Rating the Bennett Curriculum
Parents give it high marks so far; religion and creationism are down the road.
BY: Wendy Schuman
Bill Bennett's ambitiousK12 curriculum
only spans kindergarten through 2nd grade at the moment, but it already includes many references to world religions. According to current lesson plans, first graders get colorful pop-ups of the story of Joseph's coat of many colors as well as the Buddhist tale of the Monkey King. Hinduism, Buddhism, and the ancient Egyptian gods are introduced, along with the Old Testament figures of David, Moses, and Solomon.
Kids in second grade learn about ancient Roman gods and goddesses--and have almost as many history lessons on Islam as they do on the foundations of Christianity. Shinto and Japanese Buddhism get one lesson apiece.
Jason Bertsch, K12's vice president of government and public affairs, explains, "Religion has been a shaping force in human civilization for millennia. We cannot understand Egypt's pyramids or Mesopotamia's ziggurats, Homer's Odyssey or Virgil's Aeneid, without understanding ancient beliefs about the divine. Similarly, in American history, the founding of the thirteen colonies cannot be understood without an appreciation of religious motives."
He adds, "It is, of course, the choice and responsibility of parents or other caregivers to explain and nurture personal religious beliefs in the home." In the curriculum, kids are taught about religion as history, not that any one religion is right or wrong-an approach not even secular humanists could find fault with.
The problem may lie down the road when, according to Bennett, the science curriculum presents evolution, creationism, and intelligent design as equally tenable explanations for the existence of life. Schools critic Diane Ravitch, a frequent supporter of Bennett, notes, "My own view is that creationism is not science, it's religion. To me it would be like saying that the North won the Civil War because God intervened. That's not a scientifically justifiable, rational explanation. It's a belief statement."