7 Most Absurd Things America's Kids Are Learning Thanks to the Conservative Gutting of Public Education
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Conservatives are masters at using distortion and subterfuge to sell people on things they would never buy if properly labeled. Nowhere is this more evident than in the arena of “school choice” -- a conservative euphemism for "gutting public education from the inside out."
According to its major proponents, like the late Milton “Pinochet es mi amigo” Friedman, “school choice gives parents the freedom to choose their children’s education, while encouraging healthy competition among schools to better serve families' needs.” Sounds lovely! But, it turns out, there are plenty of well-documented problems with school choice, especially when it comes to the school voucher system, which provides families with public funds to send their children to private -- often religious -- schools.
Voucher programs in particular have been proven to be largely ineffective; they weaken the public school system, and fail to address inequality, which may be why their supporters, like the Koch Brothers, Americans for Prosperity and Dick Morris, love them. Through their concerted efforts, vouchers are on the rise: In 2013, 15 states started or expanded their voucher programs.
Though supported with public funds, private schools engaged in voucher programs lack the accountability and oversight applicable to public schools, so they’re not subject to the whole separation of church and state thing that forms the backbone of of American democracy. Given that, it seems fair to wonder: What kinds of lessons are our tax dollars supporting at these schools spared the scrutiny of Big Government and the burdens of the Constitution?
To find the answer, I dug into the catalog of one of the biggest publishers used by religious voucher schools: a company called A Beka Book. A Beka Book is one of the three most widely used Protestant fundamentalist textbook publishers in the country, along with Bob Jones University Publishing, published in Greenville South Carolina, and Accelerated Christian Education, published in Lewisville, Texas. Forty-three percent of the religous voucher schools that responded to a 2003 Palm Beach Post survey based their curricula on either A Beka or Bob Jones. A Beka Book estimates that 9,000 schools use its books in the classroom.
Founded by Arlin and Rebekah (Beka) Horton in 1972, A Beka Book provides “excellence in education from a Christian perspective.” Since 1977, A Beka Book has operated out of the unaccredited Arlin-founded Pensacola Christian College (PCC) in Florida. Among other rules, PCC has a zero tolerance policy for “ optical intercourse” or staring too intently into the eyes of a member of the opposite sex (also known as “making eye babies”).
Though the publisher won’t reveal its finances, over the years, sales from A Beka Book have paid for PCC’s construction projects ($300 million) and annual scholarships ($2 million). Though the publisher used to enjoy a tax-exempt status, that privilege was revoked in 1995 because the company was (surprise!) found to be a profit-making entity. In 1998, A Beka Book paid the IRS an estimated $44.5 million to “remove any question as to our Christian responsibility in the matter of back taxes."
The Hortons are as rigorous intellectually as they are ethically and fiscally. Here are seven invaluable lessons children learn from their A Beka Book texts, thanks in part to your tax dollars.
1. Mathematics: The Devil’s Playground
The publishing company boasts that, “Unlike the ‘modern math’ theorists, who believe that mathematics is a creation of man and thus arbitrary and relative, A Beka Book texts teach that the laws of mathematics are a creation of God and thus absolute.”