we don’t need no education

December 16, 2009 at 3:19 pm 25 comments

One of my kids came home from school last week with some complaints about his history curriculum, which uses the textbook “Old World History and Geography” from A Beka books. A Beka books is associated with Pensacola Christian College, a very fundamentalist Christian school. I have seen some of their school materials before and found them relatively innocuous, but this was different.

The lessons he said included a lot about people turning towards or away from God, but without a lot of details about the actual history itself. He also noted that evolution was described as a false teaching. I went through the chapter so we could spend some more time discussing it.

Here is a paragraph from a chapter on England:

England’s Decline

During the twentieth century England lost its great empire, much of its wealth, and its position as a world leader. There were many causes for this decline.

Modernism. England’s problems began in the late ninetheenth century when many of her church ministers began to deny the truth of the Bible. The false ideas that the Bible does not mean what it says and that men must use their reason alone to find truth are called modernism or liberalism. Religious modernism was the result of a humanist movement in France during the 1700s called the Enlightenment. The wicked ideas of the Enlightenment and modernism spread throughout Europe during the nineteenth century. Modernism has caused great harm to every nation that has been affected by it.

Yes, you have entered the alternate reality of Fundamentalist Christianity, where a war against the use of reason is taking place. I guess at least they are not hiding it. I will go out on a limb here and say we have definitely benefited from the use of reason as championed by the Enlightenment, but hey, I’m just a liberal modernist, what do I know?

Here is another quote from the same page:

Evolution. Another false teaching that arose during the nineteenth century was Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Many people who doubted the Bible began to accept Darwin’s false idea that man has descended from the animals. Such a belief took away man’s dignity as a creature made in the image of God, and it caused people to stop being concerned about their soul’s salvation. It also caused a decline in science, for scientists began to accept an untested idea as truth, an attitude that goes against the scientific method.

…scientists began to accept an untested idea as truth…“? What a minute, who are these people to start lecturing us on the scientific method??? And I would like for them to describe to the children what this decline in science since the time of Darwin looks like.

I find it indicative of the way fundamentalism bleeds over into more mainstream Evangelicalism. The school is not what most would consider fundamentalist, yet material like this can still exist in the curriculum. Of course secular ideas creep into Evangelicalism at least as much as fundamentalist ones, so that in itself is not surprising. But I am still somewhat taken aback by the detachment from reality displayed by the authors, and that “decline in science” line is still bothering me. This book is not training children to think critically, it is training them to think the right things, the things they are told to believe, and to fear ideas which might challenge those beliefs.

Update: There are a couple of informative reviews of A Beka curriculum here and here.


Entry filed under: education, fundamentalism.

bible haiku a beka a partheid

25 Comments Add your own

  • 1. DagoodS  |  December 16, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Ah…but it gives parents a great teaching opportunity. What were your child’s complaints?

  • 2. atimetorend  |  December 16, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    …it gives parents a great teaching opportunity

    Very true, and good point. That’s the cost to sending one’s kid to school, that they’re not always going to learn just the things you want them to. We like the school overall, so it isn’t a problem, and it is a good opportunity to teach about religion.

    His complaints were that he was more interested in learning about details of WW II than about, “the people of England turned back to God during this or that time as they read the bible.” Also he realized he had to keep his mouth closed during the “false teaching of Darwin” part. He generally takes my word on evolution, though he understands he has to learn about it himself.

  • 3. Christiana  |  December 16, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Why can’t they just stick with the facts? Or read first person accounts of history instead the history book author’s view and opinions? We (christians) complain about liberal media bias but wow that text sure looked biased to me. I don’t want my kids reading someone else’s idea of history. Just the facts please and let them come to their own conclusions. And how about a little logic? Just because “A” happened at the same time as “B” does not mean “A” caused “B”.
    I think I’ll stick with homeschooling. ;)

  • 4. Christian  |  December 16, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    “This book is not training children to think critically, it is training them to think the right things, the things they are told to believe, and to fear ideas which might challenge those beliefs.”

    Often school or church or whatever is just a place to be spoon fed someone elses’ take on a particular topic. We get used to it and then plod along all the while nodding our heads if we’re around people on our “team” and shaking our heads when we’re with the “other team.” It’s a little sad.
    My teachers in high school kept telling us they were there to teach us to think. A hand would shoot up in the back. “Yes?” says the teacher. “Do we need to know that for the test?” Pitiful.

  • 5. atimetorend  |  December 16, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Yes, homeschooling has a lot going for it.

    Just the facts please and let them come to their own conclusions.

    Exactly, and it makes me think their goal is not to teach the kids to think that way. I’m not surprised A Beka does that, I think that is their target market, people who homeschool for the express purpose of teaching that way, I was more surprised the school would not be more discerning. To me that is the line between training children what you think is right and indoctrination. Or brainwashing?

  • 6. atimetorend  |  December 16, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Do we need to know that for the test?

    Oh boy, a classic line! Right up through college too. Hmmm, how about, “Do I need to know that to complete this permit application?” I may have used that recently at work…

  • 7. Boz  |  December 16, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Is there anything that can be done about the school teaching things that are demonstrably false?

    What type of school is this?

  • 8. Laura  |  December 16, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    hey, I used that book! Warped my brain for quite awhile. I still feel a tremor of fear when someone mentions “humanism.”

    When I came home from college, I think I was a senior, and my brother was using an A Beka history book and the DVD homeschooling videos, my mouth opened in shock. They were only educating children to be good Republicans. The teacher openly talked about rather in depth Republican ideas (well, maybe some libertarian in there, too). I told my brother and my parents that THIS was the difference between education and indoctrination: when you educate someone in a subject that has two or three valid sides (ie, philosophy, politics), you teach ALL sides, doing your best to keep your own opinion out of it. Indoctrination does no such thing, and will even, as in the case of the Darwin’s “false teaching” cited in your example above, tell kids to not trust what we DO know.

    That difference, I think, is key.

  • 9. Laura  |  December 16, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    (oh, and ps, I was a moderate Christian at that point. Now I am an atheist, and I have things like A Beka’s dishonesty to thank!)

  • 10. mmmarty  |  December 17, 2009 at 8:38 am

    I read this article with my jaw practically touching the floor. I’m studying very open-minded subjects at university, and am considering teaching as a career, so hearing about books like this just angers me! Here in South Africa, during the Apartheid years, history books were modified and biased towards the British settlers, making all pre-colonial history and beliefs sound like “barbaric” bullshit that should just be omitted from school syllabi. Of course this went hand in hand with promoting English Christian values over the local religions and traditions.
    It frightens me to think that this kind of closeminded thinking (indoctrination and dogmatism) STILL carries on today! Enough generations have been warped through biased education systems…
    I’m glad your kids at least have a father smart enough not to digest that biased crap.

  • 11. tysdaddy  |  December 17, 2009 at 10:52 am

    The wicked ideas

    Interesting line. Definitely shows that this book is anything but unbiased . . .

    Scary, but not surprising.

    Have you ever seen Jesus Camp

  • 12. atimetorend  |  December 17, 2009 at 11:39 am

    @Boz: It is a Christian school, so I of course expect Christianity to be included in the lessons. This teaching just happens to be a combination of bad things. I have considered writing a letter, which I think would be an appropriate step.

    @Laura, you’ve come a long way! I hope your brother was able to grasp the difference between indoctrination and education as well. It is really sad that there is such a large group of parents who want or even feel the necessity of indoctrinating their children. Yes, thank Mrs. A. Becka, Ken Ham, Mr. Dobson, etc., in a way for their immoderate views…

    @mmmarty: Sorry to scare you with our American Kulture. :^) Yeah, the connection with Apartheid is very interesting, there are certainly strong similarities in the writing. The DRC would be proud of A Beka’s apologetics. I had actually looked through the textbook for connections like that. Colonialism, while not directly praised, is spoken of in fairly glowing terms, with highlights of Christian missionary work and a complete absence of its evils. How could they leave that out??? So sad.

    @tysdaddy: Just saw Jesus Camp about a week ago. Same stuff, perhaps different degrees, and the different degrees of fundamentalism bleeding into one another so that even more moderate conservative Christianity is tainted.

  • 13. Janus Grayden  |  December 17, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    They get bonus points for demonizing liberalism and humanism.

    Seriously, they really went for it on this one.

  • 14. atimetorend  |  December 17, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Ha! Bonus points, that’s funny, they sure did go for it on that one. Skimming through other parts of the book I actually did not find anything quite as egregious. The whole book has a general tone I take issue with, but I guess liberalism, humanism, modernity, evolution are special bugbears for them.

  • 15. Sabio Lantz  |  December 17, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Luke, at Common Sense Atheism, just recently blogged about a book called “The Dishonest Church” by a Christian pastor, Jack Good. The book looks fascinating — one you’d recommend to Christians.

    Good writes that the lies like those you point out in this horrible text are what are killing Christianity.

    So, don’t write a letter to the school. Let them keep feeding this bullshit at your kids. It will guarantee they are not Christians when they are older and see through all this stuff. Heck you are helping them see through it now. If you write the school and they sanitize their material, it may take longer for your kids to see through it.

    Good post ! Thanx for sharing. Makes me happy I am sending my to public school where I have to help my kids see through all the secular coatings. Smile

  • 16. Sabio Lantz  |  December 17, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Sorry, the link for Luke: “The Dishonest Church

  • 17. Boz  |  December 18, 2009 at 4:38 am

    Sabio said: “Jack Good writes that the lies like those you point out in this horrible text are what are killing Christianity. ”

    That is not the only thing that is turning people off christianity, but it is a major part.

    Personally, I got turned off by unsubstantiated claims such as jesus walked on water, and ressurected others, and ressurected himself.

  • 18. atimetorend  |  December 19, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Sabio, yeah, we have to help our kids see through whatever coatings are taught to them where ever they are. But who is going to help them see through the coatings we provide ourselves? :^)

  • 19. Sabio Lantz  |  December 19, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    LOL, my kids got uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews and all my buddies and their kids to help check my horse shit ! Besides, I constantly tell them I am a joke. Not that they can’t see that.

  • 20. a beka a partheid « a time to rend  |  December 19, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    […] (interesting review here), following up on a comment regarding South Africa in the related post (thanks Marty for the extra background […]

  • 21. Christiana  |  December 20, 2009 at 12:07 am

    Here is something interesting for you to chew on. I went to two different high schools. Public and Christian. Most (if not all) of my senior class from the Christian school left the faith completely (some very angry) after high school and most (but not all) of the christan friends I knew from my public school are still strong christians. I have heard this story repeated from others I know who attended public and/or christian school.
    I personally think that it is because people are trying to take Jesus and make him into a religion and an institution when he did not come to set up a religion but a relationship with those who love him. When you try to put him in a box, make him all neat and tidy, fit all your rules and institutionalize him it doesn’t work. Jeez, it was always the pharisees (RELIGIOUS leaders) he was yelling at for Pete’s sake not the sinners! But then again I’m still a believer so maybe my thoughts are slanted. :)
    Any other thoughts?

    ATTR, from your most recent post ……..“A lot of what Jesus taught sounds a lot closer to communism than free market capitalism.” That is too funny. Wish I was there.

  • 22. Boz  |  December 20, 2009 at 1:03 am

    That’s an interesting anecdote, christiana.

    Does anyone have any surveys or similar to substantiate christiana’s implication? (that christian schools produce proportionately more atheists than public schools)

  • 23. Sabio Lantz  |  December 20, 2009 at 6:34 am

    @ Boz and Christiana
    I went to Wheaton College (A christian college). There I ran into Missionary kids. They quickly became my best friends — never met folks like them. They knew a lot about the world and were truly religious rebels. Pastor kids were the next most fun.
    No lie !

  • 24. arulba  |  December 21, 2009 at 12:09 am

    Hi! I actually met you through Kay at Ephermeral Thoughts. Interesting post. We actually pulled my daughter out of school last month. One of the things I’m having great difficulty with is coming up with a decent Geography curriculum. Maybe that’s why the school chose to use A Beka? I am definitely not in favor of the more conservative Christian leanings, and can understand your concern. But I think it’s awesome your son was willing to express his concerns about the text. That says a lot!

  • 25. atimetorend  |  December 21, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Christiana: Those are interesting thoughts. I think a lot of control gets excercized over people in places like religious schools and highly organized churches. Even when there are not overtly controlling rules, there is always peer pressure to bring people back into line. Secular kids in secular schools rebel too, but it is against differerent things. I agree with you about Jesus’ critique of the institutionalized religion. Though I think there is a degree of tension in the new testament between that view of Jesus and one that could be used to support the more formal and institutionalized church.

    That is too funny. Wish I was there.
    I wish you had been too! Though I didn’t find it funny at the time, I’m glad it becomes funny with the retelling. (Must. Refrain. From Naming. Names…)

    Boz and Sabio: It must be a pressure cooker for so many missionary and pastor’s kids.

    arulba: Thanks for stopping by and for your encouraging comment. I’m a little skeptical that the school couldn’t have done better than A Beka, but at the same time I think that is a very possible (and charitable) perspective. Also by political and religious leaning I am hypersensitive to the right-wing stuff. As an aside, our oldest had been homeschooled previously and two others are still being homeschooled. What age range have you had trouble with in finding geography curriculum?

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