Posts filed under ‘education’

a beka a partheid

Again from the A Beka textbook, “Old World History and Geography: A Christian Perspective” (interesting reviews here and here), following up on a comment regarding South Africa in the related post (thanks Marty for the extra background information).

Interesting section of the textbook. Last time it was liberalism and modernity, now communism in South Africa. They certainly do not condone apartheid, but the beast of communism rears its ugly head in a strange way that seems to minimize their critique of the racist policies of the former government.

The new republic. To keep control of the country and prevent fighting among rival tribes, the Afrikaners divided South Africa’s population into several racial groups — while, black, Indian, and people of mixed ancestry — and established 10 “homelands” for the black African population. The white Afrikaners generally kept for themselves the lands with more fertile soil and mineral wealth. The program of racial divisions also kept black South Africans from political participation and permitted widespread discrimination in employment, education, and housing. Many black Africans obtained permits to work in the cities or in the mines, but they were required to live apart in black communities on the outskirts of the cities.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, opposition to the racial divisions grew within South Africa and around the world until the United Nations intervened. World media focused on the racial conflict, making the Afrikaners’ discrimination against black South Africans known. But newscasts did not mention the Afrikaners’ struggle against Communist terrorists who were trying to take control of the country. Hundreds of black Africans suffered and died at the hands of Communist guerrillas, but the world blamed the South African government.

Communism. In 1990, South Africa’s president began working to end the racial divisions. Black citizens received voting rights in 1992, and in 1994 South Africa held its first multiracial elections, which brought to power Nelson Mandela, a Communist leader and South Africa’s first black president.

Mandela’s political intentions soon became clear as he appointed Communists to key positions and extended government control over businesses and industries. The growing influence of Communism concerns South Africa’s citizens, especially Christians who make up a large part of the population.

So despite saying apartheid was wrong and finding the Afrikaners to be generally at fault, A Beka tries to partially redeem them as well. History is conveniently twisted to sound like they were fighting the good fight to save Africans in their own nation from communism. No mention that the guerrillas were South Africans themselves, or that the people fighting against the government were denied the right to vote. Or that people who were against the government at that time could be labeled “communist” and blacklisted and consequently persecuted (McCarthyism anyone?). Or that establishment of the “homelands” involved forced resettlement to move people to their designated “group areas”. Or mention of U.S. support for a proxy war in Angola where South African troops were supposedly fighting the forces of communism.

A Beka’s dominionist roots are showing, with a willingness and even desire to see Christian values even when human rights of others are trampled in the process. Children are taught that certain political positions, such as anti-communism, are de facto Christian values, as if there had to be a Christian consensus on this. No running the risk of teaching children that issues of right and wrong or “us” versus “them” are not always as clear cut as we might want them to be.

I was at a Christian gathering a few months ago where someone said that Obama’s policies are really socialist and practically communist. The person who said it seemed to assume everyone would be on the same page with that criticism, which I found presumptuous because I certainly was not. After the conversation went down that path for a moment, someone chipped in with, “A lot of what Jesus taught sounds a lot closer to communism than free market capitalism.” Quiet ensued.

Really, dominionism is not Christianity. So why focus on any of this? Are fundamentalists just an easy target for those who wish to criticize Christianity? Sure they are, but to repeat from the last post, there are legitimate reasons to be concerned. The tentacles of fundamentalism are deeply entwined in Evangelicalism. You cannot attend a conservative Evangelical church for long without being exposed to doctrines like this at some level. And too many moderate Evangelicals seem reluctant to speak out against it, perhaps out of a concern of causing disunity in the Church, or apathy, or intellectual laziness. Cases like this may seem extreme, but are probably not as far outside of the mainstream as many Christians would like to admit.

December 19, 2009 at 9:52 pm 5 comments

we don’t need no education

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.

December 16, 2009 at 3:19 pm 25 comments


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