‘Racial Origins Traced from Noah’

What are Texas students learning in their public school courses about the Bible? Here’s an excerpt from instructional materials used in Bible courses taught in two school districts:


The long-discredited claim that racial diversity today can be traced back to Noah’s sons — and particularly the supposed link between his cursed son Ham and “African races” — was a justification for slavery and has been a foundational component of racism. The two Texas school districts don’t appear to tie this concept to slavery and racist ideology, but it’s stunning that this “theory” of racial origins is part of instructional materials used in any classroom today.

Read more here about a new Texas Freedom Network Education Fund report on the widespread problems in public school Bible courses in Texas — Reading, Writing & Religion II: Texas Public School Bible Courses in 2011-12authored by Mark Chancey, a professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Our previous reports on public school Bible classes are here and here.

10 thoughts on “‘Racial Origins Traced from Noah’

  1. Reminds me of all that Arthur Custance junk I used to believe back in my creationist days (almost a whole decade behind me). Except he said the “Oriental peoples” came from Ham, not Shem. Where do they come up with this stuff?

  2. The law permitting this type of course is not necessary (i.e., the legislature wasted resources developing the law) and it is not likely to be constitutional. Schools can introduce courses that discuss the Bible as history or literature regardless of the existence of the law. By focusing only on the Bible, the law seems to promote Judeo-Christian beliefs over other religious texts (e.g., the Koran, Vedas) raising the question of the constitutionally of the law.

  3. Does anyone know if the descendants of Ham evolved into pulled pork? Any man or woman that would claim Bar-B-Q was cursed by God—well—you live in Texas—you what hemp is for.

  4. I have the 1999 “Old World History & Geography Tests by A Beka Book, Pensacola, Florida, that very much wanted the student to know that the descendants of Ham “migrated to Africa.” I don’t think the students were tested upon where the descendants of the other brothers “migrated.”

  5. Gene Shelburne, the Amarillo minister/high school Bible course instructor, has an excuse: “We weren’t teaching that, Genesis 10 teaches that. Our kids didn’t have to believe it.” Thus he considers himself blameless of the charge of racism for using a chart of Biblical racial origins traced from Noah. Shelburne continues: “He [Prof. Mark Chancy, author of TFN’s report on the misuse of the Bible curriculum in Texas] assumed the worst. He assumed that we were just ignorant, that we were bigoted, that we were misusing the public class room.” I doubt these were Prof. Chancy’s assumptions.

    I believe that when discussing Genesis 10 with students, the Rev. Shelburne didn’t tell them that there is no scientific evidence for human races. That the concept of human races is an ancient idea that has been totally displaced by modern genetics. That when you observe the diagram showing the Biblical origin of races derived from Noah’s sons that you should not believe it, because there is no evidence for it. And you should not believe in Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus, and dozens of other Biblical individuals since there is no evidence for them, either (this would be anthropological, archaeological, and legitimate historical evidence; Biblical myths don’t count). And there is no evidence for the Garden of Eden, the Expulsion, Flood, Exodus, parting of the Red Sea, voice from a burning bush, Ten Commandments written on stone tablets, virgin birth, Last Supper, crucifixion, rising from the dead, etc.

    These names and stories are not history; they are myths and religious faith beliefs. Subsequent literature and poetry written about these mythical individuals and events could be topics of a secular Bible course, but students must be told that there is no empirical evidence for them and most scholars doubt them. To not do this is to commit unethical academic acts of omission–as bad as acts of commission, such as deliberately telling students that the stories are true–since either will leave the students ignorant, misguided, and confused. But that’s the point of all the Bible courses in Texas, isn’t it, to present Bible stories as literature and history without scholarly contradiction so that the faith beliefs they got elsewhere will be implicitly confirmed and reinforced by teachers in a setting they respect–the public school classroom. So yes, Rev. Shelburne, if you didn’t proactively and explicitly inform students of the true evidential status and presumed veracity of all the well-known Biblical stories and legends they studied and allowed them to believe they were true without comment or contradiction, then in my opinion you are ignorant, bigoted, and misusing the public school classroom. The Bible curriculum is just another example of the foremost goal of Texas public school education, to promote ignorance among our state’s youth, and the history of its origin documents that (read my essay on Texas Citizens for Science). Briefly, the official TEA Texas Bible curriculum was deliberately written to be as ambiguous, non-specific, and content-free as possible, so the various Bible curricula then in use that promoted Fundamentalist Christian proselytizing could continue to be used and additional school districts could develop or buy their own that had the same goal. I doubt that there is a truly secular, scientific, and historically-accurate Bible curriculum used in any Texas school district, since such a curriculum would have the effect of contradicting much of what Texas children are told in churches, Sunday schools, and homes. Bible course teachers would no doubt think such a responsible and accurate course would confront and possibly impugn students’ religious beliefs by being honest with them. Isn’t that the purpose of education?

    What about human races? Although once an accepted cultural and valid scientific concept, since approximately 1970 that status has been abandoned. Race today is known to be a social concept, not a scientific one. Folk grouping of essential types of human individuals based on physical traits is termed “essentialism,” and biological essentialism is obsolete. Today educated people are discouraged from applying racial explanations to human individual or group differences. Modern anthropologists and biologists view race as an invalid genetic or biological designation. What we used to call “races” is replaced by other terms, such as populations, ethnic groups, peoples, or communities depending on context or specificity. Over a century ago, science considered human races to be different varieties and even sub-species of Homo sapiens, but as scientists learned more about species population diversity that idea has been dead for at least 80 years.

    Why was the race concept abandoned by science 40 years ago? Modern genetics discovered that there is more genetic variation within different human “races” than among them and that so-called “racial” traits overlap and vary both genetically and physically across gradients without discrete boundaries. Modern human interbreeding among formerly continentally-separated ethnic groups is quickly blurring the distinctions of former human “racial” groups even more and eventually physical boundaries will disappear. Increasingly, modern youth are ignoring former racial distinctions just as they are increasingly ignoring human sexual orientation distinctions. In the future, due to better education, racism and homophobia will be things of the past . . . unless the Texas Legislature and State Board of Education continues to have their way.

  6. Anyone who reads the bible literally without trying to understand the time it was written, the people to whom it addresses, WHAT is meant under the words is woefully ignorant of what the bible says.
    Believing that human beings were created from a mud puddle in the Middle East when science proves that human beings came from Africa is like believing in the Easter bunny (rabbits lay eggs?) or the tooth fairy.

    One example will serve to highlight my meaning. Take the verse that talks about an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Anyone who reads the verse literally thinks that God is all for torture and pain. The verse means THE VALUE of an eye for an eye and THE VALUE of a tooth for a tooth.

    How many people have been tortured because of those words being taken LITERALLY?

    READ and then consult a variety of commentaries, not just one, if you want to understand the books.