Who’s ready to go back to school? On this episode, we’re tackling conservative Christian school curriculum from publishers like Abeka and BJU Press. Join us as we dive into a topsy-turvy world where The Great Depression never happened, dragons are real, and numbers work completely differently (yes, Evangelicals even have their own math). Pull up your britches, kids. This one's a doozy.
Clint: This one gave me some major childhood flashbacks. These textbooks - once I started reading, I remembered them vividly.
Jey: Yeah, I like watching the sections that he pulled out. I was like, No, I definitely remember learning from these textbooks and this isn't funny. This one's going to be rough.
Clint: It's a little funny.
Jey: Going back and relearning all of this is a shocker because it's like, “Oh, shit, oh, shit. Now this is what I was taught. Nope, this is what I was. This is why I'm having to learn now. Oh, my God. Oh, my God.” And we're going to go back and look at all the crazy shit that we learned as kids. This one's a doozy. Take some shots. Let's get into it. I'm going to pull up my britches.
Clint: Hello everyone and welcome to How Gay Thou Art, a comedy podcast about growing up queer, Christian, and hella confused. My name is Clint Keller, he/him.
Jey: I'm Jey Austen, they/them.
Clint: And on today’s show, we’re going to be diving in Christian school curriculum for grades K-12. We’ll mostly be focusing on a publishing company called Abeka, founded by Rebecca Horton of Pensacola Christian College fame, but we’ll also be touching on BJU Press and Ace.
Jey: BJU, meaning Bob Jones.
Clint: Bob Jones University, right. Their content is arguably more problematic but it isn’t nearly as popular as Abeka.
Jey: I am a little bit concerned because just going back into this, you know, the other episodes have been like, “haha Christian.” But this is like deconstructing everything that I was taught growing up because I went to Christian high school. I had four years of public education from fourth to seventh grade but this is just like holding a microscopic lens to what I was taught. This is a little bit like what we do in therapy, but except it's, you know, on a podcast and everyone's going to hear about it.
Clint: I was reading back through some of the textbooks that I read as a kid - mostly the history ones because they’re the worst offenders - and for what it's worth, I forgot a lot of that stuff. Of course, it all came flooding back when I cracked open the book.
Jey: Yeah, you tend to forget because you're cramming for all the tests or whatever. So are you Christian school or homeschooled or…
Clint: Both. There was a small, local Christian school and I went there for kindergarten, 1st grade, 4th grade, 7th grade, and 9th grade.
Jey: Okay. Yep.
Clint: “Why?” you ask? The staff turnover was frequent at this school so we got into this cycle where I would go for a year, then I would get sick of those people, so mom and dad would pull me out and I would homeschool. Then I would get lonely and bored and the school would have all new teachers by then so I would go back. Rinse and repeat. Of course, what I really wanted to do is just go to a regular fucking school.
Jey: Right. But that was never an option so...
Clint: Correct. Regardless, whether I was in Christian school or being homeschooled, we used the same curriculum - mainly Abeka, a bit of Bob Jones. I think we used Ace for math one year but that’s it. It isn’t super popular but I knew a few people who used it. Abeka is the go-to if you’re looking for rewritten history and made-up science. Luckily, you and I both went to Christian colleges who don’t question this kind of education so I guess it worked out in the end.
Jey: Yeah, it works out in the end. We have official degrees.
Clint: I mean, not for everyone.
Jey: Maybe not for everyone, but like I've been looking around on Yelp and all of the reviews and it was supposedly the best Christian school in the area-
Clint: Wait, there's a Yelp page for your Christian school?
Jey: Yes, Yelp. There's only one review for my high school that I went to and it just says this is a bullshit school. Don't go here.
Clint: Could I put in an application for my kid through OpenTable?
Jey: Sure, I'm sure. It was really interesting learning about my education through bad Yelp reviews, but then seeing this curriculum here that uses Abeka, it uses Bob Jones University, so it's a smattering of different textbooks. But I'm pretty sure that's what my school used as a curriculum since they were certified by the ACSI.
Clint: Ah, yes, the Association of Christian Schools International. It's kind of hard to pin down exactly how many of these books are being used and which schools are using them because like you’re saying, most of the schools use a variety of these publishers. It's usually not all Abeka or all BJU. But at the end of the day, all of these conservative Christian curriculum companies teach basically the same bullshit, so it doesn’t make much of a difference. Coming back to it as an adult has been shocking, honestly. Some of the excerpts I pulled for this episode are just unbelievable.
Jey: So I've been reeducating myself ever since we started this podcast. Like, I've been going through Crash Course on YouTube and then I've been reading history books, like an Indigenous People's History of the United States and all of this stuff to like, educate myself. And so now knowing real history and knowing a little bit of science, this is going to be really interesting going back because as a child, they were just teaching you how to “disprove” real science and stuff.
Clint: It’s pretty wild going back to middle school after finishing grad school. We’re like real-life Billy Madisons.
Jey: I went to an Episcopal school from pre-K through third grade and when I got to college after I was getting out of my super nondenominational evangelical church, I went back to the same Episcopal church that I went to school at, and I became friends with the priest and he was like, “Oh, you went to the school that they closed down because there was too many stupid kids.” And I was like, “Oh yeah, but I was the best one!”
Clint: So Christian curriculum - what is it? I guess it's kind of self-explanatory right?
Jey: Is it?
Clint: It's grade school curriculum published by Christian companies, which on its face is like, whatever. Because we all share the same history, right? We all use the same math and science.
Jey: You'd think.
Clint: But you would be thinking wrong. Textbooks from conservative Christian publishers are like textbooks from an alternate dimension where history played out completely differently, certain mathematics theories were never discovered, and everything you know about science is completely topsy-turvy.
Jey: Yeah, they turn everything on its head. And there's a Bible verse in every lesson. It's very God centered. It is God first, math second.
Clint: I would say it's more like America first, God second, math like 10th.
Jey: Damn, I love math so much. As my math teacher used to say, it's like Christmas. It gives you the warm-fuzzies.
Clint: I also really enjoy math. It was my top subject as a kid.
Jey: I thought about being a math major. I also wanted to be a computer science major, but there were too many guys and it was the same thing with film. I got put on makeup duty.
Clint: That good ol’ Christian misogyny. A lot of the books will have “from a Christian perspective” as part of the title - like “American History from a Christian Perspective,” “Algebra from a Christian Perspective,” which is basically a dog whistle for “White Christian Nationalist Perspective.” Like, what does it even mean to have a Christian perspective on math? It's nonsense.
Jey: No, your Christian perspective on mathematics is like you do Bible verse things, you know, the five loaves and the two fish. We've got to create a mathematical theorem for it.
Clint: That kind of thing is fine with me, honestly. If that’s all it entailed, we wouldn’t be doing an episode about it. If you want to use the Bible as a basis for word problems, have a field day. Who gives a shit? But the problem with this kind of curriculum is that they’re literally rewriting history and omitting major portions of math.
Jey: What is set theory and why do Christians not want you to know it? I can't wait. I never had you as a teacher but, Professor Clint, can you teach me?
Clint: This is not an education. Please do not commit any of the information from these books to memory.
Jey: We are going to teach you what not to believe.
Clint: Jey, if you had to guess, what do you think started this whole Christian curriculum movement?
Jey: I think personally that we have this Christian curriculum movement due to white flight. So after desegregation, they would start Christian schools so that white people could go to them and learn an alternate history where Christians weren’t the bad guys. I think that Christians being on the side of segregation really hurt, especially the largest denominations like the SBC, so they tried to turn this into a reeducation movement.
Clint: Ding ding ding! You're absolutely correct. Racism is the number one reason this industry exists today. Before the 1960’s, Christian Day schools weren’t much of a thing. They were here and there, but mainly catered to privileged families. And at that time, there weren’t Christian textbooks per se. But once the Civil Rights Movement kicks off and schools start integrating, Christian day schools start popping up everywhere, all so little white kids won’t have to share a classroom with black kids. Of course, white parents of the time claimed they had other reasons too - drugs, sex, secular culture - all strikingly similar to the things Evangelicals continue to bitch about today. But racism was the primary motivating factor in this movement when this started and continues to be a primary motivating factor today. I was reading an interview with Russell Hawkins - he's a professor of humanities and history at Indiana Wesleyan University - and he said, “If many conservative Protestant schools in the 1960s and seventies were founded to keep white children away from certain people, then the goal today is keeping children away from certain ideas. But the ideas being avoided are still having to do with race.”
Jey: Oh, like critical race theory.
Clint: Exactly. One big thing in conservative Christian education that is pretty consistent across all of these publishers is a fundamental aversion to empowering students. Of course, this flies in the face of trends in the real educational world. The best schools place a lot of importance on student empowerment. But conservative Christian education is all about discipline, submission and belief without question. Students are expected to unequivocally accept the information that the teachers and textbooks provide. Questions are not encouraged, for reasons that will become obvious as we dig into some of these texts. Abeka’s website says as much - “Abeka’s proven approach to teaching helps students learn and teachers teach. It begins with our traditional philosophy of education. This teacher directed framework empowers teachers to focus students attention on the material they need to learn.”
Clint: There is a deep strain of opposition to critical thinking that runs through these textbooks, which of course, is necessary if you're going to maintain this house of cards built from quasi-history and pseudoscience. Abeka actually created a fun mnemonic device to help students discard any new information that may be presented to them. It’s called D.I.S.C.E.R.N. You are supposed to determine your choices, inquire of god through prayer, search the scriptures, consider godly counsel, eliminate worldly thinking, recognize god’s leading, and never compromise the truth. Of course, nowhere does it say, “maybe consider that you’re wrong about this topic.”
Jey: Of course there's no like, “Can I be wrong? Is there another side to this?” Like, Oh, God, you know, and this reminds me of when I was in the evangelical cult, basically, high control church, there was a girl and she was like, “I'm so excited that my home state of Louisiana banned same sex marriage today. This is so awesome.” And then she was like talking to me and she was like, “So what do you believe about this?” And I was like, “Well, I'm researching right now,” because I was I was going to the Metropolitan Community Church, which is the denomination founded by gays. And that pastor is the one who started pride in Waco because pride has to be led by a church in Waco because...
Clint: God-forbid we have a secular pride event in Waco, literally.
Jey: Absolutely. So I was going there and like reading up on gay people in the Bible and stuff like that. And she's like, “Well, I hope that God directs you to the right research and I'll pray and you want to tell me what he-” Like, basically just like trying to be like, really, really- She was insane. But it's that kind of thing where it's like, I hope that you find the right way of thinking. There's only one way to think and there's only one way that they think that God can think. So it's really, really weird to even think about, like, progressive Christians. Once I found out that progressive Christians existed, I was out.
Clint: It's a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. These people believe a certain thing and they don't do any research or challenge themselves or expose themselves to any contrary opinions. All they’re willing to do is pray about it, seek god’s will on the topic. But of course, you aren’t going to come to any new conclusions if you’re relying solely on the echo chamber of your own mind. It baffles me how Evangelicals continually equate their own feelings with the voice of god.
Jey: So in college, one of my roommates in the cult was a social work major, and she spoke up in class saying that she didn't think that single parents should be able to adopt.
Clint: What the fuck. And she wants to go into social work?
Jey: And she didn't think that gay people should either. And then all of these people started attacking her and she's like, “You don't even want to hear my point of view. You're just attacking me like,” so they play like a victim card and yes, she wanted to go into social work and yes, she got her degree in social work. So this stuff stays with you and these people get jobs.
Clint: Jobs? Hell, they’re running for congress now.
Clint: Homeschooling and conservative Christian day schools have really exploded in the past few years because of the pandemic. And as a result of that, tons of small Christian curriculum companies have popped up. But as I mentioned earlier, there are 3 publishers that remain at the top of the game - Abeka, BJU Press, and Ace. They’ve all been around 50+ years, but Abeka is far and away the most popular conservative Christian curriculum company and its founder is Evangelical royalty. Abeka was founded in 1972 by Rebecca Horton. If the Horton name sounds familiar, that’s because her husband, Arlan, was the founder and long-time president of Pensacola Christian College down in Florida, one of the most extreme evangelical universities in America. My youth group used to take trips down there for high school recruitment weekends, actually. I knew a lot of people who ended up going there. That place is totally insane. They have separate stairways for men and women. You can get cited for so much as staring at someone of the opposite gender for too long. There is literally a 15 foot wall that surrounds the campus so students can’t sneak off.
Jey: And this is still a college today?
Clint: Absolutely. And it’s a very big deal for conservative Evangelicals.
Jey: How many people go there? I'm gonna look this up right now.
Clint: I’m not sure but it’s a gigantic and beautiful campus.
Jey: 5,000 students go there.
Clint: They have a shit ton of money too. Beautiful facilities. They even have an indoor water park on campus, which seems unnecessary in Florida, but it was the only way they could ensure boys and girls didn’t see each other in swim wear. So they have scheduled times when each gender can use the water park.
Jey: Right. And then the women probably all have to wear a one piece.
Clint: Probably. Outside of the water park, women have to wear long skirts, no pants.. And it has to be below the knee. Men have to wear long pants, button-up shirts. And like, even if you're going to the gym, you have to wear this semi-formal attire on your way there. So if I was in a dorm, I would have to get completely dressed - khakis, button-up, loafers - bring a bag with my gym clothes, go to the gym, change there, work out, then change back before I walk home. And it’s all on campus, hundreds of feet away at most.
Jey: You’re telling me I have to go to the gym looking like Jake from State Farm.
Clint: Everyone there looks like Jake from State Farm except somehow, even less cool.
Jey: Wow. Wow.
Clint: Even when I was fully enmeshed in the church and many of the people I knew were planning to go to - or already at - PCC, I knew I could never do it. I couldn’t imagine subjecting myself to that level of control as an adult. Like, you’re a grown-ass 21 year-old and you’re gonna let Daddy Horton tell you what to do all the time? Get the fuck outta here.
But anyway - back to Abeka. So Arlan ran the college and Rebecca ran the curriculum company. She also had an in-person Christian day school there in Pensacola. The textbook publishing really started to take off so in 1985, Abeka introduced tapes of classes that were being taught at her school. So homeschoolers could rent these tapes for the semester and send them back when they were done. I used these myself all through high school. They were DVDs by that point but it was still the same video from the 80’s. I would sit in my room watching DVD transfers of useless classroom footage from 1985 on my original Xbox. What a time to be alive. Of course, you can get Abeka content on streaming these days.
One fun fact about Abeka is they lost their tax exempt status in 1995. You'll find this is a common theme among Christian publishers and a lot of Christian organizations, for that matter. And in 1998, they had to pay back about $45 million in back taxes. They said that they, “Wanted to remove any question as to our Christian responsibility in the matter of back taxes.” Which is an easy thing to say when you legally have to pay them.
Jey: You know how like some Christian organizations, I'm not trying to point fingers but use this tax exempt status, how Joel Osteen, the plumber, found like $400,000 in the walls of his church. I think they gave the guy a reward for finding it because they had reported it stolen and gotten insurance money from it. And I just kind of feel like he found it while he was doing some piping late. Anyway…
Clint: I bet he was laying that pipe. The second big player in the Christian curriculum world is BJU Press. Like Abeka, they are also tied to a conservative Evangelical college - Bob Jones University in South Carolina. They started printing the year after Abeka in 1973. They too lost their tax exempt status in the 80’s because they banned interinterracial dating. And rather than change that policy, they chose to pay taxes for nearly 20 years until interracial dating was finally allowed in the year 2000.
Jey: I know it's still frowned upon there too, though.
Clint: Absolutely. There has actually been an alarming uptick of people within the religious right who are trying to re-demonize interracial relationships today. The sentiment has always been there. It was certainly taboo in the churches I went to, but I think recent political events have emboldened the more racist parts of Evangelicalism.
BJU Press primarily focused on home schoolers and that's one of the big differences between them and other publishers at the time. Although most of the smaller companies that have cropped up recently are also generally homeschool focused. But BJU’s catalog is massive. In 2006, they had about 2,500 titles in print.
Jey: That's a lot of different books.
Clint: But that’s also counting teacher manuals and workbooks and stuff. They also have a media division. They produce movies, albums, all kinds of stuff.
Jey: Hold on, because I feel like I might have seen some of these. You know that movie that Al Gore did that was about climate change?
Clint: An Inconvenient Truth.
Jey: Yeah, we didn't watch that, but we watched the movie that disproved it. It was some Christian movie saying like, “This isn't real.” We also watched an anti-teachers union one. I don't know why we needed to see that, but-
Clint: Well, if you're interested in revisiting any of the Bob Jones video content, a lot of it is streaming on Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis streaming platform. They have a partnership now so you can get a double dose of insanity for one low monthly rate.
The third big player in the game is ACE - Accelerated Christian Education. It's actually the oldest. It was founded in 1970 by Donald and Esther Howard in none other than Garland, Texas. But it's by far the least popular. Abeka’s market share is like 40%, 50%. Ace is about 5% so it’s pretty negligible in the scheme of things. There is one last thing I want to mention before we dive into our next segment and actually start pulling excerpts from the textbooks themselves. This information did not originate with the Hortons or with any of these textbooks companies. What happened is they purchased the rights to old American public school textbooks and used that information for their curriculum. Public school textbooks from the early 20th century were very similar to Abeka books today. The religious aspects were less overt, but the racism and white washing and bad science that we’ll see in modern Christian curriculum was present in secular curriculum 80 years ago. That began to change in the 60’s and 70’s but people like the Hortons wanted to preserve that absurdist vision of an idealized America where white Christians are always the good guys. This has created a closed loop in these communities where parents and grandparents were educated this way in public schools, then when public school curriculum started changing - for the better - they freaked out and put their kids in Christian schools. Then those kids grew up and sent their kids to Christian schools too because of new boogeymen like CRT or sex ed - same shit under a different name. So the cycle of white Christian nationalist education continues to perpetuate. And now we have generations of people who have been miseducated this way.
Jey: I tell everyone that I grew up in the 1950s because it feels like that in Waco. So that was a small city, but it was very much you go to college to get married, like that situation. And so my parents are boomers and 1968 and 1969 is when America desegregated. That's when they were graduating high school. So they were all like, “We want you to get a good education like when we were raised, we want you to get the same education as a 1950s Waco, Texas education.” And that is exactly what we got in the Abeka books. So I guess they got what they wanted.
Clint: So are you ready to jump into some textbook excerpts?
Jey: I would love to hear. Teach me some history. This is the part where if I drank, I would be taking some shots.
Clint: Well, I'll just do enough for the both of us. Where do you want to start? History?
Jey: Well, first of all, you know, usually we tell sources for the episode, but in this case, I guess, what are these- Which textbooks are these from?
Clint: I'll mention which textbooks we’re referencing as we go along. The majority of these excerpts are from Abeka but some of them are from Bob Jones, a couple come from Ace I think. And while I will try to cite everything, I do not recommend seeking out these books.
Jey: Yeah, it will just make you angry.
Clint: I was reading through some of this stuff last week and while it pissed me off, it also made me feel like you and I have done alright for ourselves all things considered.
Jey: Honestly, after being raised with this shit; it kind of is a little bit culty.
Clint: It’s 100% culty because they ask you to ignore what you can see in front of your eyes and what verified sources can show you in lieu of nonsense. We'll kick it off here with a little preface that is in the Lessons of History Teacher Guide from Abeka. This really sets the stage for where we're going here - “We can, without hesitation, present political conservatism as the Christian’s proper response to America's glorious heritage. Because of our biblical perspective, the Christian teacher should teach the scriptural principles upon which America was founded and instill within the students the desire and intelligence to remain true to these principles which establish political and religious freedom through republican self-government and separation of church and state.” Although, it should be clarified that when they say “separation of church and state,” it’s a one-way street. In their mind, the government has no business controlling - or taxing - the church, but they are absolutely in favor of Christian Nationalism controlling the government.
There are many directions we could go when discussing the fucked up version of history presented in these textbooks, but the issue that stands out the most is definitely racism, particularly surrounding slavery and the Civil War, so let’s start there. As a whole, these books assume a Confederate apologist viewpoint. They downplay slavery’s role in inciting the Civil War, they often refer to it as “The War Between the States” or even “The War of Northern Aggression,” both of which are dog whistles, and incessantly romanticize the lives of enslaved people in America.
An Abeka textbook titled America, Land I Love, which I used in middle school, states, “To help them endure the difficulties of slavery, God gave Christian slaves the ability to combine the African heritage of song with the dignity and power of Christian praise. Through this music, the slaves developed patience to wait on the Lord and discovered that the truest freedom is freedom from the bondage of sin. The slave who knew Christ had more freedom than a free person who did not know the Savior.”
Jey: Oh, okay. That's a lot to parse. This is disgusting. And these are the same people who don't want critical race theory taught in school. But they want to teach this bullshit.
Clint: Well, this is, to be fair, the diametric opposite of what they claim is critical race theory. Of course, that term is a bit of a misnomer. A quote from a BJU text, “A few slave owners were undeniably cruel. Examples of slaves beat to death were not common, but they were not unknown. The majority of slave holders treated their slaves quite well.”
Jey: I remember them teaching us that. And then I remember there being rumors about like certain colleges being named after the most violent slave owners around.
Clint: I was specifically taught both at school and at home, that slavery was not the reason the Civil War was fought, that it was a very minor factor. And that's reflected in these textbooks. From an Ace history book, “There were many causes for the war between the states. Slavery is likely a casual factor, but not the only one. States rights and protective tariffs played a big role. God may have also been punishing people with war, as it was preceded by a time of religious apostasy and cultism.” Not really sure what they’re referring to there.
Clint: Ah, I bet you’re right.
Jey: A lot of these Abeka books teach that Mormonism is a cult.
Clint: Not just Mormonism, but Mormonism and Unitarianism and Jehovah's Witnesses and Roman Catholics.
Jey: I would argue that some of those still are cults, but.
Clint: Sure. I mean, a broken clock's right twice a day.
Clint: But these people are also a cult.
Jey: Yeah. Yep. Yeah.
Clint: Same text, end of the paragraph, “The end of slavery in this country was a legitimate goal, but much was done in the name of abolition that was just as evil as the institution of slavery itself.”
Jey: Excuse me.
Clint: They don't elaborate on what those things are, probably because there really isn’t anything more evil than fucking slavery.
Jey: So there's no teaching of how actually brutal slavery was?
Clint: Oh, no, quite the opposite. It’s portrayed as borderline delightful. It’s even shown as a favor to the enslaved. Like, they’re so much better off now that they’re in America instead of the home country they were ripped away from.
Jey: That is disgusting.
Clint: And like I said, there are great pains taken to justify the Confederacy throughout these textbooks, which is something I was fully on-board with as a kid. It’s literally all I was ever taught, that the south was right.
Jey: I hate how we were raised and I just want it to be better.
Clint: So Jey, how do you feel about the Ku Klux Klan?
Jey: Well, they are a racist hate group.
Clint: But what if I told you they were actually heroes? Because in The United States History for Christian Schools from Bob Jones University, it says, “The Ku Klux Klan in some areas of the country tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross to target bootleggers, wife beaters and immoral movies. In some communities, it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians.” And it goes on to say that the KKK targeted white and black people equally.
Jey: There's so much misinformation.
Clint: And they justify any and all injustice by framing it as part of god’s plan. They say that god used the trail of tears to bring many Native Americans to Christ so even though it was a burden, it’s for the best that endured it. These books don’t have a single redeeming quality. OK, let's move on to something a little more fun - Great Depression denial.
Jey: Great Depression denial. Why would they need to deny The Great Depression?
Clint: Because capitalism. If the Great Depression was actually the end result of the unfettered greed of the early 20th century, then perhaps capitalism isn’t the perfect system they claim it to be.
Jey: A lot of Christians before this Christian nationalist right wing stuff, before it became like a voting bloc around the sixties or seventies, a lot more of Christianity was socialist.
Clint: For sure. I mean, I would argue that the ultimate goal of Christianity is socialism, a new earthly kingdom ruled by Christ where all are equal and none are left wanting. But the Great Depression denial is definitely strange. I’ve never come across this idea anywhere else. Just listen to this, “Some people wanted to create an imaginary crisis in order to move the country towards socialism. Many writers, artists, and photographers exaggerated the problems of America’s cities and farms. Most people had enough money for daily needs as well as some for entertainment.” I don’t know how they could more fully deny basic historical evidence. Like, we’ve all seen the pictures, dude.
Jey: And I feel like I remember being taught this, too.
Clint: I literally had forgotten all about it until I started reading this textbook again. As a related note, they hate labor unions, anything that empowers the people really.
Jey: Yeah, we watched anti-union documentaries in class.
Clint: They say that perhaps the best known work of propaganda to come from the Great Depression was John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Of course, the religious right’s issues with great works of literature goes well beyond Steinbeck. In general, there is a huge amount of fear and opposition to any literature outside of things written specifically for Evangelicals. It’s discussed constantly in the Christian homeschool community. They’re terrified that Animal Farm is going to radicalize their children.
Jey: Yeah, I read Animal Farm in school because I wanted to be a rebel and, like, wrote all about it, but, like, still didn't understand because I was so against it. But I read all of these other Christian books by like Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins and about how in 2012, like, they're going to start hunting Christians. So we're going to have to hide out in malls and we're going to be persecuted, like Christian persecution fantasies. And they started by saying taking prayer out of schools was the first persecution.
Clint: That's why there is such a huge volume of Evangelical media. Christian fiction, nonfiction. Books, movies, music. There are Christian bookstores that are bigger than regular bookstores, because they do not want people to read or even be exposed to any outside ideas.
Clint: Alright, enough with the history. Why don’t we move on to Civics class? Now you might think civics class would be about parliamentary procedures and how governments work. But no. In fact, they spend a good deal of time talking about homosexuality. It might surprise you to learn that homosexuality is responsible for pretty much all of our modern societal ills. There is no mention of anything related to trans rights that I've found in these books, but most of them are at least a few years old. I'm sure that’s a topic they'll hit pretty hard in future editions. From a section titled “Cultural Decay” - “Traditional American family values have dramatically declined. When the family comes under attack, all of society suffers. The media has increasingly belittled fathers and husbands, portrayed blatant violence, and laughed at immorality. One result has been the increased acceptance of homosexuality.” Gotta say, I didn’t see that one coming at first.
Jey: Yeah, some of those were like men's rights activist talking points too.
Clint: The whole TV-belittles-men bit is something I heard all the time growing up, even from the pulpit. The most egregious thing I found related to queerness comes from a teacher's guide - A Teachers Resource Guide to Current Events for Christian Schools. What a fucking title. It's from Bob Jones. It says, “Gay people have no more claim to special rights than child molesters or rapists.”
Jey: Because they think it's the same thing. Okay, there is a difference between what consenting adults do.
Clint: It really is a consent thing, which is a concept Evangelicals do not understand at all. To them, there is literally no difference between two consenting adult men having sex and a fucking gang rape or something. And it’s genuinely scary because I see Christians online every day who think queer people should be put to death.
Jey: But they see it all as a sin because they're like, well, a sexual sin is a sexual sin. So what does consent have to do with it? Consent culture is just not something that they understand. It's not something that they have been taught. They haven't had sex ed. They are the ones trying to get sex ed out of school. So they don't really understand a lot of modern thought around sexuality and are trying to get away from it because they've never been exposed to it because they try to be in these insular communities.
Clint: This is the only excerpt I found that even begins to touch on gender issues, “According to multiculturalism, advancing the achievements of western civilization was an act of hatred toward other cultures. They encouraged people to define themselves by race, sex, or sexual orientation instead of the pillars of western civilization such as family, nation, and god.” Call me crazy, but defining yourself by nationality doesn’t sound very Christian.
Jey: Absolutely. And I was always taught it was Jesus > others > you. I remember being taught that in school over and over and over.
Clint: Is that while you're still a bottom?
Jey: That is exactly why I am. I feel like that would also mean you’re a service top if you're always thinking of others. I'm not a pillow princess. I'm just bad at trying to be a top. Like. Like. I'll try. I'll try anyway. It's just not good.
Clint: It’s OK. We don't need to relitigate this.
Jey: Look, this is a dark episode. Like, we could have a few sex jokes.
Clint: All the civics stuff really focuses on how evil socialism is. They regularly rail against the “liberal Supreme Court,” but I guess they’ll be changing their tune on that one. There’s a lot of stuff about Roe v Wade and its contribution to our moral decline as a nation. In some of the more recent textbooks, they have a lot of negative shit to say about Obama and Black Lives Matter. I gotta hand it to them though, these textbooks are remarkably consistent in their racism.
Jey: Oh, they have more updated textbooks.
Clint: 2017 is the most recent one I got my hands on but they have even newer ones now.
Clint: But there have been a lot of political and social developments since 2017 so I’m sure the new editions will be bangers. It's going to be a triumphant tale of how America is returning to its Christian values under the leadership of Saint Donald Trump.
Clint: We'll wrap up civics with a quote that I really feel encapsulates what we've discussed. “Satan countered the spiritual influences in America by raising up false anti-biblical philosophies that would eventually erode our Christian heritage.” Now, what do you think these philosophies are?
Jey: Oh, let me guess. Let me guess. So anti-liberalism. So maybe like the feminist movements, perhaps.
Clint: It's interesting, there is very little reference to feminism in these books and expected there to be a lot.
Jey: Well, they don’t want to teach it exists.
Clint: So the ideas Satan hatched are “modernism, evolution, Marxism, socialism, progressive education - and here's the real kicker - modern psychology.
Jey: That's the thing. They want you to always go to Christian counselors instead of therapists and psychologists, because they don't want you to find out that you were in a high control group that is controlling your life.
Clint: I really feel like people who grew up outside of the Bible Belt specifically don't recognize how prevalent religiously affiliated therapists are. Where I grew up, the majority of therapists approach it “from a Christian perspective,” let’s say. All they do is tell you that the reason you feel like shit is because you aren’t living a godly enough life. Get right with the lord and you won’t be so damn depressed! Another thing that’s wild is how they referenced Satan in that quote as if he’s a historical figure and not a literary character.
Jey: Yeah, no, Satan did this. It's all spiritual warfare. We are casting out the demons in the United States government and turning it back into a Christian nation or whatever.
Clint: And by we, we mean actually a minority of American voters who have all of the power through gerry-mandering and the electoral college.
Jey: But for some reason always show up to every election. So if you're not showing up, these bitches that believe in cultural decay and both sides-ing the KKK are the ones that are showing up so vote.
Clint: Science class is now in session, Jey. I don't want to harp on this too much because we covered a lot of this in our previous episode, Missionary Lizards. Go check it out. But we do need to say these textbooks promote the same Young Earth Creationism nonsense that Ken Ham pushes. 6,000 year old universe, dinosaurs and humans coexisting, dragons are real, worldwide flood, all that jazz.
Jey: Wait, hold on. I know that we covered it in the science episode, but people living at the same time as dinosaurs and dragons existing in the school textbooks is a little bit concerning. Like, we talked about museums before. This is education. You don't even have to get a G.E.D. You can just get taught this, graduate, and go to a college, still get a college degree.
Clint: Yep. And a third of Americans today believe in some form of Young Earth Creationism.
Jey: Because the colleges - the Christian colleges - make sure that you can take classes where you don't necessarily have to learn about evolution.
Clint: BJU’s Life Science book puts it pretty unequivocally, “Bible believing Christians cannot accept any evolutionary interpretation. Dinosaurs and humans were definitely on the earth at the same time and may have even lived side by side within the past few thousand years.” Why in the actual hell is that in a science textbook?
Jey: Why? And why is it so important for dinosaurs to exist at the same time as people? Like what?
Clint: Because they subscribe to a literal interpretation of Genesis so if God created everything at the same time, dinosaurs had to have been created alongside everything else, 6000 years ago.
Probably the most unsettling claim in these science textbooks is that climate change is a myth. They completely dismiss it as an issue. According to Abeka, “Global warming is a theory not supported by any scientific evidence. God provided certain checks and balances in creation to prevent many of the global upsets that have been predicted by environmentalists. Many of the ‘crises’ - they have crises in quotes - on the environmentalist agenda are simply not supported by scientific evidence and are promoted by environmentalists for destructive reasons. Their goal is to destroy the prosperous economies of the world's richest nations.”
Or maybe they're, I don’t know - trying to keep us all from burning alive?
Jey: Yeah, they're keeping us all from fucking dying. But at the expense of “I'm not going to get a quick profit.” It's all about creating workers for capitalism. Like my Christian school, I found my graduation bulletin or whatever in preparation for this, and it says to equip servant leaders for Christ. That was our motto. Like, all of it is how you can become unthinking Christian drones.
Clint: Moving on, it should come as little surprise that sex education does not play a role in conservative Christian curriculum. There is no Abeka sex ed textbook, but they do touch on the idea of sex education and STDs in some of their health books. I'll just let the words speak for themselves, “Disobedience to God's word in the area of sexual purity also leads to disease. Some infections, known as STDs, are almost always spread by direct body contact during illicit sexual relations. People who live according to God's standards of waiting until marriage to have sexual relations are very unlikely to acquire venereal diseases. There is no link between sex education and preventing STDs because such diseases are not caused by a lack of scientific information, but a lack of morality and righteousness.”
Jey: These are the same people that claimed at the time, in the nineties, when early purity movements were coming about, that it hasn't been proven that condoms aren’t 100% effective. At the very beginning of all of this, they have a lot of “Christian sex education programs” that were just abstinence only, programs that were literally just saying like, “No, condoms don't help. Like, I wouldn't tell my daughter to wear a condom because it's not going to make any difference.” And it's like, no, they do have some differences. Please wear condoms. Please be safe. Jesus fucking Christ.
Clint: They don't outright say it, but there is definitely an implication in these textbooks that if you have premarital sex, you're nearly guaranteed to get an STD.
Jey: Don't have sex or you'll get pregnant and die. Now everybody grab a rubber.
Clint: Or don’t. They don't work anyway, right?
Clint: This one isn’t as exciting but let’s take a second to talk about math.
Jey: Yeah, they had Christian math.
Clint: This is the most baffling of all because if there is any subject I thought we could all agree on, it’s mathematics. From the Abeka website, “Unlike modern math theorists who believe math is a creation of man and thus arbitrary and relative, Abeka teaches that the laws of mathematics are a creation of god and thus absolute. Abeka provides attractive, legible, and workable traditional mathematic texts that are not burdened with modern theories such as set theory.” It needs to be said that this “modern theory” they’re referring to was proven by George Cantor in 1873 so it isn’t exactly new, but after spending a lot of time in this wackadoo world of Christian curriculum, I don’t think they mean modern as in new. They mean modern as in modernist, which is something they really, really don’t like.
Jey: I remember reading about this in Focus on the Family Clubhouse magazines. They were trying to teach in math that there were imaginary numbers that, like, two plus two could equal something other than four because you can believe whatever you want to believe.
Clint: Per usual, that is a complete misrepresentation of this theory.
Jey: But they would say that the kids were going to get persecuted in school because they believed that math could have absolutes. And it was like this whole like, you know, again, like alternate reality. Christians are going to get persecuted kind of thing. Like if you go to school, you will become a martyr. Like if you choose to stand up for what you believe. But you should because it's right.
Clint: Yes, that notorious math-based persecution! Set theory can get really complex but the main objection fundy-types have against it involves the way it handles the idea of infinity. Cantor’s original idea was to find a mathematical way to reckon with infinity. He eventually concluded that there are multiple versions of infinity. For example, an infinite set of whole numbers is shorter than an infinite set of decimal numbers even though they are theoretically never-ending. Queue the outrage. Abeka contends that there is only one infinity - god. Numbers can’t be infinite because only god is infinite. Numbers have an end - so does this world and it’s coming soon so you better get right with Jesus Christ, praise god.
Jey: But things can't go to infinity because God is the only thing that's infinite?
Clint: They claim that “modern” mathematicians are trying to replace god with numbers and philosophy. This is all theoretical. Infinity doesn’t have a lot of real-world applications. But for people who are serious about math, it is important, and Abeka is just absolutely excluding it from their curriculum.
Jey: Because things can't just be theoretical. Things have to have absolute values because God created math to be this perfect math thing. And so everything has to be exact. Like everything can be solved. There is always an answer and they have all the answers. I think that might be what it's about.
Clint: There’s something going on here that goes beyond curriculum too though. I haven’t been able to pin it down exactly but it’s as if there was a moment in time where conservative Evangelicals, particularly fundamentalists, just locked everything down. They said, “no more changes, nothing new.” It’s the reason they still use the King James Version even though much more accurate translations based on better manuscripts are now available. It’s why they only sing old-timey hymns and eschew contemporary music even though those old-timey hymns were written in the popular secular style of the day. They do the same thing with math and science, unless, of course, the new thing is an iPhone they can use to post conspiracy theories on Facebook, then it’s fine.
Jey: I saw a thing about Christian colleges. And it was like I felt like when I went to school there, I got a great 19th century education and yeah, because they stopped doing research, they stopped doing discovery. They're not research based institutions. They're indoctrination based institutions at this point.
Clint: 19th century is spot on I think. It’s just baffling that they genuinely think that the mid-1800’s was somehow peak humanity, we don’t need to learn anything else after that. It’s completely unhinged.
Jey: I just don't have anything better to say. It is unhinged. Just imagine walking into a school one day and being like, “Let's not talk about anything you're teaching, and instead let's go look at the Bible. And now this is the basis for all our science because this is absolute truth.” Let's just cherry pick all of the topics that have been proven in science. We'll teach those to back up what we believe and then the rest of science we can just reject.
Clint: Set theory had been around for 99 years when Rebecca Horton wrote her first textbook.
Jey: I want to know more about Rebecca Horton. I want to know who she is. I want to know what she eats for breakfast. And I want to know why she believes this.
Clint: She actually just died pretty recently. Christianity Today did a big spread about her, a big obit.
Jey: Did anyone go grave soak?
Clint: Next time I’m in Pensacola, you better believe I’m going grave soaking at her burial site. Straight up spread eagle…
Jey: Yeah absorb godly powers and pick up her mantle of Christ.
Clint: My theory is that Becca just didn’t understand set theory herself so she made up a bullshit reason to exclude it.
Jey: That's probably what it was usually. I don't understand this and I don't know how to write about it in a textbook and I can't figure out a Bible verse that goes with it so let’s not.
Clint: Let’s just chalk it up to modernism and keep trucking. Have you guys tried multiplication tables? That’s a little more concrete.
Jey: So did the textbooks go all the way up to calculus?
Clint: Oh yeah, they do trigonometry, calculus, algebra. But when I was going to Christian school, I remember the teachers telling me that none of this math stuff is actually important. It’s just a way for you to exercise your brain but it doesn’t have any real world applications, which is completely ridiculous because even though I’m in a creative field now, I still get into pretty complex mathematics doing animations and composites.
Jey: It's yeah, they would be like, because you're not going to use it in the real world because they know that you can't go be a scientist after having a Christian education like this.
Clint: Absolutely not. There’s a bit of a mantra going around right now where anytime there is a news article or something related to education, there will be a bunch of crazy-ass fundies comment, “homeschool, trade school.” That’s the trajectory they want for their children. And look, there’s nothing wrong with trade school. But you still need a good baseline education. Like, you want to be a carpenter? You need to know real math. You want to be a mechanic? You need to know real science. And they’re not teaching it.
Clint: It’s probably pretty obvious by now why conservative Christian curriculum is an important topic that people need to be aware of, but we want to provide some context and statistics around just how many kids are learning this shit. Unfortunately, it’s a lot. We’re going to break it down into 3 categories - private Christian schools, voucher programs, and homeschoolers.
Let’s start with the private Christian schools. There are 54 million students in America right now. About 600,000 of them go to private Christian schools, so that's like 1 out of 90 kids.
Jey: But a lot more people have learned it in the past.
Clint: Absolutely. None of these numbers include people who have already been educated/indoctrinated by this nonsense. Abeka claims that 10,000 of these Christian schools use their curriculum in some capacity.
Jey: Still today, like right now.
Clint: Right this very moment. And that’s additionally alarming considering the boom in private Christian education because of the pandemic. The ACSI, which we mentioned earlier, said they saw enrollment in private Christian education grow by 12% during the 2020/2021 school year. BJU Press claims their sales have risen 40% since 2020. And here’s the thing - a lot of parents sent their kids to these schools to skirt COVID guidelines. Private Christian schools were much more lax than public schools, generally speaking. That’s a whole can of worms we won’t open right now, but I worry that a lot of parents didn’t look closely at the curriculum these schools are using. They wanted to get their kids back in school, they find these private Christian institutions, and before you know it, little Billy thinks the KKK are heroes.
On the flip side, there have been new schools opened up in direct response to the cultural shifts happening in our country right now, much like in the 60’s when this all started. A lot of them are taking very direct political stances against hot-button topics. On the website of a new conservative Christian school in Lawrence, Kansas, it says, “Critical Race Theory will not be included in any of our curriculum or teaching.” Another in Maricopa, Arizona says, “The idea of gender fluidity has no place in our churches, schools, or homes.”
This is a bit of an anecdote, but the New York Times did an article about this phenomenon recently and interviewed a Spanish teacher who taught in public schools for 17 years but took a pay cut to move to a Christian school because of the perceived liberalism that is overtaking public education. So she moves over to this Christian school to teach Spanish. Now she can lead prayers and assign Bible verses to be memorized in Spanish and convince kids that mission work is a viable career path. But she said she uses her platform to discuss social issues as well. For example, she made a connection in class about the fact that in Spanish, every word has a gender, and that’s reflective of god’s plan for gender absolutes. And these are the very people claiming that public schools indoctrinate children. It’s fucking unbelievable.
Jey: I mean, my school also taught Spanish like that. Like our first semester, we would all sing worship songs in Spanish. So that was like, a big part of it. And then the first semester, the final was you had to teach an entire Bible study. It had to be a Sunday school lesson, you could read from your notes, but including a craft and you had to teach all of that in Spanish. We also had to learn the entire Roman road in Spanish. You'll need to know it for like South Texas mission trips because you're going to go on them. Like all of us had gone on South Texas mission trips.
Clint: Good lord. Next up, we have voucher programs. These have been part of public discourse for a while now but for anyone who may not know, voucher programs basically redirect public money from public schools to private schools. Ostensibly, they take the money the government would spend educating your child and give it to a private institution instead. That way, your kid can go to a private school for free. There is a popular belief that private schools are better than public schools. If you asked any random person on the street which is better, they would probably say private schools are better by default. It’s just what people think. But the data has shown that isn’t really true. Students in private school voucher programs perform on par with public school students at best and in many cases, lag behind. And there are a host of other problems with voucher programs that go well beyond curriculum involving discrimination and under-cutting public education that we don’t have time to get into right now, but it’s worth learning about because conservative politicians all around the country are pushing for these programs. In 2017, Huffington Post did a big analysis of voucher programs and found that 25 states, including D.C., offer this program. Two additional states did it as well, but those states excluded religious schools of any kind, although with the recent Supreme Court ruling they may have to start accepting religious schools. Over 400,000 students nationwide currently attend a school using a voucher. And who’s paying for this? We are! This is tax money. And they're giving it to private institutions, some of which are teaching children complete nonsense. There is little to no oversight.
I’m about to dump a lot of numbers on you but I promise it will be simple at the end. I just want to show my work like they taught me in math class. There are 7,200 schools in the US that participate in voucher programs. 42% of those are non-Catholic Christian schools. Now Catholic schools have their own problems but they’re different problems. They don’t contest math as far as I know.
Jey: The nuns will teach you set theory.
Clint: So 42% of voucher schools are protestant Christian. 33% of those use conservative, fundamentalist curriculum like Abeka, BJU Press, and Ace. All in all, that means that about 14% of taxpayer funded private schools are utilizing the textbooks we covered today in some capacity.
Jey: 14% of public funded-
Jey: Christian schools.
Clint: Well, not just Christian. 14% of total taxpayer funded private schools. So like all voucher programs across the United States, about 14% of those are using Abeka, BJU, etc. So yeah, the voucher program is a fucking sham. And I don’t want to harp on the tax thing too much. I’m all for giving money to education. It’s probably the single most underfunded thing in our entire country. But this isn’t education.
Jey: This is taking money away from education. It's indoctrination, but it's not education.
Clint: The final group is, of course, homeschoolers, you poor souls. Most of my education was homeschool so I can speak from personal experience on this one. Abeka claims 250,000 homeschoolers used their curriculum in 2020 alone. That number doesn’t even cover all the other publishers.
Jey: Which is a lot.
Clint: It’s absolutely a lot. And the last big survey the US Department of Education conducted found that 64% of parents that homeschool say they do it for religious reasons. And it’s no secret that the people who homeschool for religious reasons in America tend to be conservative Christians. And look I gotta say, I really don’t think homeschooling is the right choice for most children. Even setting aside the religion and the curriculum, it isn’t healthy socially or intellectually for a kid’s entire education to come from 1 or 2 people. If I were a parent, I would want my kid to learn way more than I alone could teach them.
Jey: And it's not just what you can teach them. It's also socialization. You get important skills from just being in a classroom with people your own age. Like, there's just a lot that you need to socialize young or else it's going to be hard to talk to people and it’s going to be hard to understand different perspectives.
Clint: Children have a right to education. For a long time, American’s have sparred over parental rights as they relate to education, but we don’t speak nearly enough about a child’s right to have access to accurate information and productive learning environments. It is a human right. Companies like Abeka and the school that use their textbooks are purposefully miseducating for political gain, often motivated by racism, dominionism, and Christian nationalism. It’s fucking child abuse as far as I’m concerned.
Jey: Absolutely. Like, my mom was so worried about me not getting a Christian education and now as a functioning adult, I'm like, “Oh my God, I wish I had gone to public school.” And then everyone's like, “Well, we didn't learn this in public school either because public school has its own slew of problems.” But I'm like, “No,” I wish I had at least learned a little bit like, I don't know anything about climate change as an adult, I'm having to do so much education to just learn basic stuff that other people take for granted because they were taught it in school.
Clint: They're putting kids at an intellectual disadvantage for literally no reason other than to push dangerous political ideology onto them.
Jey: We had a debate in class about whether or not internment camps are okay. Because they think that we should put more people in internment camps. And the thing that's really scary is the people that were discussing this, now one of them is literally a senator aide for Marco Rubio, but back in high school was discussing should internment camps be legalized?
Clint: Obviously, I'm pretty deep in this shit. I am constantly seeing stuff from extremist Christian pastors saying that gay people need to be killed or put in internment camps. The roots of that kind of behavior and that kind of thinking exists in these textbooks and it's= being taught to children every single day. There is no excuse for it. And that's why I think homeschooling should at the very least, be much more highly regulated.
Jey: I know that standardized testing is bad, but in this case, I feel like there just needs to be some sort of measurement.
Clint: Every state has their own laws. In Tennessee, there is nominal oversight because you have to homeschool through an actual school that already exists. And that school keeps your grades and records and everything. But they don’t like, check in on you. The parents just have to send in the grades every few months. Homeschooling is the wild fucking west, dude. And I just don't think it's fair that parents can foist conspiracy theories, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, fake history, fake science, whatever they want onto their kids without question. And people will say, “Oh well, the kid can do whatever they want when they turn 18 but until then, it’s up to their parents.” Like, no. A kid who grows up in relative isolation, being raised and educated by religious extremists is going to struggle their entire fucking life. I can personally guarantee it. You don’t just flip a switch and get over this shit when you turn 18.
Jey: Because then your brain's already developed and it’s so hard. Like that's your whole worldview, your entire life because you're just so isolated. And you see this over and over again.
Clint: I can attest from personal experience, it is not easy unlearning all of this. It's not easy to question everything you've ever been taught.
Jey: Yeah, it's really scary. It's a really hard process to go on and like, we are still doing it actively on the show live too.
Clint: It’s a lifelong thing, I imagine.
Jey: Yeah. And it's unlearning, but that's okay because you can change and you can learn better and you can get civically involved in your community to actually make a difference to make your school board better work to fund education and there's things that you can do in your own community to get actively involved. It does get better and it's good to go on and on learning process and it's, but it's also like you get to learn all this new stuff.
Clint: Because it's not just unlearning; it's also re-learning. But it's great; it's liberating. Well this hasn’t been depressing at all. Are we ready to wrap things up? Jey, where can people find us?
Jey: We are @HowGayThouArt on TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, howgaythouart.com, email@example.com.
Clint: If you have any fun stories from the world of Christian education, we would love to hear them. Visit our website to see where you can submit your own voice recordings as well as written notes. Please rate, review, and follow us on podcast app. We can also be found on Patreon if you want to join our burgeoning cult. We’ll see you in two weeks as we dive into the wet and wild world of Christian sex toys! Bring some lube. This might be a bumpy ride.
Jey: See you later sluts.