Longtime readers of this site are undoubtedly familiar with the main textbook publishers used in private fundamentalist Christian schools around the country, including Abeka, Bob Jones University Press, and Accelerated Christian Education. These are textbooks that begin from the perspective that the Bible is literally true and everything that challenges evangelical beliefs — including evolution, climate change, being an independent thinker, anything-but-abstinence-only sex education, etc. — must be pushed back against.
As damaging as those books are for the poor children who have to use them, private schools and homeschooling parents, for the most part, get to decide their own curriculums.
But HuffPost education reporter Rebecca Klein notes that many of the schools that use these textbooks aren’t private at all. They receive government funding — your taxpayer dollars — “in the form of state-level voucher or tax credit scholarships.” Using taxpayer money to fund private schools is something Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been advocating her entire career. And that also means our tax dollars are funding fundamentalist Christian “education” in schools that have little or no accountability.
It’s hard to pin down just how many government-funded schools are affected — or should I say infected — with these textbooks, but Klein and her team compiled a database of every private school in the country that receives taxpayer dollars and which textbooks they use. She doesn’t have answers for a lot of them, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t try.
Our list totaled nearly 8,000 schools across the 25 of 27 states that offer private school choice along with the District of Columbia. (Two states that do not allow religious schools to participate in private school choice programs were excluded from our analysis.)
Then we researched the religious affiliations of each school by scouring each school’s website. If a school did not maintain a website, we emailed school representatives and often followed up with a phone call.
… we found many of the non-Catholic Christian schools (32 percent) were using Abeka, Bob Jones or ACE textbooks in at least one subject or grade.
We found that Abeka was the most popular textbook source — used in about 27 percent of non-Catholic Christian schools — and Accelerated Christian Education was the least popular — used in about 5 percent of these schools.
These are underestimates, in other words, and it’s still a lot of schools.
So what do the students get out of all this? Mental anguish, for one thing.
Some say these curriculum sources left them woefully ill-equipped to thrive in a diverse society while instilling in them racist, sexist and intolerant views of the world.
[Ashley] Bishop said her fundamentalist education made her wary of people from other religious groups whom her teachers and textbooks had demonized.
“Anything that wasn’t Christianity was a strange religion,” said Bishop, who made it a priority to study other religious practices after high school and even spent time with the Hare Krishna. “But even other denominations were evil. Catholicism especially.”
They also get a distorted view of our nation’s history:
A Bob Jones high school world history textbook portrays Islam as a violent religion and contains a title “Islam and Murder.” In the same textbook, when describing the Catholic Reformation, Catholic leaders are described as failing “to see that the root of their problems was doctrinal error.”
An examination of ACE textbooks shows that its materials push strict ideas about gender roles and sexuality. Even now Bishop still sometimes finds herself shrinking in the presence of men, saying that it’s almost like “muscle memory.”
[Natasha] Balzak echoes these sentiments, saying that even her female teachers reinforced the idea that women are secondary to men. When describing the 1920s, a high school ACE textbook criticizes women for wearing short skirts and cutting their hair, calling it a violation of Scripture. Before the 1920s, when women were less likely to work outside the home, they “were comfortable to be discreet, chaste, keepers at house, good, obedient to their own husbands,” says the material.
The point isn’t that evangelicals are wrong about this — even though they’re wrong about this — but that government funding shouldn’t be going toward unregulated Christian indoctrination. Yet that’s what Betsy DeVos wants, and she has the weight of the Trump administration behind her.
Read the whole article. Look at the maps and the spreadsheets. See how widespread all of this is. And then ask yourself whether any of it would be acceptable if we were talking about any religion other than a conservative interpretation of Christianity. If Islamic private schools were as widespread as these Christian ones are, DeVos would be cutting off the funding immediately.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)