Odessa Chooses Junk Bible Curriculum

(amended – see comments)

Over a month ago, the Ector School Board in Odessa, Texas, was asked to choose a curriculum for an elective Bible class. The front-runners were the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS), endorsed by actor Chuck Norris and subject of a devastating critique by mainstream Biblical scholar Mark Chancey, and the Bible Literacy Project (BLP), which has been widely praised for its scholarly and non-partisan approach to studying the Bible. Unaccountably, it took the board weeks to make what should have been an obvious decision; but even more bizarrely, after all that time, the Board has decided on the NCBCPS option. The AP reports:

School board President Randy Rives said a petition earlier this year with more than 6,000 names sparked the decision to add a course on the Bible. He voted for the National Council curriculum because it uses the Bible as its textbook.

The distinction is misleading: both syllabi are based on the Bible – it’s just that the NCBCPS curriculum gets readers to look through a copy of the King James Version, while the BLP curriculum allows students to choose their own translation. Rives fails to acknowledge the root problem: that the NCBCPS curriculum has been shown to fall far short of basic scholarly standards, and exists to promote Biblical fundamentalism. Perhaps most worrying, part of the curriculum is written by David Barton, a theocratic pseudo-historian who has served in the Texas GOP. And why is there an obsession with the KJV? It’s certainly of great literary interest, but no other ancient text is seriously studied today on the basis of a translation made four hundred years ago.

But it looks like this is just the beginning:

“For those who don’t know how this story will end, the federal judge in the Dover case provided a preview,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, a religious rights watchdog that opposes the Odessa board’s decision.

An earlier report also noted:

David Newman, an OC [Odessa College] professor who’s been actively following the curriculum selection, has said publicly that he will sue the school board if it chooses the National Council’s curriculum. Newman said he believes the National Council’s curriculum brings too much of an opportunity for proselytizing.

Meanwhile, a bill that would put the far superior (albeit not perfect) BLP syllabus in schools is currently under consideration in Alabama. This is being opposed by the American Family Association, which claims the BLP is a Communist conspiracy to bring about a one-world religion.

(Tipped from The Revealer)

3 Responses

  1. Not quite right re: the Bible being contained in the BLP

    textbook. Here’s what they say on their website’s FAQ:
    “Q: Does your course provide students with a textbook about the Bible but prevent students from actually reading the Bible for themselves? Do you think that your textbook is better than the Bible?

    A: No. Our course requires students to use TWO books – our textbook and the Bible translation of their choice. Our textbook is designed to be read in conjunction with the Bible, so that after students read a particular Bible passage, they learn about the great works of literature and art that were inspired by that passage. No textbook can substitute for the Bible and we have never claimed that ours does. “

  2. […] David Barton. Unaccountably, the curriculum is in use in several hundred American schools, and just recently it was adopted by the Ector School Board in Odessa, […]

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