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10 Insane History Lessons that Private, Religious Voucher Schools Are Teaching America’s Kids

With public dollars, kids are being taught that the Great Depression was a hoax.
 
 
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Photo Credit: Oksana Kuzmina/Shutterstock.com

 

School voucher programs are being debated everywhere you turn — in courtrooms, in state governments, and even in popular culture. Just  Thursday, Republicans in Florida tried and failed to expand their state’s voucher program. On  Friday, Arizona’s Supreme Court ruled that using state funds to pay for children’s education at religious and private schools was constitutional. And perhaps most importantly, “True Detective,” which was already one of the best shows ever to be on TV, became the best show ever to go after vouchers when a villain explained his desire to use the school voucher system to achieve his nefarious ends:

The whole idea was to provide an alternative to the kind of secular globalized education that our public schools were promoting. When we get the school voucher program instituted we’ll reintroduce the idea. People should have a choice in education, like anything else.

So why are vouchers so justifiably vilified? Where to start! As I have written  previously, school voucher programs, which allow parents to use public dollars to pay for private education, are not  only ineffective but they fail to address the rampant inequality that plagues our nation’s schools and  weaken the public school system as a whole. Despite these facts, voucher schools are  on the rise — and many of them are religious schools using public money to teach a distorted version of reality, which I had thought only existed 50 years ago or in over the top parodies of the right wing.

Where do these religious voucher schools get their so-called “facts”? One place is Christian publisher  A Beka Book. Founded in 1972 by Arlin and Rebekah (aka, “Beka”) Horton, A Beka churns out a significant number of the textbooks used by such schools. Forty-three percent of the religious voucher schools that responded to a 2003 Palm Beach Post survey based their curricula on texts published by either A Beka Books or  Bob Jones University Publishing. A Beka Book estimates that around 9,000 schools utilize their books.

And just what does A Beka Book — which in 1998 paid a $44.5 million fine to the IRS for masquerading as a non-profit while reaping hundreds of millions of dollars in profits — teach students about, say, the creation of the world, or modern American history?
In an article I wrote for AlterNet late last month, I highlighted the “  7 Most Absurd Things America's Kids Are Learning Thanks to the Conservative Gutting of Public Education.” But these 7 examples didn’t even begin to do justice to the way textbooks published by  A Beka Book empower religious schools engaged in voucher programs to distort the truth in order to further an extremist political agenda. And I would be remiss if I failed to include additional disinformation campaigns being launched in schools around the nation.
 
So here are 10 further examples of totally dishonest lessons brought to you by "school choice" (aka, your tax dollars). This time I focus on five of the scariest history lessons kids are learning thanks to the popular A Beka Book title,  America: Land I Love In Christian Perspective, plus five of the publisher’s most notable profiles of historical figures, taken from a variety of its books.

1. The Great Depression: Made Up to Spread Socialism

In a section titled "More Rumors," America: Land I Love In Christian Perspective takes on the origins of the Great Depression. The book explains that,

"Some people wanted to create an imaginary crisis in order to move the country toward socialism. They spread rumors of bank mortgage foreclosures and mass evictions from farms, homes and apartments. But local banks did all in their power to keep their present tenants. The number of people out of work in the 1930s averaged about 15 percent of the work force; thus 85 percent continued to work. Most had to take a pay cut, but prices also declined during the Depression, enabling people to buy more for their money."