The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools says its course "is concerned with education rather than indoctrination of students."
"The central approach of the class is simply to study the Bible as a foundation document of society, and that approach is altogether appropriate in a comprehensive program of secular education," it says.
Elizabeth Ridenour, a commercial real estate broker who said she formed the nonprofit organization in 1993 after deciding that she had long been "duped" into believing the Bible could not be taught in public schools, said the course has stayed within legal limits. "Our teachers are not to say, 'This is the truth,' or that the Bible is infallible," she said. "They are to say, 'This is what the Bible says; draw your own conclusions.' "
But in Odessa, where the school board has not decided on a curriculum, a parent said he found the course's syllabus unacceptably sectarian. He has been waging his own campaign for additional information on where it is being taught.
"Someone is being disingenuous; I'd like to know who," said the parent, David Newman, an associate professor of English at Odessa College who has made a page-by-page analysis of the 270-page syllabus and sent e-mail messages to nearly all 1,034 school districts in Texas.
The Texas Freedom Network, which commissioned its study after the vote in Odessa, is sharp in its criticism. "As many as 52 Texas public school districts and 1,000 high schools across the country are using an aggressively marketed, blatantly sectarian Bible curriculum that interferes with the freedom of all families to pass on their own religious values to their children," it said.
In one teaching unit, students are told, "Throughout most of the last 2,000 years, the majority of men living in the Western world have accepted the statements of the Scriptures as genuine." The words taken from the Web site of Grant R. Jeffrey Ministries' Prophecy on Line.
The national council's efforts are endorsed by the Center for Reclaiming America, Phyllis Schlafly's group the Eagle Forum, Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council, among others.
IOW, these efforts are endorsed by the theorcratic right. And, not mentioned anywhere I saw in the article, this group was previously slapped down in Florida. But what's there is pretty damning:
Only a summary of the course is available on the Internet, and printed copies cost $150.
A highly critical article in The Journal of Law and Education in 2003 said the course "suffers from a number of constitutional infirmities" and "fails to present the Bible in the objective manner required."
The journal said that even supplementary materials were heavily slanted toward sectarian organizations; 83 percent of the books and articles recommended had strong ties to sectarian organizations, 60 percent had ties to Protestant organizations, and 53 percent had ties to conservative Protestant organizations, it said.
Among those included are books by David Barton, on the council's advisory board and the vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party, who favors "biblical inerrancy," said William Martin, a Rice University historian and the author of the book "With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America." ...
Some of the claims made in the national council's curriculum are laughable, said Mark A. Chancey, professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, who spent seven weeks studying the syllabus for the freedom network. Mr. Chancey said he found it "riddled with errors" of facts, dates, definitions and incorrect spellings. It cites supposed NASA findings to suggest that the earth stopped twice in its orbit, in support of the literal truth of the biblical text that the sun stood still in Joshua and II Kings.
"When the type of urban legend that normally circulates by e-mail ends up in a textbook, that's a problem," Mr. Chancey said.
Our nation's competitiveness is being eroded at an alarming rate. And in Texas, they're teaching kids stuff like this?