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

Thursday, December 22, 2005

They're Baaaacck

Just when you thought it was safe to celebrate after the Dover slapdown of the creationist zealots, the New York Times reports that the Christianistas are back to their old tricks, this time in Texas with a new version of an old ruse:

ODESSA, Tex., Dec. 21 -Trustees of the Ector County Independent School District here decided, 4 to 2, on Tuesday night that high school students would use a course published by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools for studying the Bible in history and literature.

The council is a religious advocacy group in Greensboro, N.C., and has the backing of the Eagle Forum and Focus on the Family, two conservative organizations.

The vote on the disputed textbook, for an elective Bible study course, has not ended the matter. Critics say the book promotes fundamentalist Protestant Christianity.

The district superintendent, Wendell Sollis, said Wednesday that he had recommended the textbook over a newer one by the Bible Literacy Project, published this year through the Freedom Forum and an ecumenical group of scholars and endorsed by a group of religious organizations.

"I felt like the National Council was a better fit for Odessa, because they're on several campuses here in Texas and because of their longevity," Mr. Sollis said.

David Newman, a professor of English at Odessa College, said he planned to sue the district because the curriculum advocated a fundamentalist Christian point of view.

The school board president, Randy Rives, said of the curriculum, which uses the King James Version of the Bible: "If you're going to teach something, it's better to use the source. I have complete confidence that we can teach this within the parameters of the law."

Professor Newman said, "If the beliefs of others don't match theirs, then the beliefs of others are irrelevant."

Last summer, the Texas Freedom Network, which promotes religious freedoms, asked a biblical scholar at Southern Methodist University, Mark A. Chancey, to examine the council course. Dr. Chancey said it had factual errors, promoted creationism and taught that the Constitution was based on Scripture.

A district trustee here, Carol Gregg, said she favored the Bible Literacy Project because it was "more user friendly toward teachers" and "more respectful of minority and majority" religious views.

Unlike the competing curriculum, it mentions several versions of the Bible.

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