Praise Jesus (in Public Schools)

July 22, 2008 | Blog

As reported in the Houston Chronicle, the Texas State Legislature passed and the Texas State Board of Education approved an elective high school Bible course with no standards because they might be “too difficult to write”. Critics say the law is headed for the courts.

“I predict we’re headed for a constitutional train wreck,” said Mark Chancey, chairman of the religious studies department at Southern Methodist University. “The people who suffer will be the educators and the students, and the people who will foot the bill will be us the taxpayers.”

Public school Bible classes can be wonderfully enriching, he said, but teachers need resources and specific guidelines.

“Instead, the state board of education is sending them into a minefield without a map,” Chancey said.

Here‘s what the Austin American-Statesman had to say.

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Moving east …. Not to be outdone, last month the Louisiana State Legislature and Governor Bobby Jindal approved a law that suggests that evolution is open to debate. It encourages students to “analyze,” “critique,” and “review” scientific topics including evolution and global warming and instructs the State Board of Education to “allow and assist” (aid and abet?) teachers who want to question such science through “supplemental materials”. The bill was supported by the pro-intelligent design Discovery Institute.

The New York Times editorialized about this law last month.

The new bill doesn’t mention either creationism or its close cousin, intelligent design. It explicitly disavows any intent to promote a religious doctrine. It doesn’t try to ban Darwin from the classroom or order schools to do anything. It simply requires the state board of education, if asked by local school districts, to help create an environment that promotes “critical thinking” and “objective discussion” about not only evolution and the origins of life but also about global warming and human cloning, two other bêtes noires of the right. Teachers would be required to teach the standard textbook but could use supplementary materials to critique it.

That may seem harmless. But it would have the pernicious effect of implying that evolution is only weakly supported and that there are valid competing scientific theories when there are not. In school districts foolish enough to head down this path, the students will likely emerge with a shakier understanding of science.

Ed Week’s Curriculum Matters blog provides additional background.

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I’m not sure what’s worse, unstructured Bible classes funded by taxpayer dollars or a clever approach to undermining scientific principles in the classroom. What a choice.

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