January 17, 2013
By Denise Gee
DALLAS (SMU) — SMU Religious Studies Professor Mark A. Chancey is author of a new study targeting bias, factual errors and insufficient curriculum standards in Texas public school Bible courses.
The report “Reading, Writing & Religion II,” conducted for the Austin-based education watchdog group Texas Freedom Network (TFN), reveals that most of the 60 public school districts in Texas aren’t meeting a 2007 state law mandating Bible courses be fair as well as academically and legally sound. The study recommends the State Board of Education develop Bible course curriculum standards and the Texas Education Agency be allowed funds for a teacher training program.
“As a biblical scholar and especially as a parent, I want our state’s public schools to take the study of the Bible’s influence as seriously as they do the study of science or history,” Chancey told The Dallas Morning News. “Academically, many of these classes lack rigor and substance, and some seem less interested in cultivating religious literacy than in promoting religious beliefs. Their approach puts their school districts in legal jeopardy and their taxpayers in financial jeopardy.”
Chancey, a professor in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities & Sciences, has devoted considerable attention to the constitutional, political and academic issues raised by religion courses in public schools. Two earlier reports on Bible courses for the TFN led to the drastic revision of a nationally used Bible curriculum and helped draw attention to the ways in which Bible courses are often used for the unconstitutional promotion of certain religious views over others in public school classrooms.
Chancey is an Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor at SMU. He has written two books with Cambridge University Press — “The Myth of a Gentile Galilee” (2002) and “Greco-Roman Culture and the Galilee of Jesus” (2005) — and recently co-authored “Alexander to Constantine: Archaeology of the Land of the Bible” for Yale University Press (2012). He also is a member of the editorial boards for “Religion & Education” and “Teaching the Bible.”