This 2012-2013 school year, thanks to a bill pushed through by governor Bobby Jindal, thousands of students in Louisiana will receive state voucher money, transferred from public school funding, to attend private religious schools, some of which teach from a Christian curriculum that suggests the Loch Ness Monster disproves evolution and states that the alleged creature, which has never been demonstrated to even exist, has been tracked by submarine and is probably a plesiosaur. The curriculum also claims that a Japanese fishing boat caught a dinosaur.
On the list of schools approved to receive funding through the new voucher funding, that critics warn could eventually cut public school funding in half, are schools that teach from the Christian fundamentalist A Beka Book, Bob Jones University Press, and Accelerated Christian Education curriculum.
What's in that curriculum? Last year, researcher Rachel Tabachnick and I co-produced a 35-minute documentary on the spread of a similar voucher program in Pennsylvania and other US states, titled "School Choice: Taxpayer-Funded Creationism, Bigotry, and Bias". Embedded at the end of this post is an eight-minute video segment from that documentary with scans from material in currently used A Beka Book and Bob Jones University Press texts (in this May 25, 2011 story Tabachnick provides quotes from those textbooks.)
One of the schools cleared to receive substantial new funding through LA governor Bobby Jindal's voucher program is Eternity Christian Academy, in Westlake, LA, which according to Independent Weekly writer Walter Pierce,
...has been approved to accept 135 new students. That's a considerable uptick in enrollment, which at the end of this school year stood at 38 -- a more than 300 percent increase. Talk about buttressing the budget; $1 million in tax dollars will be diverted from the public school system to Eternity Christian, a school that, according to its mission statement, offers "a quality faith-based curriculum that is soley [sic] based on principles from the Bible ...
According to the Eternity Christian Academy website, the school uses the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum. So, what's in the ACE curriculum?
An August 29, 2009 story in the Times Educational Supplement, a British publication for teachers, provides an excerpt from an Accelerated Christian Education science textbook:
Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence.
Have you heard of the `Loch Ness Monster' in Scotland? `Nessie,' for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.
Could a fish have developed into a dinosaur? As astonishing as it may seem, many evolutionists theorize that fish evolved into amphibians and amphibians into reptiles. This gradual change from fish to reptiles has no scientific basis. No transitional fossils have been or ever will be discovered because God created each type of fish, amphibian, and reptile as separate, unique animals. Any similarities that exist among them are due to the fact that one Master Craftsmen fashioned them all."
Extract from Biology 1099, Accelerated Christian Education Inc. (1995)
Is the text still in use today? The answer is yes, according to U.K. critic Jonny Scaramanga, who was raised on the ACE curriculum and now runs a blog titled "Leaving Fundamentalism: Examining Christian Fundamentalism in The UK".
In a popular post titled Top 5 Lies Taught By Accelerated Christian Education, Scaramanga states, "I called ACE [Accelerated Christian Education] on May 3rd, 2012, and was told that all of these PACEs are still in print and the content has not changed. These lies are still being taught in over fifty British schools today."
In the post, Scaramanga provides more detail on what ACE's curriculum Science PACE 1099 has to say about the Loch Ness Monster:
Some scientists speculate that Noah took small or baby dinosaurs on the Ark.... are dinosaurs still alive today? With some recent photographs and testimonies of those who claimed to have seen one, scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence...
Among the other claims taught in ACE science curriculum, according to Scaramanga, are the following (the last three ACE curriculum claims are detailed in a subsequent post by Scaramanga titled, 5 Even Worse Lies from Accelerated Christian Education),
- Science Proves Homosexuality is a Learned Behavior
- The Second Law of Thermodynamics Disproves Evolution
- No Transitional Fossils Exist
- Humans and Dinosaurs Co-Existed
- Evolution Has Been Disproved
- A Japanese Whaling Boat Found a Dinosaur
- Solar Fusion is a Myth
One of the latest posts on Scaramanga's blog is a testimony from a professed "survivor" of the ACE curriculum who says he nonetheless went on to become a synthetic biologist and worked on the Human Genome Project, and writes,
Everything about ACE is inimical to responsible education. It serves no purpose except to brainwash children and give parents the feeling that their children are being placed on the way to godliness. It is a travesty of schooling. Any teacher with any dignity or integrity would not put children anywhere near ACE.
Scaramanga's broader critique of ACE takes on the curriculum's primitive teaching methods, and its racial and cultural insensitivity:
Learning and assessment methodologies
...ACE tests almost exclusively consist of multiple choice, matching, or fill-in-the-blank questions. These means only test factual recall, not understanding. Even if the students are trying to take a deep learning approach, they are not given the opportunity...
ACE prescribes a system of rewards and punishments for students.4 Those who achieve academic and behavioural goals are awarded privileges such as extended break times and the freedom to move without permission. All the rewards offered are forms of extrinsic motivation, emphasising that learning itself is not the thing of value.
ACE assessments do not provide evidence that deep learning has taken place. Options on the multiple choice tests are frequently meaningless, such as "Jesus died on the (cross, toss, chrome)".5
ACE rejects virtually all modern educational theory.7
The ACE curriculum includes no practical science and accordingly no investigation. This would be troublesome for any ACE student embarking on a science higher education course.
"The PACEs are based on the reading comprehension mode of learning... There is no room within this method of learning for the negotiation of topics, for whole class problem solving, for the generation of ideas, for the formulating and testing of hypotheses, discussion of results and social application."10
...Rather than weighing evidence objectively, the ACE system rejects any science that contradicts the Bible, stating:
"True science will never contradict the Bible because God created both the universe and Scripture...If a scientific theory contradicts the Bible, then the theory is wrong and must be discarded."11
The ACE curriculum shows insensitivity towards blacks, Jews, and natives.16 Cartoon strips used for the teaching of "Godly character" in the PACEs depict students attending racially segregated schools.17 ACE materials about Aborigines are unacceptable to the Aboriginal people.18 ACE's stance on apartheid is also of concern. During apartheid, ACE claimed that if blacks were given the vote, it would destroy the South African economy.19 Subsequently, they have written about apartheid in terms that are equivocal at best:
"For many years, the four racial groups were separated politically and socially by law. This policy of racial separation is called `apartheid'. South Africa's apartheid policy encouraged whites, Blacks, Coloureds, and Asians to develop their own independent ways of life. Separate living area and schools made it possible for each group to maintain and pass on their culture and heritage to their children."
ACE materials do not allow the consideration of any opposing point of view. This fails to develop skills required for degree-level study such as forming an argument, considering different opinions, and analysing the validity of claims. Rather than engaging with differing points of view, ACE derides them.21 ACE's approach to politics borders on propaganda, with opinions presented as fact.22"
Like the ACE curriculum, A Beka and Bob Jones textbooks promote Young-Earth creationism, are heavily laden with political bias, and at times verge on racism. As shown in the following video, among the dubious, factually incorrect, politically tendentious, and racially and culturally insensitive claims in A Beka Book and Bob Jones University Press textbooks are the following:
- Only ten percent of Africans can read or write, because Christian mission schools have been shut down by communists.
- "the [Ku Klux] Klan in some areas of the country tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross... In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians."
- "God used the 'Trail of Tears' to bring many Indians to Christ."
- It "cannot be shown scientifically that that man-made pollutants will one day drastically reduce the depth of the atmosphere's ozone layer."
- "God has provided certain 'checks and balances' in creation to prevent many of the global upsets that have been predicted by environmentalists."
- the Great Depression was exaggerated by propagandists, including John Steinbeck, to advance a socialist agenda.
- "Unions have always been plagued by socialists and anarchists who use laborers to destroy the free-enterprise system that hardworking Americans have created."
- Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential win was due to an imaginary economic crisis created by the media.
- "The greatest struggle of all time, the Battle of Armageddon, will occur in the Middle East when Christ returns to set up his kingdom on earth."
Bruce Wilson is Co-Founder, with journalist Frederick Clarkson, of the website Talk To Action, which covers the intersection of religion and politics.