Smu professor mark chancey loves the Bible. A leading scholar in New Testament and Christian Origins, Chancey decided last summer to study the 25 Texas public schools that offered Bible classes in the 2005–2006 academic year. What he found shocked him. Not only did the majority of classes fail to meet minimum standards for academic rigor but they promoted one faith over all others.
Chancey found that every school but three promoted a fundamentalist Protestant view of the Bible. Two in North Texas were among the worst, he says. Duncanville’s main textbook asks, “How could anyone be so blind, or so dumb, as to go through life, and face death, without the Christian Hope?” In Greenville, focus was placed on “dispensational premillennialism,” the belief that faithful Christians will be “raptured” while the rest of mankind suffers “tribulation” before Jesus returns to earth. But nowhere was the Bible taught as literature, or placed within history’s scope, as law mandates. Nowhere was there discussion of divergent views: Jews would interpret the text this way; this influenced Catholics to respond like that. Chancey calls the Texas schools guilty of a “blatant, sectarian bias.”
(The Superintendent of Greenville ISD did not return D Magazine’s phone calls. Duncanville ISD asked for questions via e-mail but did not respond.)
There was also the matter of the textbooks’ accuracy. Many of the schools used curriculum from the Creation Science Museum, in Glen Rose, about 80 miles south of Dallas. The museum says the earth is 6,000 years old and Adam and Eve roamed it alongside dinosaurs. Eleven of the 25 schools included literature from the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, a group working to dismantle the separation of church and state.
Chancey thinks both Greenville and Duncanville could be headed for legal showdowns one day. “Those two districts are lucky they have not been taken to court yet,” Chancey says. “And I hope they fix the problems in their courses before someone else does.”