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A sampling of New Hampshire religious schools and their curricula
Here is a constantly expanding “inventory” of New Hampshire’s religious schools in a form that is easy to scan to see what they’re about.
The Bethlehem Christian School, an unaccredited K-12 school with 22 students and 2 teachers in Bethlehem, says that it “was founded in 1997 as a ministry of Bethlehem Christian Center, with the original intent of supporting the Christian churches of the North Country by providing a superior, Bible-based education for their children.” Tuition is $2,500. Bethlehem relies heavily on the ACE curriculum, saying, “our doctrinal statement very closely parallels the Statement of Faith of our accrediting, supervising, curriculum provider – Accelerated Christian Education Ministries.” Creationism is integral to the curriculum.
- From a typical science:”True science will never contradict the Bible because God created both the universe and Scripture…If a scientific theory contradicts the Bible, then the theory is wrong and must be discarded.”
- Social studies: “The New Deal programs were based on the humanistic, socialistic philosophy that the ‘end justifies the means.’ To achieve FDR’s goal of halting the depression, Congress was willing to spend more than it had. Because of this overspending, the government raised taxes.”
Brentwood (Lighthouse) Christian Academy, an unaccredited preK-2 and 9-12 school with 8 students and 4 teachers in Brentwood, says that it “is a private entity and a ministry of Grace Ministries International.” The say their goal is “to prepare students to be leaders in their world. The foundation of the educational program at BCA is the Word of God. We have found that students learn more effectively, understand their world more completely, and will change their world more powerfully when they view every aspect of their lives through the lens of God’s Word.” Tuition is $4,500-$6,500. BCA is a member of the Association of Christian Schools International ( ACSI) and uses the ACE curriculum. Biblical teaching is integrated into each course.
- A sample science text says, “Biblical and scientific evidence seems to indicate that men and dinosaurs lived at the same time…. Fossilized tracks in the bed of the Paluxy River near Glen Rose, Texas, also give evidence that men and dinosaurs existed simultaneously. Fossilized human footprints and three-toed dinosaur tracks occur in the same rock stratum…. That dinosaurs existed with humans is an important discovery disproving the evolutionists’ theory that dinosaurs lived 70 million years before man. God created dinosaurs on the sixth day. He created man later the same day.”
- The social science text says, for instance, “South Africa’s apartheid policy encouraged whites, Blacks, Coloureds, and Asians to develop their own independent ways of life. Separate living area and schools made it possible for each group to maintain and pass on their culture and heritage to their children….Blacks in South Africa earn more money and have higher standards of living than Blacks in other African countries.”
Religious school curricula: a potent mix of religion and politics
The great majority of voucher and education tax credit schools around the country are religious schools. For instance, in Florida’s six year-old education tax credit program that was, in many ways, a model for the New Hampshire program, over 73% of the schools, with 83% of the students, are religious schools. This ratio of religious schools is typical in voucher programs around the country. While some are the traditional Catholic schools, the fundamentalist Christian schools are at the heart of the push for voucher tax credits. In fact, voucher and religious school leaderships are so intertwined, you could almost say that the voucher movement is really about moving public dollars in Christian-based education. But it’s not just Christian education, it’s the conservative Christian political views that have become familiar in the political arena. You see it in this recent speech by Tim LaHaye, high profile minister, writer and Christian school entrepreneur on the Christian Right:
…We are being destroyed in America by the public school systems of our country….and I’d like to see you join me in prayer that God would let us wrestle control of the American school system from the secularists, the anti-Christians and anti-Americans that want to bend the minds of our children. At our expense, they want to take the most priceless thing we have -the brains of our children – and let them educate them….That doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m hoping that this conservative movement will be long enough to get a majority who can vote what I consider a new bill of rights – a bill of parental rights where parents can decide where to send their children to school.
Pastor LaHaye is making the same voucher pitch Milton Friedman did, but stirring his theology into it. The “parental rights” rap he uses is the rational for many bills, including the voucher tax credit, offered by libertarian conservatives in the New Hampshire Legislature. Pastor LaHaye continues:
Meet the Tri-City Christian Academy, epicenter of New Hampshire’s voucher tax credit program.
Most of New Hampshire’s Creationist Christian schools are unaccredited, but the Tri-City Christian Academy in Somersworth is the largest unaccredited private school in the State. The Academy has 19 teachers and 344 students, mostly in the preK and elementary grades. Accreditation is clearly a sensitive issue for the Academy. Tri-City is currently accredited by Nicene Schools International which, they say, “was founded by our church and some friends from a church in Florida.” Tri-City has been working on a more recognized accreditation for years and anticipated approval by the most important accreditor, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, in 2011, but that has not been granted yet. The web site now features the prospect that the school is a candidate for accreditation sometime in the future. Tuition is about $4,000 per year.
New Hampshire’s Christian schools were the main lobbyists supporting the voucher bill – and the Tri-City Christian Academy was central to that effort. Tri-City principal Paul Edgar and 3 others from the Academy testified to the Senate Education Committee on the bill. Mr. Edgar testified on behalf of the Granite State Christian Schools Association, who’s address is c/o Tri-City, saying that the education tax credit would relieve overcrowding in NH schools. Mr. Edgar later sent another letter to Senate Education Committee saying that his school was struggling and that Christian school parents had to pay twice for their educations since they paid local taxes whether or not they went to the public schools. Here is James Pinard, on the Academy’s professional development staff, speaking here for the Granite State Christian Schools Association. Mr. Pinard has worked with the voucher sponsors and spoken at every public hearing on the bill. A few weeks ago Mr. Pinard presented the bill’s sponsors with Distinguished Service Awards at the Association’s annual awards banquet.
And now that this voucher bill is passed, Tri-City has been in the forefront of marketing and defending the program. Tri-City and New Hampshire’s only scholarship organization, a California group called the Network for Educational Opportunity, scheduled a scholarship information session at Tri-City’s open house. The school’s web site looked like the state-wide headquarters for marketing the tax credit program and lobbying against repeal, urging parents to contact the Network for Educational Opportunity, apply for vouchers and persuade their legislators to oppose repeal. Here is one example, a letter the Academy sent to all school parents urging them to apply for scholarships. In response to the recent attention, Tri-City and NEO have wiped their web sites clean of all references to each other, but their shared philosophy will surely continue to bind them.