The Texas Freedom Network recently commissioned a study into public school classes that either weave the Bible into history and literature courses or are entirely focused on the Bible as literature. The report, by SMU religious studies professor Mark Chancey, found some disturbing things about what kids are learning.
Perhaps most disturbing, at least two school districts appear to teach that several races are descended from Noah's sons. A Bible class in Amarillo includes a chart showing that "western Europeans" and "Caucasians" were descended from Japheth, Jews, "Oriental people" and "Semitic people" from Shem and "African races" and "Canaanites" from Ham. Sound familiar? For many years, racists used to justify their views by claiming that blacks were the "children of Ham" whom Noah cursed in Genesis. A course in Peaster, west of Fort Worth, has a chart similar to the one used in Amarillo.
While this is by far the most disturbing part of the report, it's not the only thing that should raise eyebrows. Some of the problems are to be expected from such courses. Several courses teach the religious right shibboleth that the Founding Fathers intended this country to be a Christian nation, others claim that the Bible is literally true, and still others are thinly disguised evangelism. But the report also found that several courses include some pretty blatant anti-Jewish bias.
Now here's the real unnerving part--according to TFN, such abuses were supposed to be cleared out by a 2007 law encouraging these courses.
How could such courses have gone so wrong? The 2007 law included numerous guidelines designed to help public schools create academically rigorous and constitutionally appropriate courses. But the Legislature failed to appropriate funding to develop in-service training for teachers of Bible courses, and most school districts simply ignored the requirement that teachers get such training. Moreover, the State Board of Education — under the control of religious conservatives at the time — refused to adopt serious curriculum standards to help guide school districts as they planned their courses. For these and other reasons detailed in the new report, school districts across Texas are offering courses about the Bible that simply have no place in a public school classrooms — or, in numerous cases, any classroom at all because their quality is so poor.The way it sounds, it may take an ACLU lawsuit to get these courses out of Texas schools.