a bird and a bottle

Chisum is at it Again

Texas State Rep. Warren Chisum is at it again. Yes, that Warren Chisum. The one who wanted to pass a law banning the teaching of evolution in Texas schools. The one lambasted by the late great Molly Ivins in her Dildo Diaries video.

This time, the man who wants to fight for a Christian Texas is doing it pretty overtly. The LA Times reported yesterday that he has proposed a bill that would require all public high schools to offer an elective course on the Bible. The course would teach the “history and literature of the Old and New Testaments eras.”

There’s so much wrong with this bill it’s hard to figure out where to start. Here’s the obvious. In many many (many) places in Texas, a class that teaches the Bible will not be teaching it as literature, but rather as a holy document and the word of God. Though Chisum says that won’t be so (he said the course would not treat the Bible as a “worship document” but would promote religious and cultural literacy by “educating our students academically and not devotionally.”), I’m not quite so sure.

Think about it. Especially given the funding structure of the bill. Who would be the teachers?

The bill, which says the class is to be taught in “an objective and nondevotional manner,” does not provide funding or training for school districts and teachers. […]

“The fear is that teachers with limited training and no guidance will be called upon to teach a course for which their experience draws largely from Sunday school,” Miller said. “It would be difficult for them to keep their own religious perspective out of the classroom. You can almost hear the lawyers lining up.”

That fear is well-founded. There are already studies proving that religion has a tendency to creep in in situations like the one this bill would create:

A study conducted for her group by Mark Chancey, a religious studies professor at Southern Methodist University, found that of Texas’ 25 public school districts with a Bible course, 22 districts’ offerings had a Christian slant.

“When teachers don’t have solid training in biblical studies and 1st Amendment issues, then they fall back on what they know from prior knowledge,” Chancey told state legislators last week. “Courses end up being sectarian, often despite their best intentions.”

He said one teacher showed students a PowerPoint presentation titled “God’s Road Map for Your Life.” Included was a slide called “Jesus Christ Is the One and Only Way.” Another teacher taught students that NASA had found a missing day and time that corresponded to a biblical story of the sun standing still. One school showed “VeggieTales” videos, which feature computer-animated Christian vegetables that talk.

That’s right, folks. Talking Christian vegetables. Of course, the bill also raises serious First Amendment concerns. While Chisum promises that it will not teach religious doctrine (and I am all for teaching the Bible as Literature), it’s hard to see how the bill would not require state funding for religious (as opposed to literary) education. Especially given the empirical studies quoted above.

And it’s not hard to see that that’s exactly the situation Chisum wants:

Chisum’s legislation says the Bible would be the primary textbook for the class. It allows but doesn’t require the classes to include secular books or those from other religions.

Seems to me that teaching the Bible as history and literature, you might want to bring in, oh, i don’t know, a history text. Or perhaps novels or memoirs that illustrate how authors have used or criticized the bible in their writing.

There are other problems with the bill, including the fact that in many Texas schools there isn’t even funding for music education or gym. Is Bible studies the thing that should get the precious few education dollars?

Warren Chisum would say yes. Because to him, religious ideology trumps all. As I said in my post the other day about states turning down abstinence-only funding, to guys like Chisum, school is for preaching, not for teaching.

(also at LG&M)


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Talking Christian vegetables, indeed. How apt. My preference: A course in comparative religion. For the most parochial, provincial, and insular nation on the planet, the one that likes to poke indiscriminately into every corner of the world for military and economic self-aggrandizement (and inevitably screws up in ignorance), why not teach the next generation about other cultures, belief systems, and peoples. A Bible-only course will merely reinforce American geo-centrism and perpetuate a belief system that results in mediocrity and incompetance.

Comment by Swampcracker

well said swampcracker. if chisum is so sure talking christian veggies are the way to salvation then he should certainly be willing to hand over a little time to the personified produce of other belief systems.

and maybe while they’re doing religion and foods, they could even slip a little geography in there. most high school students have trouble finding other states, let alone locating iran.

Comment by maxwell

Thanks, Maxwell. There is a saying apropos of your comment: “America learns geography only by going to war.”

Comment by Swampcracker

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