by Max Brantley
A Texas charter school group has a secular veneer and is funded by public money, but it has been connected from its inception to the creationist movement.
When public-school students enrolled in Texas’ largest charter program open their biology workbooks, they will read that the fossil record is “sketchy.” That evolution is “dogma” and an “unproved theory” with no experimental basis. They will be told that leading scientists dispute the mechanisms of evolution and the age of the Earth. These are all lies.
The more than 17,000 students in the Responsive Education Solutions charter system will learn in their history classes that some residents of the Philippines were “pagans in various levels of civilization.” They’ll read in a history textbook that feminism forced women to turn to the government as a “surrogate husband.”
Responsive Ed has a secular veneer and is funded by public money, but it has been connected from its inception to the creationist movement and to far-right fundamentalists who seek to undermine the separation of church and state.
Infiltrating and subverting the charter-school movement has allowed Responsive Ed to carry out its religious agenda—and it is succeeding. Operating more than 65 campuses in Texas, Arkansas, and Indiana, Responsive Ed receives more than $82 million in taxpayer money annually, and it is expanding, with 20 more Texas campuses opening in 2014.
One of Responsive Ed’s schools, Founders Classical Academy in Lewisville, Texas, where Responsive Ed is based, uses a curriculum far worse even than the Responsive Ed Knowledge Units. The school teaches American history from A Patriot’s History of the United States. The patriots book is “required reading,” according to Glenn Beck, and it opens with an interview between Rush Limbaugh and the author. It is a book that, as Dave Weigel says, “will make you stupider.”
This book teaches the superiority of the West, which in the 1400s and 1500s was apparently “quantum leaps” ahead of “native peoples,” including Ming Dynasty China, one of the most prosperous Chinese dynasties. It explains that the West was superior to “native populations” in battles because “Aztec chiefs and Moor sultans alike were completely vulnerable to massed firepower, yet without the legal framework of republicanism and civic virtue like Europe’s to replace its leadership cadre, a native army could be decapitated at its head by one volley.”
On the feminist movement, Founders Classical Academy students are taught that feminism “created an entirely new class of females who lacked male financial support and who had to turn to the state as a surrogate husband.”
These lessons were lifted directly from a company called Character First Education, which was founded by an Oklahoma businessman named Tom Hill. He is a follower of Bill Gothard, a minister who runs the Institute in Basic Life Principles, a Christian organization that teaches its members to incorporate biblical principles into daily life. IBLP is considered a cult by some of its former followers. Gothard developed character qualities associated with a list of “49 General Commands of Christ” that Hill adopted for his character curriculum. Hill then removed Gothard’s references to God and Bible verses and started marketing the curriculum to public schools and other public institutions.
The values taught by Responsive Ed can often be found word for word on Gothard’s website.
I don’t think other charter schools can look away either; Responsive Ed is an internal threat to the charter movement. Rather than educating students, it’s interested in indoctrinating them with one sect of religion. If weak oversight allows Responsive Ed to survive, it makes the entire charter system look bad.
...It is clearly past time for Texas to tighten the rules surrounding charters and enforce accountability to prevent any other religious programs from subverting the public education system.
Arkansas needs to know, before it's too late, if this same stuff is the agenda of Responsive Ed schools in Arkansas. I've sent a query to the organization.
This is a moment of truth for the charter movement and for Texas politicians. Will they support removing from charter programs these schools that break the law?