Colorado School Board Slams NCBCPS Bible Curriculum

From the Steamboat Pilot:

In [a] momentous, unanimous decision…Monday night, the Steamboat Springs School Board voted against bringing an elective class titled “The Bible in History and Literature” to Steamboat Springs…

Board members made their decision on the Bible class at 11 p.m. and cited existing curriculum at the high school and respect for diversity as reasons for turning down the proposal brought forward by local parents Michelle Diehl and Roger Johnson.

…A district curriculum committee found that Bible instruction already is offered at the high school in geography, civics, American studies, world history and English courses, along with instruction about other religious documents and cultures.

…Part of the school district’s mission statement is to “respect diversity in all forms.”

“This (class) does not follow that objective,” said Tom Miller-Freutel, president of the School Board.

…”There are subtle feelings of religious intimidation that Jewish students feel in a Christian environment, especially in a small town like Steamboat,” said resident Jerry Kozatch, who said he spoke for himself and other members of the local Jewish community who did not wish to speak publicly.

It’s 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 Curriculum in Public Schools, is that it is junk – no scholar of any standing has had anything to do with its development, and Mark Chancey of Southern Methodist University has written a devastating report on its shortcomings. Not only does the NCBCPS curriculum contain wildly inaccurate facts about the Bible in the service of Biblical fundamentalism, but it also promotes a skewed and theocratic interpretation of American history penned by the pseudo-historian 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, Texas.

Meanwhile, an alternative curriculum which has been widely praised for its scholarly approach has recently been adopted in New Braunfels. The Houston Chronicle reports (link added):

Six of the seven New Braunfels Independent School District trustees voted in favor of the course, which has divided city residents and prompted heavy turnover at the Monday meeting where it was approved.

The class, to be offered to juniors and seniors, will be based on the textbook The Bible and its Influence, which examines the Bible’s impact on art, literature and popular culture.

UPDATE: A commentator brings to attention an article critical of this second curriculum, by Americans United. My thoughts on that are given in the comments.

3 Responses

  1. Bartholomew, I’ve noticed that you’ve mentioned the BLP before as an alternative to the NCBCPS, but I have to ask you, is it really that much better?

  2. Thanks for that link. There was an editorial in the Houston Chronicle a few weeks back (since deleted) that raised some of the same issues about the BLP – the author hoped a second edition would be better. The BLP is not perfect – and an endorsement from Colson is surely the touch of death – but whatever the church-state issues, it’s not junk in the same way the NCBCPS syllabus is.

  3. If they were going to teach children in high school about the Bible objectively (i.e. as a historical book), I would hope they would use a book like Tim Callahan’s The Secret Origins of the Bible. However, I doubt that would ever happen.

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