April 05, 2007

Go Ahead and Teach the Bible in Schools--Carefully

I read the controversial Time magazine article, "The Case For Teaching The Bible," and finally decided to throw in my two cents here since it could be a hot button issue for some of this blog's readers.

Back in the dark ages , the 1970's, when I went to high school and there actually was effective separation of church and state, my school offered classes titled, "The Bible as Literature." I regret not taking them then, but friends I spoke to didn't feel like they were being taught religion. They went through the text as they would books like Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations," (I'd love to have the month of my life back we spent studying that novel in English lit) going through and discussing writing styles and weaving the various stories together. It was an elective so nobody was forced to take it, and I never heard a complaint about those classes except the difficulty of the text and the demands of the teacher.

Not having kids, I've lost touch to some extent regarding school cirriculums, but I gather classes like that have been phased out over the years. I believe that, if taught within the perameters I recall from my high school days, this could be an interesting and challenging elective class. No student should be required to study the bible, and controversial issues like the time frame of creation and biblical views on homosexuality should be avoided. There is plenty of value to study in the Bible without addressing specific religious doctrine. It would be difficult to achieve this balance, but not impossible.

I would suggest going one better. I believe schools should offen classes in the Koran. If I were still a student, I'd be at the front of the line to sign up for it. I'm not Muslim nor do I have any interest in converting, but I would like to understand what that religion is truly about. I don't trust talking heads on television or biased radio talk show hosts to tell me if the Muslim faith is by its very nature dangerous. I think it would only benefit young people to study the book as it is written and draw their own conclusions.

Sadly, I think this is the last thing the Religious Right wants people, especially young ones, to do and will do everything they can to discourage it. If people like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson come out and support Bible teaching in schools, I will be instinctively distrustful because I believe they would only support something that would suit their agenda of preaching hate and exclusion in God's name. They don't want people approaching the Bible with open minds, and they most certainly would not accept any teaching of the Koran that did not totally demonize Muslims.

I'm all for open, unbiased education--the best weapon to use against radical, conservative right-wing zealots.

"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" John 8:32


  1. Hey, join in the "Blog Against Theocracy" this weekend. For more information go to http://blogagainsttheocracy.blogspot.com/

  2. I think something like "Religion in literature" or "Learning about religions" might be OK in high school. I'd be less supportive of classes emphasizing any one faith.

  3. I agree with Thomas. If anything, teaching a class which spanned several of the major religious texts and viewed them objectively could help to cultivate understanding of the way that the human mind works and the common factors among some of the world's religions; fostering greater understanding of those who may believe differently than us. It would also shed light on how all of these texts can be (and often are) misused by the corrupt for power and personal gain.

  4. The problem with doing a survey course on a bunch of religions - and I've done it - is you can't even come close to doing justice to any of the religions you discuss, and it completely fails to achieve the objective of creating any sort of literacy in the scriptures of each faith. All you wind up with is a shallow jumble, and the effort to compare and contrast something you don't understand the fundamentals of is pointless at best, counterproductive at worst. As a fairly recent college graduate, it became clear to me that my lack of any previous study of the Bible severely undermined my understanding of history, literature, music, art... there were just so many allusions and motivations I was too ignorant to pick up on, let alone understand. Like Christianity or not, it has historical relevance, and we teach around it to the detriment of our students' education.