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Switch to Forum Live View The Bible in public schools
5 years ago  ::  Nov 22, 2008 - 1:05PM #1
TheWallflower
Posts: 125
Public schools in Texas and Alabama can teach the Bible as literature: http://www.timesrecordnews.com/news/200 … -for-high/

A preview of the textbook, The Bible and Its Influence, can be found here: http://books.google.com/books?id=u58Dya … ce#PPA3,M1

This raises some interesting questions.  While the Bible is literature, and has had an enormous influence on Western culture, the line between teaching the Bible as literature and teaching it as religion is fuzzy. 

No one can talk about the Bible without also talking about religion and the differing religious views on biblical stories.  Bias is hard to avoid.  Is it possible to steer clear of bias in favor of Judaism, Catholicism, Evangelicalism, progressive Christianity, or secularism?

The effort for the Bible to be a public school course is headed up by the Bible Literacy Project: http://www.bibleliteracy.org/site/index2.htm

BLP was created by Chuck Stetson, who is associated with conservative religious and poltical causes, including the ministry of Chuck Colson.  Many board members are Christian conservatives. 

Is this "literacy" project actually an attempt to get religion back into public schools - religion with a conservative Christian bias?

I also noticed that the textbook appears to avoid discussing the historical development of the Bible, which could be very explosive.  For example, while fundamentalists insist that the Pentateuch (or Torah - Genesis-Deut) was written in its entirety by Moses as dictated by God, most biblical scholars thinks the first five books of the Bible are a compilation of several texts by many authors writing over an extended period of time.  The historical development of the Gospels is also controversial. 

But how can the Bible be studied as literature if we ignore its development as a text?
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5 years ago  ::  Nov 22, 2008 - 2:12PM #2
MisterC
Posts: 1,865
It's a movement by fundamenalist Christians who would, if they had the power, have America become a theocracy. There is such a law in my state as an elective high school course, and it was pushed strongly by the fundamentalist core. In reality, schools have been very slow to actually add the course, for several reasons. There are very few people qualified to teach this. The potential for lawsuits is fairly high, from lawsuits about the content of the course to lawsuits about equal access for all other religious groups to teach their holy scriptures.  Finally, I doubt there would be too much interest. That, after all, is what church is for, and parents who care, children who care about their religion have various tenets that they don't want compromised in a generic "Bible course." Thinking parents would rather control the religious content of their child's life. (The others seek out private religious academies anyway.)  I think your website mentioned 40 states and around 240 schools... That would average six a state! That sort of backs up what I am saying, unless in my scanning I got the number(s) incorrect.
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5 years ago  ::  Dec 10, 2008 - 7:28AM #3
karemiss
Posts: 24
I would suggest teaching , also as Literature, other sacred text as well ancient philosphy writinggs and myths, particularly Greek and Roman, since they contribuited so much to Western Culture, to keep the balance.
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5 years ago  ::  Dec 12, 2008 - 11:29AM #4
flitzerbiest
Posts: 175
I studied the Bible as literature in my Connecticut high school in 1983 or 1984.  I was, at the time, an evangelical Christian, and my teacher was an equally evangelical atheist.  It led to some great and memorable discussions.  I would love to cover some of the same ground with him today. 

My town was majority Roman Catholic, minority Jewish, and there really wasn't any fuss made about it.  It is undeniable that some first hand knowledge of the Bible is an essential aspect of American cultural literacy.
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5 years ago  ::  Dec 12, 2008 - 11:40AM #5
MisterC
Posts: 1,865
Neither two preceding posts are dealing with the odious purpose of this fundamentalist push. Classes in middle school and in high school address world religions and cultural contexts, such as the importance of Christianity in Western culture. That has absolutely nothing to do with the purpose of this "push."
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5 years ago  ::  Dec 12, 2008 - 1:25PM #6
flitzerbiest
Posts: 175
[QUOTE=MisterC;952034]Mister C said:

Neither two preceding posts are dealing with the odious purpose of this fundamentalist push.[/QUOTE]

Neither are they irrelevant.
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5 years ago  ::  Dec 12, 2008 - 2:30PM #7
MisterC
Posts: 1,865
[QUOTE=flitzerbiest;952248]Neither are they irrelevant.[/QUOTE]

Really? The two questions asked were these (with a very telling paragraph in the middle):

"Is this "literacy" project actually an attempt to get religion back into public schools - religion with a conservative Christian bias?

I also noticed that the textbook appears to avoid discussing the historical development of the Bible, which could be very explosive. For example, while fundamentalists insist that the Pentateuch (or Torah - Genesis-Deut) was written in its entirety by Moses as dictated by God, most biblical scholars thinks the first five books of the Bible are a compilation of several texts by many authors writing over an extended period of time. The historical development of the Gospels is also controversial.

But how can the Bible be studied as literature if we ignore its development as a text?"

In what way do those posts address the topic, as posed in the questions of the one who initiated it? The thread is about what has happened in several states, not teaching the bible "also as Literature, other sacred text as well ancient philosphy writinggs and myths," Neither is it about "first hand knowledge of the Bible" [being] "an essential aspect of American cultural literacy. " Those are addressed in public school curriculums.

Just for laughs, I went to the NYC Board of Education to look at the K-8 curriculum... Could have been a conservative bible belt state, but I chose a rather liberal one. Here is the web address:
http://schools.nycenet.edu/offices/teac … opeSeq.pdf
You will find, within this curriculum, especially in the middle grades, fifth and sixth, units that discuss religious and mythological aspects of world and American culture.

If you look at the key ideas for the elementary school (k-8) world history, the FIIRST deals with religions, myths, etc:
"1. The study of world history requires an understanding of world cultures and civilizations, including an analysis of important ideas, social and cultural values, beliefs, and
traditions. This study also examines the human condition and the connections and interactions of people across time and space and the ways different people view the same
event or issue from a variety of perspectives.
Student Performance Indicators:
2.1a: read historical narratives, myths, legends, biographies, and autobiographies to learn about how historical figures lived, their motivations, hopes, fears, strengths, and
weaknesses
2.1b: explore narrative accounts of important events from world history to learn about different accounts of the past to begin to understand how interpretations and
perspectives develop
2.1c: study about different world cultures and civilizations focusing on their accomplishments, contributions, values, beliefs, and traditions"

What must a NY state student know for commencement in this area.... Well, from the NY BOE site, we find
" define culture and civilization, explaining how they developed and changed over time. Investigate the various components of cultures and civilizations including social customs, norms, values, and traditions; political systems; economic systems; religions and spiritual beliefs; and socialization or educational practices"
http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/socst/so … soc21.html

Religion has never left school. It has remained an important part of a public school education. But, again, that isn't what the original questions concerned. The typical conservative mindset seems to believe that when the Supremes outlawed school sanctioned prayer in school, god decided to leave school. Religion has remained in the curriculums, even of progressive states. That's why I consider the posts irrelevant. They don't deal with the questions. They deal with what is already in the school. The questions dealt with the fundamentalist push to abrogate separation of church and state by having little more than "Sunday School" sessions in public school. Luckily, in states where this has passed, the local BOE's have been reluctant to initiate the courses!

MisterC
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5 years ago  ::  Dec 12, 2008 - 3:40PM #8
flitzerbiest
Posts: 175
MisterC,

Breathe, dude.  I actually agree with you about the motives of the BLP.  On the other hand, I think that removing study of the Bible from public school curricula is a bad idea.  BTW, my junior lit. class was also my first exposure to the Quran and the Bhagavad Gita. 

Eric
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5 years ago  ::  Dec 12, 2008 - 5:42PM #9
MisterC
Posts: 1,865
[QUOTE=flitzerbiest;952605]MisterC,

Breathe, dude.  I actually agree with you about the motives of the BLP.  On the other hand, I think that removing study of the Bible from public school curricula is a bad idea.  BTW, my junior lit. class was also my first exposure to the Quran and the Bhagavad Gita. 

Eric[/QUOTE]

Can you cite examples of curriculum guides in which  the  "study of the Bible" was, per se, a part of the curriculum of public schools? I can't, and my education began almost sixty years ago and continued through the education of kids. The Bible wasn't "taught." On the other hand, the importance of religion is essential to the study of World and US history, as well as the study of any culture. No one has removed it. This has remained, with various slants depending on which (generally Xian) bias the teacher has. (One teacher I remember considered the stories in Genesis to be factual. I thought this really naive, but ya know, ya get whatcha pay for! )

I can show examples of where snippets of the Bible were in readers, the nineteenth century McGuffie's readers for example, but they went not because of any proscription against religion but because in the twentieth century the methods and materials changed dramatically, to say nothing of the students.

I would challenge anyone who is concerned that Christianity and other religions, other mythologies aren't a part of their state's curriculum to go to their state's DOE website.... Google the initials of the state and "DOE" and look into the standards, the curriculum. I think they will be surprised. It's just one more non-issue the Christian Conservatives (who don't believe in the promise of public education anyway) whine about!
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5 years ago  ::  Dec 12, 2008 - 6:35PM #10
flitzerbiest
Posts: 175
[QUOTE=MisterC;952956]Can you cite examples of curriculum guides in which  the  "study of the Bible" was, per se, a part of the curriculum of public schools? I can't, and my education began almost sixty years ago and continued through the education of kids. The Bible wasn't "taught." On the other hand, the importance of religion is essential to the study of World and US history, as well as the study of any culture. No one has removed it. This has remained, with various slants depending on which (generally Xian) bias the teacher has. (One teacher I remember considered the stories in Genesis to be factual. I thought this really naive, but ya know, ya get whatcha pay for! )

I can show examples of where snippets of the Bible were in readers, the nineteenth century McGuffie's readers for example, but they went not because of any proscription against religion but because in the twentieth century the methods and materials changed dramatically, to say nothing of the students.

I would challenge anyone who is concerned that Christianity and other religions, other mythologies aren't a part of their state's curriculum to go to their state's DOE website.... Google the initials of the state and "DOE" and look into the standards, the curriculum. I think they will be surprised. It's just one more non-issue the Christian Conservatives (who don't believe in the promise of public education anyway) whine about![/QUOTE]

No, I can't bring you the public school curriculum from my high school, now 24 years and 1500 miles distant.  On the other hand, every 11th grade lit class studied the various sacred texts, and each of them studied the same passages and even took the same test.  Trust me--it was in the curriculum.

At the time, I felt ripped off because my teacher was an atheist.  I have since come to realize that this was a privilege--the first time I ever saw what I considered to be sacred material was presented to me in a secular light.
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