Skepchick Quickies, 8.17


Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. Gah! I can’t stand that Texas schools are dominated by fundy Christian agendas. And if you don’t have kids people are all “well, you don’t have children, so it doesn’t affect you/you don’t understand.”

    “”By the end of the year, what they begin to realize is that it is pervasive. You can’t get away from it. The kids came back and were like ‘It’s everywhere,'” said John Keeling, the social studies chair at Whitehouse High School. Whitehouse already offers a Bible elective. “The purpose of a course like this isn’t even really to get kids to believe it per say. It is just to appreciate the profound impact that it has had on our history and on our government,” said Keeling. ”

    You know where you can get that information? Literature and history classes! If you’re teaching them correctly, you don’t NEED a Bible specific class! When I was in school, my teachers had no problem pointing out Biblical references in literature, and historical references/debates related to things like Hamurabi’s code, the Bible, etc.


    The Afghan law… it’s horrific.

  2. Sigh, today’s Quickies are pretty depressing… Although, the evolution article has made me consider wearing exceptionally bold Hawaiian shirts in order to attract mates. Yet, for some reason, I don’t think that’s going to work. :/

  3. “Texas public schools now required to teach the Bible. Thanks to Michael.”

    Michael, that wasn’t very nice. Why did you do that?

  4. @Imrryr: Hey, I’ve been trying to get my hubby to wear Hawaiian shirts for awhile now.

    He just thinks it’s a plot to make him unattractive to other woman.

    Maybe you have a point…


  5. If Afghanistan is still going to be allowed to do this stupid bullshit, I have to wonder what is the point of still keeping our troops over there? Half the “citizens” of the country are apparently being treated like vermin by their own government. We gave them money to support their election, and this is what the government does. I feel betrayed. And a bit helpless — like nothing is ever going to change over there.


  6. Hello, that food law was stupid! I’m not going to hover over my wife if I’ve told her to get her @$$ in that kitchen and make me some non-pork bacon!

    Besides, I need some maile heirs to pass my stuff off to when I go for my cherries, and if my woman is starved to death cause she ain’t in the mood, how is that going to help the birth of my son. Even if HE decides it should be a girl (girls are icky), that’s still some cows I can trade her for-more stuff for my sons(s).

  7. Texas: First US state to become a third-world theocratic country?

    How can they possibly get past “separation of church and state” with that?

  8. I don’t have a child, but the education of our youth does affect me- this is the pool of people who will be running the country when I’m old. Off topic a bit, but I have family members who have sent their children to Catholic school. The 7 year old was talking a lot about Jeebus, so to change the subject, I asked about science class. He told me he likes it, but they only have it once weekly. It’s a special, like computer class or library. Meanwhile, they have religion daily.
    Is this what Texas wants? To raise children who can’t talk about real world issues but know the story of the flood front to back?! If I were a parent with my child in that school system, I would be beside myself.

  9. I actually don’t think teaching kids the Bible from a literary standpoint is a bad idea at all. I used to teach English Literature, and it was nigh-on impossible to get the students to understand many of the references in great literary works without a secure knowledge of the Bible stories.

    Furthermore, I think a close analysis of the Bible can potentially lead away from Theism, rather than encourage it – it’s all in the presentation. If it is presented as an important, and sometimes beautiful literary work, then it could be of extraordinary educational value.

  10. Maybe we need to get a bunch of witches or devil-worshipers to demand equal time. Then religion in government might not look so good to the right wing nuts. Fight fire with fire?

  11. …On a positive note, If these kids haven’t read the bible yet (as seems to be the claim in the Texas situation), I think that a high school age kid would be blown away by how insane (ly stupid) it is. And that night get them asking some questions.

    Also, after the kids who hadn’t read it read it, the kids who like to act smug because they grew up on it might be looked at more as loons than as pious. And peer pressure is a very compelling thing.

    I dunno. that’s the little (corn) kernel of hope I tried to pick out from that pile of shit.

  12. It is just to appreciate the profound impact that it has had on our history and on our government

    If this is the purpose of the bible class, I really don’t see the problem.

  13. @QuestionAuthority:

    Texas: First US state to become a third-world theocratic country?

    Well, it wouldn’t be third world, but . . . .

    How can they possibly get past “separation of church and state” with that?

    I’ve only looked into this story on a surface level, but I don’t think there is anything illiegal about it.

    I actually don’t see anything wrong with teaching students in public schools about religion. Religion is and has been a major player in human affairs for a long time. It would be irresponsible to ignore it in academia.

    However, there is still a strong contingent of policy makers that have mis-used and abused the tool of education to forward an agenda. And this is yet another example. We’ve seen it happen over and over again lately in Texas.

    First of all, religion is not science. We know this. We’ve fought this fight many times.

    Secondly, if an educator is going to introduce courses in religion into the curriculum that are separate from the history, literature, or any humanities courses, the courses had better cover all religions (within reason of course), or study the concepts and the psychology of religions in general.

    The law is not necessarily bad, but the application of it in this case certainly is. The Bible requirement as applied in Whitehouse is obviously geared to promote Christianity only, and that is wrong.

  14. According to ALEC texas has gone from 43rd in education rankings in 2002 to 26th! in 2007. They needed to knock that back down, don’t want their population to be too educated, another Bush clone wouldn’t get elected if so. So their rise in education to 26th! in 2007 coincides with this bill to add bible thumping.

    Texas rankings:
    Just for fun, my state rankings (MASS), we are 3rd!

    Hey PAW, someone learned me about fourier transforms *gets hit in head with bible*

  15. @Sam Ogden:

    Sam I hate to disagree with you, but I do. Just because it has been part of human function for a few thousand years is no reason to give it a pass. It doesn’t make it right.

  16. @Michael Barry:
    And I hate to disagree with you (see what I did there?), but I do.

    Organized skepticism is partly an academic project, but I tend to think that it’s much more of a cultural one. Quite frankly, I find that the language of “all religion is archaic and we all need to move beyond it” hurts us.

    Cultural sensitivity and cultural recognition is crucial to our project, and like it or not, organized religion was, and is a key point of not just our society (and societies), but of our civilization. We need to not only teach it, but to understand it.

    We’re not talking about teaching religion as fact, and if we start acting like it doesn’t have a place in the classroms of history, philosophy, ethics, and cultural studies….this is just plain folly, and it further shows the rest of the world that skeptics are cranky spoil-sports.

    This is part of the culture, and if we want to make any cultural impact, we have to understand every level we can. I don’t want to be engaged in historical revisionism and pretend like it’s caveman superstition that only stupid people follow.

  17. @Michael Barry:

    I don’t know what you mean by “give it a pass”. Are you saying there is no place at all in academia for the study of religions and their effects on culture and society, or the history and psychology of the belivers?

    Maybe I should clarify: I’m not suggesting that church services be held in schools. And I’m certainly not suggesting any form of indoctrination should take place. But because “it has been part of human function for a few thousand years” is precisely why it should not be ignored in an academic setting.

    That is an enormous amount of human history, one that has affected a great many people, to simply erase it from all avenues of study.

  18. Not to say we shouldn’t study the cultural impact of the Bible (we even had the Perl S. Buck version in MA private school) but:

    “…a Texas law says all public schools must offer information relating to the Bible in their curriculum.” — What sort of information.

    “A bunch of bronze age goat herders were well versed in the field of cosmology” NO! “cosmotology ?” – YES, as you seriously need to clean up after long days herding goats.

  19. This article is a bit misleading. Texas schools will be required to offer bible-as-literature as a class. The wording makes it sound like it is some sort of required class.

    The problem is not allowing an elective to study the bible as literature, from a historical or cultural viewpoint. The problems is that most of the textbooks are written by fundies who believe in premillennial dispensationalism. This was covered in last week’s Reasonable Doubt podcast. There needs to be some Bart Ehrman-style textbooks, that are more along the lines of those classes on comparative religions.

    I wouldn’t take the class, but the state typically mandates what kinds of classes are offered, even as electives.

    By the way, I got booted out of a Freethinkers group just last weekend for saying this exact thing – that if they are going to be offered, make sure they are taught correctly. Apparently ‘freethinkers’ can also be dogmatic.

  20. Hi there!

    Personally, reading the Bible was one of things that turned me OFF religion, so it might not be a bad thing. Not that I trust individual teachers to leave their own personal commentary out of their teaching. I know that if *I* were teaching the Bible, I’d be sure to point out some of the more ridiculous passages, and I assume that many Christian teachers are going to focus on the most “uplifting” and least crazy-sounding parts, just like in Sunday School. :(

    I totally want to go down to Texas and teach the Satanic Bible now, though. >:)

  21. @geek goddess: “the state typically mandates what kinds of classes are offered, even as electives.”

    I’m not familiar with how curricula are set in public schools. Does the state have to mandate a class for it to be offered? It seems unlikely to me but again I know little about the process. I don’t take issue with a bible elective- if it’s done well as many others have pointed out. I do take issue with the state spending time mandating a bible study class when it seems like there are many better mandates to be made (especially in a state where the public school education is mediocre when compared to the rest of the country).

    This was the most recent Texas curriculum requirements I could find on the Texas ed. website. Notably absent in the requirements for a grade 9-12 curriculum is calculus: requirements for math are”Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Precalculus, and Mathematical Models with Applications”

  22. @Displaced Northerner: As a graduate of a Texas high school, and having two sons recently graduated, I can assure you that most of the schools offer calculus. Both of my boys took it, as did I.

    In the very rural areas, they have a hard time recruiting teachers qualified to teach calculus and physics, which is likely the reason it is not mandated. There are many towns in the state with only a few thousand or even hundred people. However, every student can take classes by Distance Learning (via websites from a couple of the state universities), and calculus is included. My son took a class that way, and it was a fully developed course, available in standard or AP versions.

    A class does not have to be ‘mandated’ to be offered, but classes must be approved by the state Coordinating Board before they can be offered. In my home city, one of the high schools offers most of the calculus, AP science, and college entry classes, while the other offers mostly standard classes (although many AP in English, languages, etc) as well as business and what we used to call ‘shop’ classes. Students in the city may attend either school.

  23. @geek goddess: Agreed

    It seems to me that fully understanding and appreciating nearly two millennia of western history and literature is predicated on at least a basic understanding of biblical narratives and this is a legitimate area of historical and literary education. Making sure there is no effort to present biblical writings as in any way authorities is what’s imperative.

  24. @Sam Ogden:

    In private institutions they can teach whatever they like. If they want to include history of religions it can be included as part of the history curriculem. but to be able to offer a course on the bible in a public school breaks the separation of church and state. I do not want ANY course on religion taught in public schools. As I said though, as part of a history course it has its place.

    Maybe we actually agree but differ on wording. I believe if it is a part of history course, it may be OK. To me a history class does not teach ‘christianity’. It would teach the history of that religions effect on our society over the years. But the article states that they can legally offer courses on the bible. Which should be excluded in a public school curriculem.

  25. @Some Canadian Skeptic:

    See my comments to Sam.

    But I also want to add this in an extra response to you:
    I differ from some atheists who think we need to abolish all reilgion as well. As a Libertarian i believe that I have no authority to tell anyone else how to live, as long as they are not hurting anyone in the process. What they do is of their own choice. They choose to believe in the FSM, well so be it. Which also means that I have freedom FROM their religion.

  26. Uh oh, Ubisuck is at it again, presenting stupid rip offs as “games.” The worst part is, people buy those stuffs, and considering the Wii’s audience, an antivax game is bbbaaddd. If people weren’t buying those stuffs, developers would stop going with the crappy games bandwagon.

  27. @Michael Barry: The Koran and the teachings of Buddha and the basic tenants of Hinduism are all taught in public schools all over the country. To parse out particular schools of thought, religions or philosophies as not suitable to teach seems absurd to me. A basic understanding of the teachings and literature associated with Christianity and Judaism seems a necessary part of any good history and literature curriculums. There is NO separation of church and state issues when a Bible Lit. class is offered in a public school any more than a women in history class is gender inappropriate or a class on African Americans history could somehow be perceived as racially inappropriate.

  28. @Michael Barry:

    Yes, it seems we’re pretty much on the same page.

    I would stress, however, that the class being offered fits into the area of humanities, which I think are well worth studying. Plus, students are not required to take the class, as they would be a history class. It is not part of the essential knowledge and skills they must master to graduate. It’s an elective focusing on the literature of the Bible.

    Again, I have no doubt this law is going to be mis-applied, and some teachers are going to turn their classrooms into a Christian church service. But, as it stands right now, there is nothing illegal about the course.

    And further, I would actually encourage students to take the class, if other religious texts were included in the subject matter along with the Bible, and if I were certain the focus would remain on the literature of those texts, and their social and cultural impact.

  29. Yay for Texas! This is brilliant news! I remember a few months ago when it became clear Obama was going to allow stem cell research to be funded by public money, the talent and the money almost literally ran out of the UK. It was a terrible day for UK science.

    Every time I hear about any bible-based education taking place in the US, I know that ultimately that means more research grants and fellowships for British institutions and scientists.

    Hurrah for Texas!

  30. @geek goddess: I didn’t think that Texas without its fair share of calculus. I was just making a point as to where the education priority has been placed. Every TX school is required to offer bible study bu there is no calculus requirement. That illustrates where the state board of education is focusing priorities. I don’t understand the need to require bible study, that’s all.

  31. @displaced
    Honestly, I don’t think calculus should be a requirement. It should be presented more as an option, given that some careers are more math centric than others.

  32. @IBY:

    As GG mentioned, calculus is offered as an elective to those students who have completed the math requirements; at least it is in most 3A, 4A, and 5A high schools.

    I suppose, however, that there are some cases, where faculty/personnel issues override the offer.

  33. @Michael Barry:
    Then it seems were we respectfully differ is on the issue of Libertarianism.

    I don’t believe that free-market ideology, competition and freedom-from-government is the best (or even adequate) way to teach our children. The good thing about a public education system is that it exposes knowledge to people who wouldn’t otherwise seek it out actively. Education by its very nature in the modern world is a top-down entity: there’s just too much intellectual diversity and it takes experts to know what people should learn.

    Whether or not they always succeed in this respect is another matter: this is where praxis and theory meet. But not for this thread ;)

    Libertarianism threads can get pretty nasty on skepchick. I think it’s safe to say that you and I can’t reconcile this difference, and I’m glad you pointed out your political views in your reply. I’m certainly not accusing you of hubris, just merely to point out that if we were getting a divorce, we could site “irreconcilable differences” and leave it at that.

    Now we can still be internet-friends and no one needs to type IN ALL CAPS :)

  34. So does the Jenny McCarthy avatar in that new game come with the option to have her with or without her implants?

    It is, after all, a game about body shape…

  35. @Some Canadian Skeptic:

    I’m glad we can agree to disagree. You don’t agree with me and I accept that. Same in reverse. I do welcome your opinions though. Anything that makes me think about my position, and makes me think if my position is still correct for me, is welcomed. I enjoy being challenged. Thanks!

  36. Wow. A libertarian and a “not a libertarian” managed to have a conversation (of sorts) here and it didn’t turn into a caps and exclamation points competition. I’m so proud of you guys. Way to set an example.

  37. @James Fox:

    I have been thinking about this. I really do not have an answer. I believe there has to be separation of church and state. To me no religion should be exlcuded, as I stack them all together. As a lit course I cannot bring myself to accept that in a public non higher education school. As Sam and I have agreed in a history course it should be important, as it is a large chunk of human existence (That we know). But I do not really have a reply to you, that I apologize for.

  38. @Kimbo Jones:

    The problem with some people is they think their opinion is the only one that matters. Although I think i am right, if I argued until I was blue in the face would I really be following the basic principles of Libertarianism? Some Libertarians lose this idea.

  39. Is this why 127 Canadian soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan, so the “non-Taliban” government can pass barbaric laws like this? Bring our troops home, NOW!

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