Teaching the Bible in Texas Schools

Our favorite religion reporter at The Wall Street Journal, Suzanne Sataline, writes about how teaching the Bible in public school is (*big gasp*) causing a debate in Texas.

The text used in Odessa high schools, developed by the nonprofit National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, represents as fact that the Bible was a “foundational text” in the framing of the U.S., that the King James Bible “remains one of the…most-loved books in the history of the world,” and that “the sun went black” when Jesus was crucified. Critics say that such statements represent the views of some believers, not necessarily scholars.

Seeing as it’s wrong on all three counts, it seems like we should stop teaching that material in a place of real education… but that may be tough. The Council’s founder, Elizabeth Ridenour, “says that nearly 400 districts have adopted the National Council curriculum since 1992.”

There’s some competition, though, for those of us who see the importance of the Bible as a work of literature:

A competing multidenominational curriculum is offered by the Bible Literacy Project, a nonprofit group that gathered a board of scholars to write a student text that discusses the Bible’s books and their influence on Shakespeare, poetry, art and music. Available for the past year, the textbook has mostly received praise from scholars and critics. Charles Stetson, the project’s founder, says it has been adopted by 83 school districts in 30 states.

That seems like it’s covering exactly what everyone wants a Bible class to cover: Its influence. This curriculum is not getting into how factually accurate (or inaccurate) the Bible is. It leaves that for the home.

Of course, it’s the first curriculum that seems to be winning right now. It’s no surprise why, either…

John Waggoner… says he is pleased that several members of the National Council advisory board are prominent evangelical Christians who, like him, believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. “We feel like their ideals are along the same lines of ours,” he says.

It’s amazing how many people manage to mention their religion’s inerrancy even while on paper they say how this curriculum is not religious at all.

They need to remember that while Religious Literacy is vital to a complete education, Religious Dogma is a detriment.

Time magazine also write about this subject a couple months ago.

(thanks to TX Atheist for the link)


[tags]atheist, atheism, Wall Street Journal, Suzanne Sataline, Bible, Texas, Odessa, National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, King James Bible, Jesus, Elizabeth Ridenour, Bible Literacy Project, Charles Stetson, John Waggoner, Christian, Religious Literacy, Time magazine, TX Atheist[/tags]

  • http://www.katsscratch.blogspot.com Kat

    I would rather they NOT teach the bible (or any other holy books) in public schools. From the Texas Freedom Network site:

    “Reading, Writing and Religion: Teaching the Bible in Texas Public Schools reveals that, with a few notable exceptions, the Bible courses currently taught in Texas public schools often fail to meet even minimal academic standards for teacher qualifications, curriculum and academic rigor; promote one faith perspective over all others; and push an ideological agenda. ”

    http://www.tfn.org/religiousfreedom/biblecurriculum/texascourses/

    I keep seeing people on atheist web sites advocating teaching the bible as literature but can’t help but wonder if those same folks don’t actually live in or truly understand “red state” America. I live in New Braunfels, Texas and I can tell you that this is one small step away from teaching hellfire and brimstone not as literature but as literal fact. I think this is a terrible idea.

    Why can’t these things be saved for college as electives for those interested adults??

  • Vincent

    I’ll repeat my position until I’m blue in the face.

    A class that separates the bible out from other religious texts is an establishment of religion.
    A course on world religions that includes the bible-based ones along with most other major religions would be a good idea.
    A course on religious influences in modern literature might be good, but it begs the question of why religious and not other types of influences?

  • http://dmarvin811.blogspot.com Dan

    Are you upset that the religion of secular humanism in public schools is being challenged again by Christianity? I’m not! Praise Jesus

  • Karen

    Are you upset that the religion of secular humanism in public schools is being challenged again by Christianity? I’m not! Praise Jesus

    Yawn …

  • http://acosmopolitan.blogspot.com Anatoly

    Having grown up in Texas going to grades three through twelve there, it’s not a big surprise that the serpent of bigotry would rise there. Back in Texas (and I’m sure in other states as well), they would go through extraordinary lenghts to get religion into the school- from just your typical rapture right teachers (not a big deal honestly, who hasnt had one of those?) to student sponsored prayer to a “Christian Athletes” club down to prayer at the state competition for Academic Decathlon (a school run program).

    Separation of church and state seems to not be in the dictionaries in Texas.

  • Vincent

    do you even know what “secular humanism” means?

  • Vincent

    do you even know what “secular humanism” means?

  • Darryl

    I’ve made no secret of my opinion of the state of Texas. If I had my way, we’d kick it out of the Union until it got itself into this century. Whenever I hear of any bizarre, illogical, draconian, self-defeating policy or law that has anything to do with the Bible or Christianity, I assume it’s coming from Texas. I’m rarely wrong.

  • Vincent

    Unless it’s Kansas….

  • Darryl

    Of course.

  • http://groundedinreality.blogspot.com Bruce

    I’m torn on teaching Biblical literature in school. On the one hand, I can definitely see the importance of understanding all the Biblical references in literature. In fact, and I kid you not, the first time I had even read any part of the Bible was in my high school lit class. We did the first few books of the OT. The teacher was not preachy at all, in fact, I couldn’t even tell if she was religious or not. If Bible lit were taught the way I learned it I would have no problem with it.

    Unfortunately, it sounds like this is not the case everywhere. The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools definitely sounds like it has a religious agenda. And I’m guessing that my high school teacher may be somewhat of an anomaly. So I say we compromise and allow the Bible to be taught as literature as long as the teacher is not a Christian.

  • Vincent

    I’m afraid that too would be unconstitutional.
    You cannot have a religious test for any public office.
    Though whether a teacher is a “public office” may be debatable, I think the courts would find it uncontsitutional to require a religious basis for being a teacher of a particular subject.

  • Hound Doggy

    The schools already have too many things that they are trying to teach. As it is, there is not enough time in the day. My dad is a University English Prof. students don’t know how to structure a paragraph. They go through high school with straight A s and wonder why they are getting D s in college. The teachers don’t know enough about what they are doing to pass it along to the students.
    I have many personal experiences from high-school/college along this line. Topic sentence? what’s that. I took 4 years of French in high school only to learn in college that my pronunciation was all wrong. (my high school teacher knew German, French not so much…). I don’t even remember taking History. I never took geography. I finished my math requirement in one year because of a long hour. I sure paid for that in college.
    Now it seems that there are so many teacher work days and other “lets not have school days” and we have to teach to that standard test or the other, that there is no way the students have the time to learn to read or write or speak or know that New Mexico is not a country, etc, etc, etc.
    So now lets add a huge topic that very few are qualified to teach and that will be made a personal soap box issue. That will be fun.
    Everyone was so hot to have sex education left out of the schools because of its personal nature. Isn’t religion personal. Shouldn’t this be taught at home or in *Sunday School*. That way no one else’s pesky beliefs will be showered on your precious child so they might have to actually use their brain to dertermine for themselves what they believe.

  • Serrac

    Hound Dog-
    In response to your first point, I think that different schools definately have different standards- and to say that all high schools are horrible and aren’t teaching students anything is a gross generalization.

    Everyone was so hot to have sex education left out of the schools because of its personal nature. Isn’t religion personal. Shouldn’t this be taught at home or in *Sunday School*. That way no one else’s pesky beliefs will be showered on your precious child so they might have to actually use their brain to dertermine for themselves what they believe.

    Who is everyone? If you’re refering to Christian fundamentalists, who are generally the ones who are against sex education, they aren’t usually against it because they feel that its personal. I would more say that it has to do with the idea that if kids don’t learn about sex in schools, it will all go away until they get married.

    Although the original post may have been discussing the Bible taught in school as religion, I think that most serious posters around here are rather of the opinion that the Bible should be taught as literature. Learning to analzye the symbolism of the Bible has nothing to do with the personal nature of religion.

  • Hound Doggy

    Of course I am generalizing. Of course all schools do not have the same standards. I am mostly talking about my personal experiences. I also believe that there are a lot more poor teachers than there are good ones. I really don’t have a problem with the influence of the Bible being taught in general. I think that the more appropriate place to do that is in a college or university setting, not high school. I don’t think that the majority of the high school teachers in the US are qualified or have the extra time or are able to keep their personal opinions out of the classroom. I also think that it is more important to get the basics down in high school first. The teachers that I know would have a fit if you added another subject to their already busy busy schedule.
    This is such a complicated issue, **generalization**–The adults don’t have it straight, they get on the blogs and argue back and forth. They get on the TV shows and argue back and forth. Everyone is trying to convert everyone. Wars are being fought and have been for centuries. I personally have had religion forced on me at my workplace (i’m the boss) by customers, at Wal-mart by leaflets being stuck into merchandise, at a public auction (have you been saved?), it goes on and on. These adults are aggressively pursueing me in situations that make it very difficult for me to respond to them. I’m not going to get into my beliefs with these people at these times. Now, say I’m 12 in a classroom, or 17 how much more difficult will that be to handle. If you raise your hand and say that you don’t believe in God and your teacher is like some of these that I’ve mentioned what is going to happen. Either that teacher will try to save the poor misguilded lamb or will make it more difficult to be in that class. I went to a school where every morning there was a prayer circle before school. I was one of three that did not join. It made it more difficult.

    Influence of the bible is fine. But I don’t think it would stay at influence or literature. Personal opinions would come in and that is a problem.
    Leave it for university.

  • Karen

    I personally have had religion forced on me at my workplace (i’m the boss) by customers, at Wal-mart by leaflets being stuck into merchandise, at a public auction (have you been saved?), it goes on and on. These adults are aggressively pursueing me in situations that make it very difficult for me to respond to them. I’m not going to get into my beliefs with these people at these times. Now, say I’m 12 in a classroom, or 17 how much more difficult will that be to handle. If you raise your hand and say that you don’t believe in God and your teacher is like some of these that I’ve mentioned what is going to happen. Either that teacher will try to save the poor misguilded lamb or will make it more difficult to be in that class. I went to a school where every morning there was a prayer circle before school. I was one of three that did not join. It made it more difficult.

    Wow. I applaud you for your courage. As we’ve seen in the news recently, in some places there can be terribly harsh repercussions for those refusing to join prayer circles.

    Thanks for your perspective, it really adds to my understanding on this issue.

  • http://dmarvin811.blogspot.com Dan

    Here in California they passed a law that all public school kids as low as first grade will be taught homosexual history (indoctrination) and then evolution later on and who knows what is next maybe hug the trees week and sex education/ abortion clinic map hand out day then how to use drugs the right way and how not to get jumped by gangs (by joining) and don’t forget bully 101 how to be one before you are a victim. Hechemm hechemm today’s secular humanism music class begins with a song ready all… me me me me me.

    Needless to say my daughter gets home schooled and she exceeds all others in ingenuity.

  • Karen

    Here in California they passed a law that all public school kids as low as first grade will be taught homosexual history (indoctrination)

    Oh good grief! (rolling my eyes) SB 1437 simply added sexual orientation to existing California law that “prohibits instruction or school-sponsored activities that reflect adversely on people because of their race, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin or ancestry.”

    Yes, the bill would have prohibited sexual-orientation discrimination in educational materials, just as racial and other forms of discrimination are currently prohibited. GASP!

    But for the rabid religious groups (yes, they are here in California too!), not discriminating against gay people is apparently too much to ask. They prefer to close their eyes when it comes to (straight and gay) kids that get bullied in school because of perceptions that they are gay, not to mention the unfortunate suicide rates of gay youth.

    And by the way, in case you didn’t hear, Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill last fall.
    http://www.religioustolerance.org/homlawca.htm

  • Karen

    Needless to say my daughter gets home schooled and she exceeds all others in ingenuity.

    Will … Not … Comment …

  • http://dmarvin811.blogspot.com Dan

    FROM THAT LINK: “the bill would prohibit teachers from saying that homosexual orientation is immoral or wrong,”

    I thought they couldn’t pass laws based on religion; yes secular humanism is a religion. How does God feel about this subject? http://tinyurl.com/38998n

    God help us all

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    You mean that vetoed bill?

    Dan, take a deep breath. Chill. The whole world isn’t out to get you.

  • Darryl

    Dan, pay close attention:

    Murder is immoral and wrong;

    Rape is immoral and wrong;

    Theft is immoral and wrong;

    Fraud is immoral and wrong;

    Arson is immoral and wrong;

    Bribery is immoral and wrong;

    Wife-beating (or husband-beating) is immoral and wrong;

    Assault and battery of someone because of how they were born is immoral and wrong;

    Slandering someone because of how they were born is immoral and wrong;

    Alienating someone because of how they were born is immoral and wrong.

    With me so far?

    Why are these actions all immoral and wrong? Because they involve harming someone else without just cause.

    It is highly likely that homosexuals were born that way. What is your beef with them? What is your just cause to harm them?

    All they want is to be treated like everyone else–to be left alone. Leave them the fuck alone!

    P.S. Your God is a fiction and so are his opinions of homosexuals.

  • http://cryptic-life.blogspot.com CrypticLife

    I wrote a post on this as well, focusing on some of the evidence suggested in the complaint. It doesn’t look like an innocently intended Bible course: the director of curriculum sent a victorious email after the selection process was rigged to pick a particular Biblical viewpoint. Something to the effect of “WE ARE USING NCPBPS :) :) :)! HA! Take that, you dang heathens!”

    Funny stuff. Just goes to show their interest is purely in undermining the Constitution.

  • Karen

    FROM THAT LINK: “the bill would prohibit teachers from saying that homosexual orientation is immoral or wrong,”

    Yeah. So what? Do you want teachers to bring their personal or religious prejudices into the classroom?

    It’s inappropriate, and it shouldn’t happen. Just as it would be inappropriate for an anti-semetic teacher to get up in front of class and demean Jews, or a racist teacher to get up and use slurs against racial minorities.

  • Eliza

    Dan, do you follow the other laws/rules in Leviticus? The dietary laws, the guidelines on animal sacrifice, and the rules about avoiding contact a woman during her “unclean” time?

    What do you make of the Bible referring specifically to sex acts between men as “abomination” (in Leviticus) but not mentioning to sex acts between women? Is homosexuality a sin in men, but permissible in women? And, what do you make of the mention (depending on the translation) to effeminate men (in Romans) but not to any similar stereotype for women? Are homosexual men being warned to avoid conforming to stereotype?

    But more important than those questions is this: Could you please show me where in the Bible I can find the teachings by Jesus about how we should treat gays? Especially useful would be any indication by Jesus that gays should be shunned, feared, reviled, and/or convinced to change their sexual orientation. I’ve looked, but I haven’t been able to find that teaching. Maybe I’ve missed something really important…but I’ve only managed to find the parts about how Jesus loved and accepted people, & taught that we should do the same.

    Interestingly, there’s mention several times in the NT of men who were close to Jesus in a way we now might find questionable, though of course customs were different at the time, and Jesus clearly loved and accepted people without discrimination, sharing all he had with anyone in need. Examples of his closeness with other men:

    Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus (John 11:11, 11:35)

    There was one particular disciple Jesus loved most; that disciple leaned on Jesus’s chest at supper (John 21:20).

    Among those with Jesus at Gethsemane, there was a young man who wore nothing but a linen cloth (Mark 14:51).

    I’m really left in the dark about Christ-ianity sometimes seems so certain that homosexuality is the abomination that Leviticus indicates. Along with eating shellfish – oh, woops, forgot, that one is OK as we pick and choose from Leviticus.

  • http://dmarvin811.blogspot.com Dan

    Karen asked, Do you want teachers to bring their personal or religious prejudices into the classroom? , If you mean religions then absolutely NO, If you mean Christianity (not religion) then absolutely YES!
    -ian, an Noun: related to, one that is. (Christian)
    -ism Noun: doctrine, belief, action or conduct. (religions)
    Darryl said: “It is highly likely that homosexuals were born that way.”

    I agree 100%, in fact we all are born that way, into sin, every one of us. You see, being gay is just a branch on the tree of sin. Some lie, some cheat, some are gay. Some lie and cheat on their gay partner but it is clear that fornication is an abomination.

    Eliza asked: Could you please show me where in the Bible I can find the teachings by Jesus about how we should treat gays? ,

    Jesus talked about in Matthew 15:19 “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man”

    Matthew 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

    but not mentioning to sex acts between women? It is quite clear that lesbianism is unnatural also Romans 1:26 ”For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:”

    what do you make of the mention to effeminate men but not to any similar stereotype for women? Deuteronomy 22:5 The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

    Eliza asked: Dan, do you follow the other laws/rules in Leviticus? The dietary laws, the guidelines on animal sacrifice, and the rules about avoiding contact a woman during her “unclean” time?

    God gave us those instructions because they are proper for us. He says to wash hands in running water not standing water, not because it is ritual, but healthy. We don’t eat pork because it is a filthy animal that rolls in and eats feces. We don’t eat shell fish because they are bottom dwellers and eat feces and very unclean. We are not to just throw away what we feel is not relevant anymore. That just muddies the waters. BTW: try, yes, no(shadow of Jesus),yes

    Eliza said: Maybe I’ve missed something really important Yes you have.

    In Luke 16 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.

    Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

    Romans 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

    Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.

    Proverbs 28:9 He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.

    Everything in the Old Testament was a shadow of Jesus. Blemish free lamb as sacrifice to “cover” sins = Jesus is perfect lamb of God to “forgive” sins. Abraham almost sacrificed his son on mountain. God sacrificed his son on same mountain. God created the universe in 6 days and then rested. Not because he was tired but because it was complete. Keep Sabbath holy (4th Commandment, shadow of Jesus) = Jesus is the Sabbath rest. God completes saving of mankind by Jesus and is our Sabbath’s rest now and we can rejoice.

    “I’m really left in the dark about Christianity” Without Jesus Christ this is a true statement. I pray it isn’t true about you, Eliza. “that one is OK as we pick and choose” we are NOT to do this.

    For Him,
    Dan

  • Michael

    “Religion, Morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools, and the means of education shall be forever encouraged.” — 1787 Congress.

    Notice that Congress put Religion and Morality before knowledge.

    Considering even Jefferson supported voluntary religion related services in public places (he even attended Church in the House of Representatives 2 days after the so-called separation letter… and was actually a regular attendant), objective voluntary courses about the bible should be constitutional.

    On one occasion, Jefferson declared that religion is “deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support.”

    George Washington, in October, 1789, declared, “it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.” The US wasn’t yet a year old.

    So, voluntary religious or religion-related services, monuments, etc are completely justified.


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