66 books and all that: Texas schools teaching ‘memorable’ Bible lessons

The separation of church and state is necessary to protect the state and to protect the church. The “Bible” classes in Texas public schools seem to be doing grave harm to both.

And it’s not doing Texas students any favors either.

What’s being taught in these Bible classes has about as much to do with the actual Bible as 1066 and All That has to do with actual history.

I mean that precisely.

The comic conceit of Sellar and Yeatman’s classic garbling of “memorable” British history is that it’s not a history book, but rather an anthology of what people who weren’t really paying attention in school might incorrectly half-remember from history class. It’s full of mistakes, misapprehensions and mondegreens — not history itself, but what people who know a very little bit about history assume or guess might be true. It’s history dimly recalled and then embellished and rewritten by people trying to bluff their way into appearing to be experts.

That’s exactly the sort of thing they’re teaching in Texas schools about the Bible.

Quite possibly because that’s also the sort of thing they’re teaching in Texas churches about the Bible.

Adam Laats has some examples:

In the Dalhart Independent School District, for example, one student information sheet included the following information: “Since God is perfect and infallible, an inspired book is absolutely infallible and errorless in its facts and doctrines as presented in the original manuscript” (pg. 28).

In the Bible courses of Lazbuddie, Texas, students will read the following: “We should have an understanding of what happened in Noah’s day if we are to know when the coming of our Lord is near. What are the similarities between the days of Noah and the days preceding the coming of Jesus Christ (Matthew 24:37-39)?” (pg. 32).

In Dayton schools, students watch the Left Behind movie, fundamentalist author Tim LaHaye’s dramatization of the rapture and final days (pg. 19).

Yes, Left Behind as textbook.

* * * * * * * * *

• A post at Patrol carries the headline “Charles Taylor and the Politics of Secularism.” I read that and thought that Charles Taylor’s rule in Liberia makes a very good case for keeping politics secular. But it turns out the post is about a different Charles Taylor.

• Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., doesn’t seem to like the term “atheist,” but she’s “religiously unaffiliated.” She was sworn into office not on a Bible, but on a copy of the Constitution.

It shows how dismally un-Baptist we Baptists have become that this isn’t the standard practice for all of the many Baptist members of Congress. (Particularly since, as James McGrath recently noted, swearing on a Bible means taking an oath on a book that forbids oath-taking.)

• Jackson County (Ky.) Sheriff Denny Peyman says interpretation is for the wicked:

“If you take out part — it’s kind of like the Bible — either you believe it or you don’t believe it,” he insisted. “The Constitution, either you believe it or you don’t. Either you live by it or you don’t.”

Peyman assumes that anybody who doesn’t understand the Constitution or the Bible exactly as he does cannot be interpreting it differently — because he “believes” that neither needs to be interpreted. So anyone who disagrees with him about the Constitution or the Bible must not “believe” in them.

This is why Denny Peyman should not be trusted to read the Constitution, or the Bible. Or even a phone book.

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  • Lori

    Yes, Left Behind as textbook.  

    Is it better or worse that it’s actually the movie adaptation of Left Behind as textbook? On one hand, as we discussed the movie is actually better than the book. On the other hand a school actually assigning a movie instead of the book on which it’s based seems, let’s just say, pedagogically suspect. 

    For those interested in the horror that is the Christianist domination of the Texas public education system, PBS is airing the documentary The Revisionaries on Independent Lens this week. It’s about the crap that Texas is doing to school textbooks. (Spoiler alert: if your child’s school uses textbooks approved by the Texas board you might want to think long & hard about making other educational arrangements or becoming That Parent who hecters the local school board until shit changes.)

    Website for the film:




    If a shiver doesn’t go up your spine at the last words in that trailer (Sure they were. We don’t know.) you haven’t been paying attention to what’s been going on in this country for the last few decades.

  • hidden_urchin

    I give up. My state isn’t worth saving. I hope the FEMA black helicopters come soon and put us all out of our misery.


  • Carstonio

    In fairness to Sinema, “atheist” and “religiously unaffiliated” are indeed two separate things. An atheist could still have a religious affiliation, such as Unitarian Universalism, and an unaffiliated person could believe in the existence of one or more gods. In practice, most people in the former category probably also belong in the second one. I don’t know if the reverse is true – perhaps many in the second category don’t even thing about religion or the question of whether gods exist.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah, when I hear ‘religiously unaffiliated’ I think ‘apathetic agnostic’…but I sent money to Sinema during her campaign because she advertised herself as a bisexual atheist. I don’t know if I’d have done it if she’d said only one or the other, and probably I would have, but she did say atheist until she won.

  • And still, a person who understands that secular is secular and religious is religious, and does so by swearing on the Constitution, and presumably with no “so help me God” is a pretty good first step to breaking the Christian-majority stranglehold on US politics.


    On the other hand a school actually assigning a movie instead of the
    book on which it’s based seems, let’s just say, pedagogically suspect.

    The book is so dull and ponderous that it’s probably ineffective as a brainwashing tool. Most kids would be able to breeze through it without retaining any of its content (well, “content” is a little inappropriate here).

    If your goal is to deceive and manipulate, then the significantly more vivid, engaging, and memorable movie is a better bet.

  • Sthall57

    @hidden_urchin:  I’m from Alabama; I understand what you mean. 

  • I remember what Altemeyer said about authoritarians who are raised in heavily religious communities (there is a lot of overlap between those two groups.)  In the case of Christians, most of the heavily authoritarians will assert the authority of the Bible, but most have never read the whole thing, reading only certain excepts, particularly if those excepts are selected by some authority figure that they trust.  

    I guess that is one way of insuring that one’s own interpretation of the Bible is shared by one’s adherents; it is hard to argue alternative interpretations when the other party lacks the context to see those excepts in any other light but the one you shine on them.  

    And now they are trying to do that to their students.  Disgraceful.

  • I just hate it when I agree with Fred. But believe me, I’ve seen the wall breached from the other side, too. 
    For instance, our local biology teachers made a pre-emptive strike on creationist students by showing a spectrum from flat-earth at one end to atheistic materialism at the other end, with creationism falling right next to flat earth – the message being, “you can be a biologist and religious, too, if you’ll just adopt the reasonable religion we’re tacitly commending to you.” There were other printed materials to the same effect: “give up your odd religion and adopt a reasonable one like even some of us profess.”That, too, is offensive, but of course it’s a different ox being gored. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    The difference here?

    Young-earth creationists (specificity necessary because people who believe evolution is the means of creation exist and might be right) are FLAT-OUT FUCKING WRONG AND TRYING TO FUCK OVER MY COUNTRY BY IMPOSING THEIR BELIEFS ON THE REST OF US.

  • At least the 1066 book presented itself as whimsical.

  • P J Evans

     I’ve read excerpts; it can be very funny.

  • Lori


    but of course it’s a different ox being gored.    

    “Reality” =/= “a different ox being gored”. Being a YEC and being a competent biologist really are not compatible things.

  • Lori

    If your goal is to deceive and manipulate, then the significantly more vivid, engaging, and memorable movie is a better bet.  

    Yeah, you’re right. Assigning the movie is worse.

    There is something worse than using LB as a textbook, and “educators” in Texas have managed to find it. The first part nearly beggars the imagination and the second is just, “Of course.”

  • Ken

    I was trying to come up with a “look on the bright side” remark, but can’t.

  • Water_Bear

    The problem is, that’s really the most reasonable thing you can say to these people. There are quite a few religious biologists, many* of them good scientists. There are no good creationist biologists.

    If you want to understand biology, you cannot believe that the Earth was created in six days six thousand years ago. If you want to understand geology, you cannot believe that it’s a flat plane surrounded by a dragon perched on a tree growing out of a dead giant. And if you want to understand cosmology, you cannot believe that L Ron Hubbard got messages from Martian Bishops hundreds of billions of years ago**.

    That’s not prejudice, it’s a fact.

    *Not a slight, I just don’t have any numbers either way.
    **Forgot the real number, but it was way more than 4.5 billion, by like an order of magnitude.

  • MikeJ

     Being a YEC and believing in cause and effect are not compatible.  When you start by ignoring the entire world around you, you can’t actually be a scientist.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Assigning a movie instead of a book can work 1) If the movie is book accurate and 2) If it’s not done often, just as a change of pace.

    My AP English teacher did it with a couple of our assignments, and it made for a nice break-up of the “read book, fill out question workbook, take test” routine. And it allowed for more on the spot discussion, since the actual viewing of the material was taking place in  the classroom.

    But for Left Behind? Ugh. 

  • We had fun loling at Lord of the Flies in English class. The 1990 movie was a rather… shall we say, less than stellar adaptation.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Not even comparable. Creationism has been disproven. All of the “evidence” for it is scraps of real science or just plain made up BS sought out to prove an already accepted end point. 

    A teacher’s job is to teach. It’s to enlighten students to facts. So good on that biology teacher for pointing out to her kids that they’re going to encounter false crap under the name of science. She’s not attacking people who choose to willfully deny science, she’s doing her freaking job. 

  • Hexep

    Is that the one where they’re all in military school?

  • stardreamer42

     What “reasonable religion” would that be? I don’t see any recommendation mentioned in your comment.

  • Nobody here is pushing the “teach the controversy” agenda, so I don’t know why you’re griping at us because someone somewhere is actually doing a proper job of it.

  • Yeah, and even though they are not supposed to even be able to know what time it is…

    you can spot characters wearing their watches. :P

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    My AP English teacher did it with a couple of our assignments, and it made for a nice break-up of the “read book, fill out question workbook, take test” routine.

    Wait. I learned the other day that “AP” means you can get college credit for the course done at high school–so it’s supposed to be university level. “Fill out question workbook” is the standard method of teaching for advanced classes?

    You guys are making me really, really sad.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Is that the one where they’re American?

  • Yep. It really kind of sucks :P

  • Baby_Raptor

    I graduated in Texas, so take that for what it’s worth. I also graduated in the last class before the No Child Left Behind requirements were implemented. But, yeah. It was “read book, fill out workbook, take test.” And then at the end of the year, we had the last 9 week period to choose one of the books that we’d studied over the year and write a paper about it. I chose Of Mice and Men. 

  • she did say atheist until she won.

    In her defense, this sounds like the exact opposite of opportunistic. 

  • Teaching the Bible as inerrant and straight from God leaves out pretty much all history of the early church. The politicking and horse trading that went into determining which books became canonical is IMO just about the most interesting period of Christian history.

  • P J Evans

     It’s going to result in them being confused when they get out of Texas (or even into a big city in Texas) and discover that there are lots of different versions of the Bible, none of which were ever mentioned in school.

  • Lori

    Minor point—AP doesn’t always get you college credit. Sometimes you just get to skip required classes because you already know the material. That’s still a very good deal since it leaves you free to use the time, money & credits for more advanced classes.

    Also, weaksauce AP classes are obviously bad, but you don’t get the advanced placement, let alone full course credit for just taking the class. You have to pass the exam* and those are standardized so it’s not like Texas or wherever gets to dumb down their exams to match their poor teaching methods. IIUC what they can do is set fairly low standards at  state colleges, giving credit or placement for lower scores. They can’t make private colleges or schools in other states lower their standards though.

    *AP classes are not a prerequisite for taking the exams. Anyone can take them (for a fee, of course) and your score isn’t effected by not having taken the class. So, if you can do some sort of independent study or take classes through the local community college or something and learn the material well enough to score high enough on the exam you’re set, even if your school doesn’t offer AP classes.

  • Münchner Kindl

     Not only is creationism or flat-earth wrong for scientists. Taking parts of the Bible literally that aren’t meant literally but metaphorically is also bad theology.

    It doesn’t come from taking the Bible seriously and studying it (context, languages, history of commentary), but rather believing in authority: a specific pastor or worse radio talker.

    Fred has often written on how terrible it is to tie faith in God/ Jesus with creationism, because it only serves to give power to those in authority, and endangers faith when people do find out that creationism is wrong, leading them to believe wrongly that two completly unrelated concepts are intertwined when they aren’t. So people either lose faith or lose science and start denial when seeing reality; and neither is a service to the soul of people, as religion is. Because it’s power and not religion that is being served and taught.

    Freeing people – students- from those misconceptions and twisted theology is what teachers should do.

  • Foreigner

    “an inspired book is absolutely infallible and errorless in its facts and doctrines as presented in the original manuscript”

    Wait, they have an original ms. of the Bible in Texas? I think we’d all like to see that.

  • Wednesday

     Flat-earth and creationism (especially YEC) are pretty damn close to each other in terms of denying reality.  The only difference is that for some reason one is recognized as  complete bollocs and the other is used as a condition of in-group membership.

    Pro tip: if a religious belief is in direct conflict with a century of empirical evidence and experimentation, the fault is not with the scientists.  Especially if the religion has modified its doctrine to be in direct contradiction with that evidence over the past century.

    Modern creationism (with its claim of being a “literal” reading of Genesis’s two contradictory creation myths) is actually very different from pre-Darwin-creationism, coming from allegedly-prophetic dreams of a 7th Day Adventist mystic near the turn of the last century. Who was a woman, BTW.

  • Tricksterson

    One would think that she would have done the reverse, especially in Arizona, cloak her atheism (yes atheists are like Romulan Warbirds) until elected.

  • Tricksterson

    I thought there was an open atheist in the House.  Or did they get ousted?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Pete Stark lost, yes.

  • Tricksterson

    Disqus : NOMNOMNOM!

  • OrcHard

    Al Abama, huh? Sounds awfully *muslim* to me.


  • Mark Z.

    Wait, they have an original ms. of the Bible in Texas? I think we’d all like to see that.

    Is it written on golden plates?

  •  He probably subscribed to this blog for the LB reviews, like I did.

  • P J Evans

     But not because he’s an atheist.

  • reynard61

    “Yes, Left Behind as textbook.”

    Why not? And while they’re at it, they should add 1984, The Prince, The Art of War and Mein Kampf to their “How can we best teach our kids to toe the Tribal line and oppress The Other?” curriculum.

    Texas: The Short Bus of American education.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Doesn’t matter why he lost. With him out and Sinema not identifying atheist, Congress is again known-atheist-free.

  • Water_Bear

    To be fair, everyone should read The Prince. It’s a masterful piece of satire which also teaches exactly the lesson you need to hear; an aspiring leader dickhead gets time-tested tips to control their fellow man, the proto-rebel gets fired up and learns the tricks they’ll be up against, and the average joe gets a little culture and a nice dose of self-awareness.

  •  I would say that all those books are worthy of study, in no small part so you can recognize when somebody is trying to use their tactics on you.

  • It’s called the King James Version and is available at all fine book sellers.

  • Also, free. (^_^)

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Yes, Left Behind as textbook.

    Slack, it’s already the 67th-88th book of the Bible (as well as History Written in Advance), so why should this surprise you?