By Cory Doctorow | 2 June 2018
2,000 US schools use textbooks from Abeka, BJU Press and Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), including tax-funded charter schools across America. Students who learn from these texts are taught that God wanted Protestantism to flourish in North America and that Catholicism is not a true faith; that it was better Africans to be enslaved and come to “know Christ” than to be free but not Christian; that evolution is untrue; that humans and dinosaurs lived together (and that Noah brought baby dinosaurs on the ark); that the Loch Ness monster is real; that “abortion, gay rights and the Endangered Species Act” are part of a “radical social agenda”; that nonwhites are inferior (60% of the tax-funded scholarship students at charter schools come from racialized minorities and are thus taught that they are racially inferior to their white schoolmates).
The materials are meant to be administered by people without teaching credentials — many charter schools do not require these — with all instruction delivered through easy worksheets that ensure that even qualified teachers can’t improve the educational experience. In Florida, students who attend charter schools on scholarships are not required to take standardized exams that might uncover gaps in their education.
More than a decade ago, educators with the University of California decided not to recognize some credits from students whose high school courses were based on Abeka or BJU textbooks, saying they did not cover topics students needed to be ready for college. The Association of Christian Schools International sued the university system in 2006 over that decision. A California court ruled in the universities’ favor in 2008.
Good teachers can offer good academics, even if the textbook is subpar, said the experts who reviewed materials for the newspaper, supplementing with other materials and classroom activities.
But ACE is worrisome, they said, because it relies on its workbooks and, therefore, leaves little room for those teacher-based improvements.
Several Central Florida schools that use ACE said one of the curriculum’s selling points is that it works no matter the skill of the teachers — and even if they lack college degrees.
In public schools, Florida teachers need a bachelor’s degree and passing scores on state certification exams, but there are no required teacher credentials for private schools that accept state scholarships.
“Honestly, with our curriculum … a certified teacher is not required,” Natasha Griffin, district superintendent of Esther’s School, which has seven campuses in Florida, told the Orlando Sentinel last year.
Schools Without Rules: Private schools’ curriculum downplays slavery, says humans and dinosaurs lived together [Leslie Postal, Beth Kassab and Annie Martin/Orlando Sentinel]
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) June 4, 2018
One Abeka history textbook, for example, says that Satan hatched “the ideas of evolution, socialism, Marxist-socialism (communism), progressive education, and modern psychology.”
— Church and State (@ChurchAndStateN) May 15, 2020
Private schools’ curriculum downplays slavery, says humans and dinosaurs lived together
US ‘charter’ schools hit by controversy
The effects of Christian homeschooling
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