts in 37 states. But it won't provide information on those school districts, and no one seems to have stepped forward lately to challenge the group. Odessa is different -- the debate over the curriculum was highly publicized and controversial, and a lawsuit is a near certainty.  A press release from the Texas Freedom Network asks, "Is Odessa the Next Dover?" If it is, then Christian nationalist revisionist history -- the claim that America was founded to be a Christian nation and that separation of church and state is a subversive myth -- could be the next intelligent design.  

With that in mind, I have a favor to ask. If anyone knows of any other school districts where The National Council's curriculum is being used, please let me know -- I'm planning a story about it someone in January.

You are probably aware that there is another Bible curriculum published by the Bible Literacy Project that has just recently become available.

What is miraculous is that this curriculum and textbook is endorsed by both liberal and conservative scholars and even influential members of the Christian Right like Ted Haggard (president of the National Association of Evangelicals), Chuck Colson and Vonnete Bright (co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ). So there really is no excuse for these Odessa school board members. They had an easy way out of their dilemma, yet they deliberately chose a controversial and extremely biased curriculum.

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