Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Mark Chancey on the Bible in American Public Schools

This falls a little outside the usual area of coverage on the NT Gateway blog since it's connected with a controversy over American public schools, but Prof. Mark Chancey of Southern Methodist University [Mark: you need a homepage] has asked me to draw readers' attention to his report on a curriculum that is gaining widespread usage in American public schools. Mark has a letter on this in The Bible and Interpretation this week, and Jim Davila comments in Paleojudaica. Here is the website for all the relevant information:

Texas Freedom Network: The Bible and Public Schools

Mark comments that he is particularly looking for support from academics, and hopes that my commenting on this here will make more aware of this. I note that already there are some big names on the Academic Endorsements page. I have not signed it myself because I am not an American citizen, but I have read it with great interest and some concern as a Biblical scholar who is also a Dad with children shortly to enter into the American public school system. I have spent some time reading Mark's report, which is available in full on the website above:

The Bible and Public Schools: Report on the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (PDF)
A Report by Mark Chancey for the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund

It makes for some fascinating reading. On the whole it simply documents the difficulties with the report, commenting on why given elements are problematic. I suppose the thing that most struck me was the sheer extent of the apparent plagiarism in this document and, what's more, plagiarism of on-line articles of pretty dubious worth. Mark footnotes extensively, something the curriculum itself apparently does not do. It's not just that errors abound but that it includes things like urban legends about NASA.

It's good to see Biblical scholars getting involved and making intelligent, careful, reasoned responses to important public issues like this. Incidentally, if you haven't seen it yet, Mark Chancey's The Myth of a Gentile Galilee, which is based on his Duke University PhD, is essential reading; in fact, I may make a separate blog entry in a little on what is available on-line in relation to this book.


t. said...


t again said...

p.s. I agree, he needs a blog/website.