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A proposed elementary curriculum for Texas schools is being criticized by its detractors as being overtly Christian. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) released thousands of pages for a proposed curriculum for students K-5. The curriculum would be voted on in November after receiving feedback from the public and could be implemented in Fall of 2025 if approved. The curriculum is optional for Texas schools, but those who do choose the curriculum will be granted and extra $60 per student in funding, a rather big incentive for cash-strapped schools. TEA Commissioner Mike Morath has promoted the curriculum as aimed at improving students’ math and reading scores, with the curriculum mirroring the classical education model, which combines lessons from the sciences, history, and the arts.

Critics have been quick to point out the curriculum’s references to the Bible and are accusing it of violating the separation of church and state. Morath, however states that the Bible’s inclusion is necessary for students to understand literary and historical contexts. “There is content, where relevant, that provides information on various religious traditions. For example, as students learn about Ancient Greece, they will also learn about the religion of the Greeks,” he said. “Students will learn about aspects of most major world religions. Content does not include religious lessons as one would find in a religious school, and instead is designed to provide background knowledge and vocabulary to ensure our students can reach high levels of academic proficiency and comprehend great literature.” Zeph Capo, president of the Texas American Federation of Teachers, however, has doubts. “It’s hard to understand or to teach Western civilization or European history without understanding the impact or the influence religion had on Martin Luther and his treatise and Martin Luther King Jr. But there’s a difference between providing context of the circumstances and actually injecting stories and fables and religious indoctrination into the curriculum.”

One such example includes students observing Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” and reading the scene from the book of Matthew. Morath said such knowledge is necessary for students to understand great works of literature. He cited Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and its reference to the Biblical story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, as found in the book of Daniel. “If you don’t know who Nebuchadnezzar is, you don’t know what [King’s] talking about. How do you make sure that you can unlock in the minds of our kids their ability to wrestle with … ideas that have surfaced in great works of literature?” he asked. Keven Ellis, a Republican school board member, stated he will be judging the curriculum on whether it aligns with the state’s curriculum standards. “My focus will remain on approving instructional materials that improve outcomes in phonics, language arts and math,” he said. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said he supports the curriculum, saying, “The materials will also allow our students to better understand the connection of history, art, community, literature, and religion on pivotal events like the signing of the U.S. Constitution, the Civil Rights Movement, and the American Revolution.”

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