As a recent Mother Jones article highlights, with the rise of voucher-based education and public school courses, which sneak fundamentalist lessons into classes ostensibly intended to be about study of religion, public funds are being used to indoctrinate kids with ultra-conservative Christian propaganda.
While some of the most extreme material is limited to specifically Christian schools and homeschooling lessons, the fundamentalist curriculum has been leaking into teaching for quite some time.
Much of it is even intended to promote a specific far-right, politicized brand of evangelical Christianity that seems at odds with mainstream religious thought.
Here's the top ten curiously wrong facts, biased assertions, and sprinkles of religious propaganda that children can learn from creationist textbooks (credit to Mother Jones and PBS's Independent Lens Blog for collecting the quotes):
1. There are no contradictions in the Bible, since it is the literal word of God:
Photo Credit: Leinad-Z
The Bible is the written word of God … The Bible is united in content because there is no contradictions [sic] in the writing. The reason for this is because the Bible is written under God's direction and inspiration (slide shown to students at Houston's Independent School District).
No room for debate here, not even a nod to the fact that theologians have been debating the meaning and intent of the Bible for pretty damn close to 2,000 years. If the Bible is crystal clear, then why do we have more than one sect of Christianity? What about those 99 Theses?
2. Jesus came back to life and that's a fact:
Photo Credit: Robert Breuer
Christ's resurrection was an event that occurred in time and space — that is was, in reality, historical and not mythological (PowerPoint slide shown to students at Brenham Independent School District).
This is actually one of the least radical assertions on the list, since most Christians would generally agree that Christ was actually resurrected (and if it occurred, such an event would be by definition historical). Still, teaching religious ideology as fact at a public school is extremely questionable, regardless of the nature of the course.
3. Jesus is going to come back again, and that's a fact too:
Photo Credit: Artstain
…the first time the Lord gathered his people back was after the Babylonian captivity. The second time the Lord will gather his people back will be at the end of the age (course materials at Proper Independent School District).
Two thousand years and ticking. Still no Rapture, and no indication it is coming anytime soon. Proper is also a public school.
4. Christians can't believe in evolution. Also, your ancestors fought dinosaurs:
Photo Credit: Robert Couse-Baker
Bible-believing Christians cannot accept any evolutionary interpretation. Dinosaurs and humans were definitely on the earth at the same time and may have even lived side by side within the past few thousand years (Life Science, 3rd ed., Bob Jones University Press).
This may come as a surprise to the 58% of Catholics, 54% of Orthodox Christians, and 51% of Mainline Protestants who agree with the assertion, "evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth." And that's not even considering religious people who believe evolution is real, but still think God created the universe!
5. Some members of the KKK were just great:
Photo Credit: National Photo Company Collection
[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. Klan targets were bootleggers, wife-beaters, and immoral movies. In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians (United States History for Christian Schools, 3rd ed., Bob Jones University Press).
This is kind of like saying some Nazis were genuinely interested in populist reform.
6. The Depression was socialist propaganda:
Photo Credit: Unknown, Department of Agriculture Archives
Perhaps the best known work of propaganda to come from the Depression was John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath … Other forms of propaganda included rumors of mortgage foreclosures, mass evictions, and hunger riots and exaggerated statistics representing the number of unemployed and homeless people in America (United States History: Heritage of Freedom, 2nd ed., A Beka Book).
7. Noah's sons each fathered a unique ethnicity:
Photo Credit: Jim Padgett
After course materials explained which of Noah's sons started various ethnic groups: "Shem is the father of a) most Germanic races b) the Jewish people c) all African people" (test question at Amarillo Independent School District).
So, what about Asian people? Course materials identify Shem as the father of "Jews, Semitic people, and Oriental races." Yep. That just about covers everything.
8. Dinosaurs: actually could have been dragons:
Photo Credit: Paolo Uccello
[Is] it possible that a fire-breathing animal really existed? Today some scientists are saying yes. They have found large chambers in certain dinosaur skulls …The large skull chambers could have contained special chemical-producing glands. When the animal forced the chemicals out of its mouth or nose, these substances may have combined and produced fire and smoke (Life Science, 3rd ed., Bob Jones University Press, 2007).
Biologist Dr. Peter J. Hogarth explains in a children's Q&A called "Dragon Chat" that "well, I love dragons too. Maybe if you believe in them, that's real enough."
9. God caused the Trail of Tears to save the Indians:
Photo Credit: Kevin
God used the Trail of Tears to bring many Indians to Christ (America: Land That I Love, Teacher ed., A Beka Book, 1994).
I'm pretty sure Jesus would have had problems with these methods.
10. Most slave owners were pretty good to their slaves:
Photo Credit: Isaac Cruikshank
A few slave holders were undeniably cruel. Examples of slaves beaten to death were not common, neither were they unknown. The majority of slave holders treated their slaves well (United States History for Christian Schools, 2nd ed., Bob Jones University Press, 1991).
Even if this was true, it's because slaves were considered property, not people. Oh, forget it. Just go watch Django Unchained already.