Monday, August 01, 2005


The Camel's Nose

Ralph Blumenthal and Barbara Novotich, writing in today's edition of the New York Times, report that the Odessa (Texas) school board has voted unanimously to add an elective bible study course to the public school curriculum there beginning in 2006.

Although the school board has not yet formally decided what curriculum will be used in the class, the issue is being pushed by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools which claims that its bible study course is used by "175,000 students in 312 school districts in 37 states."

The group claims its course is a nonsectarian historical and literary survey class. the Texas Freedom Network, which released a report on the bible study course today calls it, "an error riddled Bible curriculum that attempts to persuade students and teachers to adopt views that are held primairly with in conservative Protestant circles.

The NYT article is coming in for some criticism from Kevin Drum -- The Washinton Monthly's Political Animal -- a man who we respect and read regularly. Drum's post, "The curse of quotes," is generating a lively discussion in the comments section there.

Drum's complaint is that the article offers only "quote after quote after endless quote saying the course is either a fine additon to the curriculum or else a horrible infringement of the First Amendment."

No one is more critical of the main stream media than Red State Rabble, however, we think the Times article does provide a useful introduction to the issue. We try to keep up, but have to admit we never dreamed this was going on.

Red State Rabble is not opposed to teaching about religion or religious texts in public schools. We do think, however, that science classes are not the place for it. We have taken graduate level courses that included readings from the bible. These were excellent classes and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to take them and to have studied the literature of the bible in them.

That being said, if we are going to offer religious instruction at the high school level, RSR thinks that it should be along the lines of an introduction to world religion and include readings representative of all major world religions. These classes should be designed to inform rather than convert.

The NYT article -- while not going into the depth that Drum would like -- does enough to set off some alarm bells about the content of this particular bible study curriculum:
  1. It talks about creationism, but not about evolution
  2. It claims to offer scientific documentation of the flood
  3. It cites "supposed NASA findings to suggest that the earth stopped twice in its orbit"
  4. Supplementary course material is slanted to sectarian organizations

Red State Rabble is in the process of learning more. Until then, take a look at the Texas Freedom Network report, and this one from People for the American Way, "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools."


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