My God! For a moment yesterday I thought the world as we know it was coming to an end. There was a time it appeared that Glenn Beck had joined forces with the proponents of high quality science education and was promoting the teaching of evolution in high schools. Even more surprising, it appeared that he had taken a principled stand against Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's promotion of state support for religious education.
But then all became clear. The Earth was back on its regular axis and the narrow-minded Beck was again ranting about the trivial.
How could I have been so confused? Very simply actually. After all, I noticed that Beck was quoted as saying, "It's horrifying some of the things that they're teaching high schoolers," within minutes of my having read a frightening report about the text books to be used in sectarian schools supported by state funds in Louisiana.
The story begins with Jindal's support for legislation passed in Louisiana that creates the largest school voucher program in the United States. In fact, over half of Louisiana's school age children are likely to be eligible for the vouchers. Additionally, for every student migrating to a private school, the state will defund the public school system by the average cost of instruction as well as the cost of the voucher. Public school funding in Louisiana is likely to be decimated within two years. But it gets worse.
There are virtually no controls on the curriculum to be offered by the private schools to be supported by vouchers. The vast majority of them are religiously affiliated -- and most seem to lack any standards at all. As a recent report in Reuters points out, the list of private schools approved by the state to receive vouchers is broad but most vouchers will be used by schools looking to make a financial killing while promoting a fundamentalist agenda.
That list includes some of the most prestigious schools in the state, which offer a rich menu of advanced placement courses, college-style seminars and lush grounds. The top schools, however, have just a handful of slots open. The Dunham School in Baton Rouge, for instance, has said it will accept just four voucher students, all kindergartners. As elsewhere, they will be picked in a lottery.
Far more openings are available at smaller, less prestigious religious schools, including some that are just a few years old and others that have struggled to attract tuition-paying students.
The school willing to accept the most voucher students -- 314 -- is New Living Word in Ruston, which has a top-ranked basketball team but no library. Students spend most of the day watching TVs in bare-bones classrooms. Each lesson consists of an instructional DVD that intersperses Biblical verses with subjects such as chemistry or composition.
The Upperroom Bible Church Academy in New Orleans, a bunker-like building with no windows or playground, also has plenty of slots open. It seeks to bring in 214 voucher students, worth up to $1.8 million in state funding.
At Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, pastor-turned-principal Marie Carrier hopes to secure extra space to enroll 135 voucher students, though she now has room for just a few dozen. Her first- through eighth-grade students sit in cubicles for much of the day and move at their own pace through Christian workbooks, such as a beginning science text that explains "what God made" on each of the six days of creation. They are not exposed to the theory of evolution.
Unbelievably, it gets even worse! As Bruce Wilson discusses, many of these schools use a science curriculum based on materials produced by A Beka Book, Bob Jones University Press and Accelerated Christian Education.
These materials teach, among many other things, that the second law of thermodynamics disproves evolution (something that even the most ardent creationists now recognize is ridiculous), that humans and dinosaurs coexisted and that the Loch Ness Monster has been determined to be a dinosaur currently living in Scotland.
Take a look at the following video to see even more bizarre claims made by these fundamentalist purveyors of educational claptrap.
As Glenn Beck noted, "It's horrifying some of the things that they're teaching high schoolers." Sadly, though, he wasn't concerned about any of this. No, he was referring to the television show "Glee."
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