We’re in Deep, Deep Trouble Indeed

DonDueed left a comment on our latest ACE atrocity post that reflects thoughts I had when I first started our Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education series:

There’s a question that’s been gnawing at me since you started this series. Just how widespread is this Christian home schooling cult?

If it’s a tiny fraction of the population, I’d say it’s not worthy of all the attention and effort on your (and our) part. But if there are significant numbers of kids being fed this atrocious crap, we’re in deep, deep trouble.

Good points! So let’s talk a bit about homeschooling first, then I’ll hit everyone with the map that will make you choke.

According to the US Department of Education, there are 1.77 million kids being homeschooled in the United States. About 21% of those parents say that they’re homeschooling for religious and moral reasons. So that’s at least 372,000 kids who are getting explicitly religious instruction. That’s probably a low figure: homeschooling is so loosely regulated that in some states, you don’t even have to notify the state about your intention to homeschool. The conservative Christian homeschoolers can be quite anti-government, to the point where some of them don’t even follow the law on registering their children’s births. So we don’t know the true numbers.

We do know that “The most vocal and organized home schoolers have tended to be religiously motivated, most often conservative Christians.” And “although families who home school represent a wide spectrum of racial, ethnic, religious, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds, most are white, religious, and conservative. The majority are also well-educated, middle-class, and have two or more children.” Secular homeschooling is getting more popular, but the conservative Christians are still a formidable force within the homeschool community.

And they use these bloody awful books in order to cram egregious errors and lies into their innocent kiddies’ heads, thus fucking up their science education for years, if not their entire lifetime.

So that’s over 370,000 reasons for doing this series. But wait! There’s more! Have a look at this map that Slate made:

Map of schools teaching creationism in these United States. Not just confined to the South, people. Image filched from PZ, who got it from Slate.
Map of schools teaching creationism in these United States. Not just confined to the South, people. Image filched from PZ, who got it from Slate.

Click here to go look at the maclargehuge version, and weep. That rash all over the United States is showing taxpayer-funded schools that teach creationism. Some of them use books and materials derived from the sources we are perusing.

Then consider that there are 630,557 conservative Christian private school kids in this country (not including Catholics). Many of them are being taught from these very textbooks, which are meant for Christian schools as well as homeschooling parents.

Schools like Liberty University teach the ideas found in these books. Pensacola Christian College (A Beka Book) and Bob Jones University (BJU Press) are behind two of the textbooks we’re studying. All of those schools funnel graduates into our schools and our political system. These are people who are taught that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, that evolution is false, that the fossils lie. They’re people who are taught a warped version of reality, and then make decisions based on that bullshit, and teach it to kids. Sometimes, the kids they are teaching it to are ours.


We have always lived in dangerous times, but with anthropogenic climate change, with the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, with all of the challenges to our health, safety, and survival on this planet, we need science more than ever. We need people who understand science well enough to make good policy decisions about it. We need people who listen to scientists when they say shit’s getting real. And what we’ve got is a political party that kowtows to the products of these fine Christian educations. We’ve got parents trying to hold back not just their own kids, but everybody’s kids. We’ve got a very vocal, very religiously motivated segment of our population trying to push us into a theocracy, and they believe the lies we find in these books. This is what they’re putting forth as the alternative to the real science we need to survive.

So it’s not a small problem. And we are, indeed, in deep, deep trouble.

In our next installment, I will present you Jonny Scaramanga’s arguments for other reasons why creationism matters, plus more blood-boiling links. Stay tuned!

We’re in Deep, Deep Trouble Indeed

17 thoughts on “We’re in Deep, Deep Trouble Indeed

  1. 1

    It is a big problem. I sometimes get home or Christian-schooled students in my classroom. They are nearly always behind academically, not just in science, but across the board.
    Some years ago now, one of the nearby Christian schools closed, and we got a big influx of their students. Nice kids, beautiful handwriting, couldn’t think their way out of a paper bag. Not surprising, since they had been actively taught not to think.
    Anecdotally, from my view things do seem to be improving on this front. Even in the conservative rural school where I teach, I get less pushback than I used to on things like the age of the Earth, etc.
    Polls seem to support this – younger people are more accepting of evolution than older people.

  2. 2

    My S.O. is home-schooled and it’s really interesting to see the great smoking holes in her education. She has no idea, at all, about astronomy or biology (especially not the smexy bits) yet is better with the classics than most Americans, as long as it’s not philosophical classics other than Augustine. Apparently Augustine was the only philosopher, ever. Her Latin and Greek are excellent (when I gave it to her, she started going through Epicurus in the original)

    One thing hanging out with her has taught me is the degree to which we confuse education with being “smart” — she’s very smart indeed, but every so often you slam into something she has no clue about at all, and there’s this great screech in my head as my mental gears adjust. For example, it simply makes no sense at all to me that someone well versed in the classics and history would have such a simple manichean view of the world. Once when we were talking about something related to WWII I commented about what a horrible person Winston Churchill was and she snapped back immediately: “NO! He’s a good guy!” We had a pretty interesting conversation after that – her education was not just intended to deny her access to genetics, biology, particularly evolution, paleontology, planetology, geology, astronomy and cosmology, there are huge portions of history that have been edited completely out, with amazing consequences. Following our Churchill conversation I asked her about Hitler. “Oh, he’s a bad guy.” “Why?” “He killed the jews” “Why?” Long awkward silence… She had absolutely no understanding of how her reproductive system works. None, at all. As in, no idea what STDs are, what a woman’s period is, what the pill does. She knows that “promiscuity is bad” but has no idea (like with the Hitler thing) why social mores regarding sex might be rooted in biology. Etc.

    I feel like she was betrayed by the people who were supposed to nurture her and prepare her for life. It’s child abuse.

  3. 3

    Well, thanks for that information, Dana. Thanks a lot. Of course, I may not come out from under the bed for some time.

    There is one consolation in that map, though — the whole Northeast is clean. That’s my neck of the woods, so maybe I can enjoy this bubble of sanity for a while longer.

    But then I read Dispatches and realize that these ignoramuses are moving ever deeper into the halls of power, and I despair.

    Maybe it’s time for New England to secede. We’ll let the Northwet join us too.

  4. 4

    Maybe it’s time for New England to secede. We’ll let the Northwet join us too.

    Only if we grant automatic asylum to anyone fleeing Jesusland for believing in science, being or supporting LGBTQ, etc.

    Oh, and we’ll have to take away their nukes – and I think that’ll be the deal breaker, just like Fort Sumter was the last time we tried this.

  5. 5

    This is a bit out of date, but I’m quite certain it still goes on here in lovely, progressive rural Texas:
    My daughter’s high school teacher for advanced biology was a very pleasant man, and apparently a pretty good, interesting teacher. He was also a deacon in the Primitive Baptist Church here in town. When the class arrived at the part of the textbook (Campbell Biology, so a real text) that dealt with the E-subject, he told the kids: “you can read these next three chapters if you want, but we won’t cover them and they won’t be on the test.” And off to college they went….

    So you don’t need homeschooling to be undereducated.

    One of my daughter’s classmate, at least then, doubted that dinosaurs had ever existed. Her preacher, after all, said they didn’t. And they were Church of Christ, not primitive Baptist.

  6. 8

    Actually you can contend that god created all the fossils as they have been found to confound man. Since god is omnipotent it is not a problem for him to do that, in fact you can contend that god created the entire geologic record to confound and confuse man. Of course this makes god somewhat malicious, being more nearly the bad god of Gnosticism (which has a good god and a bad god of the material world). (Is not christian history wonderful if there is a possible theology it has probably been tried one time or another. ) In any case once you believe that god is omnipotent and is active in both the spirit and natural world, then anything goes. God created things the way they appear setting for example the isotope ratios to make it seem that things are old.

  7. 10

    Primitive Baptists are a kind of Particular Baptists that believe that predestination exists and Christ only came to save the elect, the other folks are just plain screwed. The take a fairly strict Calvinist view (as did the Puritians in early new England).

  8. 15

    @1 & 2 – despite anecdotes, I’m pretty sure statistics show that overall, homeschooled students in the US are at least as academically competent as school students. Not so surprising perhaps, when you see what goes on in schools! It would be interesting to see if there’s a difference between religious and secular homeschoolers.

    My bit of anecdotal evidence is this: I homeschooled my daughter throughout the primary years, then she started Secondary/Middle School in the UK. We’re all perfectly satisfied that this experience should be referred to as ‘Playgroup for Teenagers’. Academically, it’s a total joke. We’re tolerating it because ‘playgroup’ is perhaps an important experience for teenagers to have, but we have every anticipation of needing to homeschool around the school. The other massive downside of school is a huge drop-off in her fitness level. Oh, and she now reads one book a term instead of one a week.

    BTW, as a homeschooler, I supported regulation but not the imposition of a curriculum, method or calendar. The big educational benefit to me was that ‘field trips’ were the norm not the exception and I internationalized our cultural studies and taught in two languages. I would lose those possibilities with very rigid regulations.

  9. 17

    Anne Fenwick @9
    Certainly some homeschoolers do a fine job, as I’m sure you did. The success stories tend not to show up in my classroom.
    Obviously, schools vary wildly, and I know far too little about the education system in the UK to say anything useful about how it might compare to homeschooling, or to U.S. schools.
    A quick Google search will turn up a number of homeschooling websites trumpeting studies showing that homeschooled students in the U.S. actually do better on the SAT & ACT than public school students. Libby Anne at Patheos dug a bit deeper, and her comments are worth a read.

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