"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, August 01, 2005

Fair and Balanced Religious Education in Texas?

First published in 1690, the most famous of the Puritan schoolbooks, the New England Primer, starts its religious indocrination with the letter A: "In Adam's fall, we sinned all."

Over 300 years later, protestant descendants of the theocratic Puritans continue to advocate for schools that support their religious beliefs. They do not seem to notice that the Colony has grown, or that they are no living living in a Biblical Commonwealth, or that other religions resent their proselytizing in the public schools.

The latest dust-up comes from Texas, where the Odessa school board is struggling to determine the suitability of Bible course backed by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools and conservative fundamentalists such as James Dobson.

Whether or not the Bible course passes muster for non-sectarian bias, there appears to remain some factual issues, as reported in the NY Times article: "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."

I think that even John Winthrop, the Puritan leader who called democracy the "meanest form of government," would have insisted on factual accuracy to promote his cause. Religious partisans, they were; but intellectually dishonest, they were not.

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