Oklahoma Senate Says: ‘Sue Our Schools!’

Well, that’s not really what the Oklahoma Senate said, but it might as well have. On Thursday the chamber passed a bill that would allow elective courses about the Bible in the state’s public schools. But Oklahoma senators did something really, really foolish: the bill mandates that course materials come from the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools.

We know a lot about that curriculum — and it’s not good.

Federal courts have long made it clear that public schools may teach courses about the influence of the Bible in history and literature — so long as the classes are academic, not devotional, in nature. But the Oklahoma Senate’s bill is an open invitation to Trouble.

A Texas Freedom Network Education Fund report in 2005 revealed that the National Council’s absurdly amateurish curriculum — unfortunately, one of the most widely used in the country — was riddled with factual errors and plagiarized passages from various Web sites. (Among the absurdities was one lesson telling students that NASA has evidence of days lost in time — an urban legend NASA had debunked on its Web site. Curriculum writers also identified as an “expert” someone who at one time claimed to have discovered the lost continent of Atlantis and evidence that the Egyptian pyramids were used in antiquity to send radio signals to the Grand Canyon.)

But the study’s author, Mark Chancey, a religious studies professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, also found that the National Council’s curriculum promotes an almost exclusively fundamentalist Protestant interpretation of the Bible. The perspectives of Roman Catholics, mainline Protestants, Jews and others were often ignored or disparaged.

The curriculum was so bad that the Ector County Independent School District in Odessa (Texas) was sued for adopting it in 2006. To settle the lawsuit, district officials later agreed to use a different curriculum. But the Oklahoma Senate now wants to replicate Ector County ISD’s mistake in public schools across the entire Sooner state.

When the Texas Legislature considered a similar bill in 2007, the proposed legislation didn’t require schools to use the National Council’s curriculum — but it was written in such a way as to make it likely that the curriculum would be widely adopted. The Texas Freedom Network worked with lawmakers to change that. Among the safeguards for religious freedom we succeeded in adding to the bill were standards for teacher qualifications, a requirement for curriculum standards (a requirement  arrogantly ignored by the State Board of Education) and provisions against using the class to promote any particular religious perspective over all others.

By requiring adoption of the National Council’s curriculum, however, the Oklahoma bill would turn public schools into Sunday schools across that state. And that would almost certainly lead to expensive lawsuits filed by parents and other taxpayers who think public schools have no business deciding whose religious beliefs to teach in their children’s classrooms.

The bill now moves to the Oklahoma House.

We are proud to note that one of the four Oklahoma senators who voted against the bill on Thursday was Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City. Andrew was a Texas Freedom Network staff member in 2002.

This article was posted in these categories: Bible in schools, education, religious right. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Post a Comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


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9 Comments

  1. pat schreer
    Posted March 12, 2010 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    How ignorant can the Oaklahoma senators be to let the foxes teach courses to the chickens?

  2. Charles
    Posted March 6, 2010 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, but it only takes one finger to barf. Using two is an unnecessary expenditure of adaptive energy.

  3. trog69
    Posted March 6, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Ben, he had some pretty stiff competition, but he deserved this win. And on top of the voters determining that he needed a break from all those bratty kids, it’s win-win all around!

  4. Ben
    Posted March 6, 2010 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Congrats to Don McLeroy for winning the UpChuckie award!

    http://ncse.com/news/2010/03/announcing-first-annual-upchucky-award-005358

  5. Ben
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    Wow. That is amazingly despicable.

  6. trog69
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Charles, that is on a whole separate tier of ignorantly racist. I’m no prig, and I’ve got a whole bagful of ethnic humor jokes I’ve told through the years, but that email is “I don’t care who you are; That’s ignorant racist BS right there.” I’ll be surprised if he isn’t let go somehow.

  7. Charles
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    By the way, have you folks seen this? It is my understanding that this item is setting the blogosphere on fire worldwide today. It is unbelievable!!!! This proves to me that racism is alive and well in the United States, despite what the Religious Right and assorted neoconservatives would have us believe—just plain unbelievable:

    http://blogs.nashvillescene.com/pitw/2010/03/nothing_funny_about_this_monke.php

  8. Charles
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Do they also require use of the Authorized King James Bible. A lot of Christian fundamentalists believe it is the only version of the Bible that is acceptable to God because the 17th century editors wrote “Authorized” on the title page, as if that extra editorial message came directly from, as Monty Python would say, “…God himself.” They would say, “Well, it’s in the Bible isn’t it.” Yeah. Don’t be stupid.

    But you know something. I have another thought here. From a wider Christian perspective, the words of the Bible are infused with holy power in and of themselves—completely apart from a particular theological ax that some Christian fundamentalist teacher would like to grind on her students. All really good literature is sort of like that in some small way. It meets you where you are, and it has the power to carry you to places—places you might never have imagined. The affair should really be between the student and the book. If the student hasparticular questions of a sectarian nature, they should discuss it with their parents at home or call a local reverend, who I am sure would be more than happy to sit down with them and answer questions.

    TFN said:

    “A Texas Freedom Network Education Fund report in 2005 revealed that the National Council’s absurdly amateurish curriculum — unfortunately, one of the most widely used in the country — was riddled with factual errors and plagiarized passages from various Web sites. (Among the absurdities was one lesson telling students that NASA has evidence of days lost in time — an urban legend NASA had debunked on its Web site. Curriculum writers also identified as an “expert” someone who at one time claimed to have discovered the lost continent of Atlantis and evidence that the Egyptian pyramids were used in antiquity to send radio signals to the Grand Canyon.)

    I say:

  9. James F
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    You know, it is kind of refreshing that the Oklahoma Senate decided to go balls-to-the-wall against church-state separation, with none of this wishy-wishy “intelligent design” or “strengths and weaknesses” stuff.

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