April 9, 2021

J. Allen Bryant: Religious fundamentalism threatens American public education (and a lot more)

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J. Allen Bryant is an Associate Professor of elementary education at Appalachian State University in North Carolina. He bas looked into the textbooks and curricula used by many of North Carolina’s voucher-funded schools, and he pulls no punches in expressing his concern about religious fundamentalism in the education world.

Because vouchers siphon money away from cash-starved public schools, it is often assumed that this is a public school problem. In North Carolina, the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) has led the fight, along with a parents group that filed suit against the state’s voucher program, arguing it was unconstitutional.

This battle, however, is about substantially more than “choice” or even privatization, and concerns everyone in the academy—every historian, scientist, anthropologist, political scientist, theater professor, and the rest—because Betsy DeVos is the proud standard-bearer of the Christian Dominionists, part of a once-fringe set of religious extremists now at the heart of the effort to reshape American public education. DeVos and other Dominionists see the school system as the ultimate symbol of communal liberalism and want it replaced with private schools that will usher in a new kingdom of God.

These vouchers, therefore, threaten more than colleges of education or the public schools they ostensibly serve. The curricula of many of these schools threaten American ideals of multiculturalism, democracy, and science. A study conducted by North Carolina’s League of Women Voters examined what was being taught in these voucher-funded “schools” in the state and discovered that “76.7% of voucher funding is going to schools with a literal biblical worldview that affects all areas of the curriculum…[and] educators have concluded that this biblical worldview curriculum does not prepare these students for 21st century colleges or careers.”

Indeed, the curricula seem designed to prepare students for life in the thirteenth century. Many of the textbooks come from Pensacola Christian College’s (PCC) Abeka series or were published by Bob Jones University. Children are taught from science texts published by a company which considers it an “article of faith” that, “God created the heavens and the earth in six literal days,” and rejects “the man-made theory of evolution occurring over millions of years and believe[s] that the earth is approximately 6,000 years old.”

These are public tax dollars at work. You can read the rest of his opinion piece here at NC Policy Watch.

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