Evangelical Christian Textbooks, Indoctrination and Non-Learning

Gwen Sharp at Sociological Images recently published this post about evangelical Christian textbooks:

A Close Look at Some Evangelical Textbooks

An excerpt from Gwen’s post:

  • Humans and dinosaurs co-existed.
  • God designed “checks and balances” to prevent environmental crises, so chill! After all, “Roses are red, violets are blue; they both grow better with more CO2.”
  • “Rumors” of foreclosures, high unemployment, homelessness, and general misery during the Great Depression are just socialist propaganda.
  • Unions just want to destroy the accomplishments of “hardworking Americans.”
  • Mormons, Unitarians, and Catholics = bad.
  • And then there’s the history of racial/ethnic relations: “God used the ‘Trail of Tears’ to bring many Indians to Christ” and “Through the Negro spiritual, slaves developed patience to wait on the Lord and discovered that the truest freedom is freedom from the bondage of sin.” No, seriously — I didn’t make those up.

The books were published by Bob Jones and A Beka, two giants of the Christian homeschooling circuit. My mother chose the less regimented Sonlight Curriculum for me, to which I owe a relative absence of childhood brainwashing. Bob Jones and A Beka are indoctrination mills; nothing more, nothing less. What’s worse is that the Christian homeschooling movement allows them to outsource the indoctrination to parents, making it that much harder to figure out whether children are being educated or force-fed party lines from the Religious Right.

Evangelical women should take heed: that last, incredibly offensive passage downplaying the evil of slavery sounds just like the message the Christian Patriarchy Movement pushes on its wives and daughters: Smile (happiness is the only acceptable emotion!), praise the Lord, practice J.O.Y., and remember that “worldly” women whose husbands don’t boss them around aren’t nearly as free as you are, because you are free from sin

Not to mention the incredible failures of political science:

“Unions have always been plagued by socialists and anarchists who use laborers to destroy the free-enterprise system that hard-working Americans have created.”

Here are just a few reasons why this passage is not education:

  1. “Always” is never appropriate in a historical discussion. You must discuss the circumstances that gave rise to labor unions, what they were intended to do, who supported or opposed them and why, and discuss concrete examples of changes labor unions made to the economy and work conditions.
  2. Failure to discuss the logic of socialism and anarchism. Why would anyone join a movement based on destroying something without having a better idea of how it could work?
  3. Opposing “laborers” to “hard-working Americans,” which is pretty much like opposing “the sun” to “the star closest to Earth.”
  4. Failure to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of capitalism, which means the kids aren’t even learning rational ways to defend it, just knee-jerk reactions to a perceived threat.
  5. Accusing unions (collective associations of laborers) of “using” laborers like tools. Is it really exploitation when you use yourself?
  6. What exactly does “free enterprise” mean and how do labor unions oppose it? People debate questions like this at the university level, so I’m pretty sure you can’t take for granted that a homeschooled kid already has a working definition.

Sure, some of these problems could be addressed elsewhere in the textbook, but given the tenor of that passage, I really frickin’ doubt it.

See also 11 Eye-Opening Highlights from a Creationist Science Textbook:

Here’s a teaser from a Bob Jones textbook (Science 4 for Christian Schools):

They get points for trying to explain things using erosion. But let’s stop and ponder something for a moment: where did all that water go? Rene Descartes had some theories a little while ago, but people called him an atheist.

By the way, y’all, here’s a fun fact:
The idea that geological stratification (particularly the sinking of fossils due to specific gravity into different layers of rock) resulted from Noah’s Flood was shot down in the 1690s due to glaring logical inconsistencies. Among them was the fact that fossils were often heavier in the top layers than the bottom ones. Who did the downshooting? Good Christian Men who also liked to do experiments and think about things.

I’m not opposed to belief in Creation – way back, before evolution got rolling. That version of Creationism at least makes sense to me. I am opposed, however, to trying to revive the Flood to explain American geology. Really, guys, that one’s so old we should be finding it wrapped in amber along with a random fig leaf.

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