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Bible Syllabus War Update

The American Family Association is not happy about a bill in the state legislature which would allow a new high school elective course based on a textbook produced by the Bible Literacy Project (BLP):

“While we enthusiastically endorse the teaching of the Bible as part of a well-rounded education, this bill goes too far by attempting to force local school districts to use only one, untested textbook,” commented Stephen Crampton, Chief Counsel for the AFA Center for Law & Policy. “It usurps the authority of the State Board of Education, which is vested with exclusive authority to review and approve textbooks for use in the public schools of Alabama.”

Crampton may have a point in law, but given that the State Board of Education is clearly incompetent, one can understand why legislators are stepping in (link added):

Several Alabama schools already offer a course on the Bible using an established curriculum offered by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS) called “The Bible in History and Literature.” The NCBCPS curriculum is currently used in 317 school districts in 37 different states and enjoys wide support across the nation.

As has been noted on this blog before, the NCBCPS syllabus is junk. No serious scholars were involved in its production, and much of its material has been provided by cranks – the most sinister of whom is David Barton, a far-right pseudo-historian with a theocratic agenda. As if to underscore its vacuity, the NCBCPS even boasts about an endorsement from none other than…Chuck Norris. The syllabus was the subject of a devastating critique from Biblical scholar Mark Chancey; the NCBCPS was unable to offer any defence of its shoddy materials, and so instead confined itself to a hysterical personal attack on Chancey.

The Bible Literacy Project, in contrast, has been praised for its scholarly approach by a wide range of organisations, although not the AFA; the AFA’s affiliate Agape Press has instead run an article accusing the BLP of being a Communist conspiracy to bring about a one-world religion.

Meanwhile, Ector County in Odessa, Texas, is still debating which syllabus to adopt. A public meeting was held in November in which both the BLP and NCBCPS syllabi were discussed; we’re still waiting for the final decision to be announced.

And as it happens, Agape today provides further evidence that the Alabama State Board of Education has betrayed the children under its care:

[A] survey conducted by the Mobile Register and the University of South Alabama found that about 70 percent of the state’s residents believe creationism and intelligent design should be taught in public school science classes. Fewer than half of those polled said the theory of evolution should be taught in schools.

…The Alabama Board of Education recently voted to retain an insert for state biology textbooks that refers to evolution as a “controversial theory” on the origins of life.

UPDATE: Agape has now confirmed that Crampton is on the NCBCPS board.

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