Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Bibles and the Classroom

Got an interesting email from a long time friend. A friend who I will simply refer to as Snacker to protect the not-so-innocent.

He was wondering about my take on a piece of legislation here in Georgia that would allow the Bible to be taught as literature in public classrooms. For more details on the actual bill you can check out today's AJC article.

Snacker wrote:

"They are using the standard excuse --"We do have the opportunity to learn about it in church, but it is a work of literature." "We shouldn't exclude it [from school] just because it's religious." Thinly veiled BS."

Well, it depends. There is the pandering and there is the practical. Let's take them in that order.

Of course it's pandering. Just like a Republican bill in 2004 that guaranteed hunting would be legal forever. Now there's not a hoot in hell chance that hunting is ever going to be outlawed in the state of Georgia. But by placing that resolution on the ballot it was virtually guaranteed that every red blooded hunter from Ellijay to Echols County would visit the polling place to preserve their "rights". Oh and they would probably vote for Republican candidates while they were there. Very clever.

This year the Democrats are looking for a little payback. Yes, Virginia, the effort to push bibles back into the classroom is being spearheaded by Democrats. It's a pretty obvious ploy to cut Republicans off at the religious pass. How can anyone be accused of being a dirty liberal if they can shoot back that they helped get bibles back in the schools? Also very clever.

Now on to the practical part. One of my philosophies is the only thing worse than a bad government program is a bad government program that is only done half right. That's exactly what this one is.

The bill basically says that local school systems can opt to teach as electives History of the Old Testament and History of the New Testament. The only textbook is the Good Book. The only guidelines are that the courses should be "objective" and shouldn't "indoctrinate".

We can only hope that the state school board steps in and provides a list of supplemental texts and guidelines for lesson plans. Otherwise confusion will reign and lawsuits will be inevitable.

Now as far as it being thinly veiled BS along the lines of the intelligent designs wedge strategies to get creationism back in the classroom? Maybe.

Teaching the bible in the classroom can be done right and it can have value. Even the most hardcore atheist can't deny the influence the book has had on western civilization. I have seen two different teaching supplements to assist instructors with bible classes. One was straight down the middle. One was practically straight out of Sunday school. Let's hope local educators are wise enough to pick the right one.

But really all of this misses the correct question. Should we be teaching such specialized courses in high school at all? Shouldn't something that would require this depth wait until college? What happened to all the people carping about getting back to the basics of reading, 'rightin and 'rithmetic?

Our schools have plenty of difficulty just trying to keep kids in class and teaching them the basic tools of survival. Why don't we give teachers a break and quit giving them tasks that Solomon would have difficulty sorting through?


stevem said...

Teaching Bible - Probably OK.

Teaching Jews killed Jesus - Less OK.

Sara said...

We talked about biblical references and imagery in my high school english classes. I don't have a problem with teaching the bible in that context, as a historical text with a strong influence on a great deal of literature. But somehow I'm getting the feeling that's not what will end up happening here.

Anonymous said...

Teaching The Bible as literature and/or history all by itself sounds like a sneaky way of promoting it--sort of like trying to call creationism "intelligent design." However, if it were taught as part of a comparative religion study that included a variety of religions, then I have no problem with it.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the comparative religion stance, but I am also skeptical that the comparison would be biased-- of course there is no comparitive text in this case -- it is the bible - new and old testament. Perhaps a sticker should be placed on the 'textbook' warning that this text is a work of (possible - depending on your stance) fiction and not history. Lets see what happens in Marietta after the GOV passes the bill.

Anonymous said...

I've long believed that the best way to resolve the whole shool prayer/Bible lessons dispute is for state boards of education to say, "Okay, we'll allow it, but those of you who want it will have to decide how to do it." If that happened, the proponents would wind up tearing each other apart like a pack of hungry dogs fighting over the last piece of bacon.

Think about it--who would lead the prayers? Not all those liberal teachers who would rather promote the gay agenda (whatever the hell that is) and hand out condoms instead of teaching Johnny and Jennifer how to read. Not a Catholic priest (even one who doesn't have a prurient interest in children)--the Protestants and Evangelicals would never stand for that. Not a preacher from any of the Protestant denominations--the Catholics and all the other Protestants would protest.

And that's just the tip of the old iceberg. Special provisions would have to be made for atheists, agnostics, and all the believers in non-Christian deities. All in all, I think it would be a prime example of the adage, "be careful what you wish for," although at the same time it would be a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

Anonymous said...

Oops! Should have proofread that before publishing. It's embarrassing when you spell your name wrong.