Learning the Bible from Fundamentalists

Agape Press crows over the advance of Bible classes in American schools:

Much to the chagrin of groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and People for the American Way, Bible curriculum classes are being taught in more than a thousand public high schools across the United States.

Yes, nothing annoys the ACLU more than children knowing the content of the Bible!

…Some school districts are frightened off by the specter of lawsuits; nevertheless, Bible curriculum classes are now being taught in some 1,100 high schools in 300 school districts in 35 states across the nation — and this is going on during school hours, for credit, with the Bible as the textbook.

Quite right, too, what with it being a foundational piece of literature that still guides millions of people and all. But what’s this?:

That is because those 300 school districts are currently offering a course called “The Bible as History and Literature,” a course curriculum from the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS).

Now alarm bells start to go off:

…the cutting edge curriculum from NCBCPS has been endorsed by a number of illustrious, pro-family celebrities, including actors Chuck Norris and Dean Jones, and sports star Tony Dorsett, and the word has been spreading.

I didn’t know Chuck Norris was a Biblical scholar on the side. I wonder what his views are on Markan priority or the existence of the Q document?

But I’m being a bit unfair. The site for the NCBCPS also contains endorsements from a number of PhDs, although that list is not encouraging: the top place goes to a motivational speaker called Joel A Freeman; under him we find J Randall Price, “P.h.D. in Middle Eastern and Asian Studies”. Price is in fact a Christian Zionist fundamentalist most noted for an absurd book called The Coming Last Days Temple. In fact, all the PhDs listed with Bible-related qualifications actually relate to Biblical studies the way Ken Ham does to science: there’s Robert G Cornuke, a crank who spends his time looking for the lost Ark of the Covenant; Roy E Knuteson is an obscure figure associated with the fundamentalist Dallas Theological Seminary.

The advisory committee is also rather alarming and completely devoid of serious Biblical scholars: instead, we find conservative politicians and the likes of D. James Kennedy (plus Rabbi Daniel Lapin as token Jew). Particularly disturbing, but not surprising, is the presence of pseudo-historian David Barton; the course claims to teach schoolchildren about how the Bible was understood by the US Founding Fathers.

The site boasts that:

The Bible course curriculum has been voted into 292 school districts in 35 states. 92% of school boards that have been approached with this to date, have voted to implement it. It is not just in the Bible belt, but it has been voted into school districts from Alaska and California, straight across the board to Pennsylvania and Florida. 170,000 students have already taken our course.

An overview of the curriculum can be seen here. The “Other Resources” page includes a poster that promotes Young Earth Creationism.

The NCBCPS is run by Elizabeth Ridenour. According her site bio:

…Ridenour attended East Carolina University and later became a commercial real estate broker and a certified paralegal interested in students’ rights…Ridenour is a passionate communicator, who, with her team of lawyers and high-profile endorsers, has appeared on many radio and television broadcasts, including American Family Radio Network, KKLA’s Live In LA with Warren Duffy, Truths That Transform, Focus on the Family, USA Radio Network, Concerned Women Today, The 700 Club, and Dr. D. James Kennedy’s Sunday telecast…Ridenour is a member of the Council For National Policy, and she currently resides in Greensboro, NC.

Someone wanting a bookend for Of Pandas and People in a library memorializing religious fundamentalist attacks on US public education can buy the book and CD-ROM.

UPDATE: A full report on the NCBCPS by Biblical scholar Mark A Chancey can be seen here, and bit more is available from the website of People For the American Way (via GreeneSpace).

And for an alternative Bible curriculum, see the Bible Literacy Project, a far more serious effort which can boast the participation of some real scholars.

7 Responses

  1. […] its report on the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (which I had blogged on here, noting the complete absence of serious scholars in connection with the enterprise), as was […]

  2. […] have Intelligent Design imposed on school science classes continues unabated; a pseudo-scholarly Bible curriculum makes inroads into US classrooms; sex education is under siege from prononents of chastity […]

  3. […] NCBCPS syllabus, but since then the NCBCPS has come under heavy fire. At the time of the report, I noted the complete absence of serious Biblical scholars connected to the project and the presence of some […]

  4. […] has been noted on this blog before, the NCBCPS syllabus is junk. No serious scholars were involved in its production, and much of its […]

  5. […] a shame that the critique concentrates so much on feelings; as I have noted previously, the main problem with the this particular curriculum, authored by the National Council on Bible […]

  6. […] In Public Schools (NCBCPS), a fundamentalist project which, as I wrote about on this blog a while back, is completely devoid of serious scholarly input and which promotes the work of pseudo-scholars […]

  7. […] produced by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS) – see here for further […]

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