In Arizona, the Bible Will Be Taught in Public Schools

In the video below, The Young Turks dissect the recent Arizona bill that would allow the Bible to be taught in public schools as an elective. Sounds legal and harmless — and it can be in some cases — but depending on who’s teaching it and how it’s being taught, it could also be a Trojan Horse for getting more religious indoctrination into public schools:

So, to paraphrase what Cara Santa Maria says in the clip, we can now go into churches and teach science classes, right?

(Thanks to zeus thor for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • EJW1991

    Lawsuit time!

  • LifeInTraffic

    I love the simple test of substituting “The Koran” for “The Bible.” I’m going to go out on a limb and say that would not only never have flown in AZ, but just the introduction of a bill would have caused a complete shit storm of anti-Muslim sentiment, complete with rage against “indoctrination,” “exclusion,” “violations of church and state,” and the  “attempt to institute Sharia law.”

     But I am sure that isn’t what the oppressed, tolerant Xtians are doing. 

  • newavocation

    For some reason all I can envision is Cheech and Chong’s Sister Mary Elephant!

    ‘Now class, I have a surprise for you
    I’m going to read from the Bible
    Yada, Yada

    Class, Class, Cla…..
    WAKE UP!

    I got to go to the can Man!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSJ_k49ITUY

  • ClayJames

    I usually like the Young Turks, but they are way off base on this one.

    The whole point about this being equal to teaching science in church is ridiculous. High School students take a General Education Curriculum, so an elective classa bout the bible fits perfectly into that curriculum. On the other hand, science is not part of most church´s curriculum. A science class fits into a church´s curriculum in the same way that an american history class fits in a cooking schools´curriculum.

    There is nothing wrong with teaching a literature class about one of the most popular books in the history of humanity, unfortunately, so many people have a stick up their ass that they take it personally.

    • Deven_Kale

       The bible is so much more than just a piece of literature though. It’s the foundation document of the majority of the major religions in existence today. It’s impossible to teach the bible without separating out it’s religious elements. Trying to pass this off as just another class on literature is ridiculous.

      You say that science is not a part of most church’s curriculum, and that I agree with. But religion should not, and legally can not, be a part of a public schools curriculum unless it’s mixed in with many other religions. My contention here is that any class which teaches the Bible in a public school setting should be doing so as part of a comparative theology course, and that’s if at all. Otherwise it is very obviously giving the Abrahamic religions preferential treatment and is blatantly unconstitutional.

  • jdm8

    There is way too little information to go on here.  As I understand it, it’s been legal to teach the Bible in public schools – but only as literature, such as alongside Greek myths and Shakespeare.  It can’t be preached.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

      Agreed completely. I do see it as a trojan towards preaching, at least that being that is most likely the law makers intent. 

      I’m a Christian. I make no apologies about that. I am also a teacher and I love that as well. The two can mix and overlap to some extent. However, I think teaching the Bible in public schools is a bad idea. If anything students should be doubling up on an extra math or science class. 

      Save the electives for college, a time of discovery of who you are and what you believe. I love the idea of helping students to become problem solvers and learn how to apply the theory that they’ve learned and built over the years. Another elective is not what our public schools need. 

      I really don’t see anything good coming out of this. I wouldn’t want my son/daughter taking this class. Ironic isn’t it? I think it invites someone with an agenda to come in and indoctrinate. I’ve read many a political science teachers who have done the same thing and it all irritates me. Teach them facts, how to think, and that nothing is really as black and white as one might think and call it good :)

      • Coyotenose

         Almost complete agreement here, except for the part that suggests that electives need to go. Students learn better and faster at that age, assuming good teaching methods, and can pick up a strong education with some electives.  After all, students in band tend to have stronger mathematics skills.

        But yes, students need time on the basics. A friend who is a college professor shared the goings-on of a class with me (with zero identifying information) over several months. His students were largely conceited, arrogant and privileged, which can be clearly heard  on the audio. Several were caught plagiarizing, and even the honest ones had absolutely no ability to construct a paper or paragraph, analyze a theory., or use basic rules of grammar in their papers.  “In conclusion, India is a land of contrasts”-style papers looked GOOD compared to the stuff these kids were churning out. I have no idea how they graduated.

        Oh wait, yes I do. It’s called “an unfunded mandate to train kids to take multiple-choice tests and to then pass them no matter what.”

  • Brimshack

    I can certainly imagine some thoughtful and constructive approaches to the issue. I sincerely doubt that such approaches would fare well against the single-minded Bible-as-truth agenda that will no doubt flood the schools if this happens.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

      What approaches? I’m curious. The only thing that I can think of is a world-religion class that gives equal time to each, but with all of the sub-religions out there that’s opening a big bag of worms. 

      What would be interesting is a historical perspective on religious origins and how they’ve grown into what they are today. 

      I don’t see how a teacher can teach the Bible and remain neutral. You know students are going to ask “Do you believe the Bible is true? No matter what they answer they are no longer neutral. 

      At least for me, when my teacher hat is on then I am neutral. Off the record I am not. But I try not to subject anyone to anything not neutral unless it is a private conversation that is student initiated. 

      I wonder what kind of credentials the teacher has who teaches this class?

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        That was my thought.  I think a comparative religion class could be good, although that could be a bit heavy for HS.  Honors History elective maybe?  I’m not a teacher, nor do I have kids in school (yet).  I’m not up on what’s typical material.

        The problem I see is that it can’t take the approach that one of them is true while the others are false.  But it would be hard to escape that implication unless you treat them all as myths.  That would certainly upset some people who aren’t even taking it.

        *cough* http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtzJhTfQiMA

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

          An honors class would be appropriate at the junior or senior level perhaps. I still wonder about credentials though. A history teacher may or may not have taken classes on religions and their effects on societies. 

          My fear would be that a preacher or minister would teach it. That would be fine for a Christian school, but it would be tough for him/her to shut off their bias for the public school system. 

      • Brimshack

         Honestly, I think you answered your own question; genuinely historical approaches to the subject, comparative analysis of religion (which needn’t be exhaustive, you could pick and choose representative examples), Literary treatments, etc. Many of these are done at the college level, but of course they are tricky enough at that level. Whether they could work or not at the high school level is an interesting question, but the fact is they won’t. This will be a train wreck.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

        I grew up in Ireland. Our religion class presented the bible as fact. Unexamined fact. There was no discussion, just stories. It made no sense. I consider that I got *no* religious education in my religion classes.

        We never examined what anything *meant* – it was kind of boring actually. It probably even did the religion a disservice by making it so dull. The debate over meaning and interpretation could have been interesting.

        • JA

          I’m from Ireland originally as well. Not only was the Bible presented as fact in school, we also only learned the good parts. It was only when I read the Bible from cover-to-cover as a teenager that I started to have doubts. I seriously doubt Arizona schools will teach the troubling stuff that makes up the bulk of the Bible.

      • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

        I attended a Catholic college and took “Intro to the Old Testament” and “‘Intro to the New Testament,” both taught by an Episcopal priest. Sounds like a recipe for bias, but actually the classes presented the material without claiming it was true or false. The professor went out of his way to point out that his goal wasn’t to convert anyone. Unfortunately for me, I find discussion of ancient scriptures deadly dull, but at least the classes were educational.

  • http://www.facebook.com/racurso Robert Acurso

    So we cut funding for art, music and sports and other extracurricular activities, but the Bible? Sure, why not? We can afford to do that, right?

  • observer

    Well lets not be too hasty about this, it may be a starter to wedge Christianity into schools, but it may backfire; after all, the best way to make someone into an atheist is to make them read the Bible.

  • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    IF they are ONLY offering electives in the Bible (and NOT also offering electives on the religions of Hinduism, Islam, Wiccan, etc) then it IS the government spending taxpayer time/money/resources to promote ONE religious text PREFERENTIALLY. Unconstitutional.

  • Jesse

    Er, what’s up with the new site design? It’s clunky, slow to load, wastes lots of space on borders that could be used for text, and seems to have been applied without even the courtesy of a post announcing it.  I hope Patheos is not paying you by the readership, because I’m sure this has driven away quite a few…

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      W
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      • poliltimmy

        My message to DISQUS about their terrible format, was exactly like your comment. None in their corp gets it.

  • Hannahunney

    If they would teach the bible as something to try to understand in a common sense way, that would be great, because looked at critically it’s obviously just a bunch of stories. I read it on my own at fourteen. I was really mad at the way women were treated and talked down about and decided then and there I didn’t want to be a part of any religion that acted as if girls are nothing more than possessions to beget some guys kids. What the hell kind of a life is THAT? I was lucky, though, because my parents didn’t raise me in their religion. They said I could choose for myself if I wanted to be a part of any religion, or not.

  • HitchsApprentice

    Young people… all people, start downloading the ”AIR HORN” App onto your cell phones, and be ready to use it as soon as the teaching of the bible begins in your school.  Use it often and set the volume on high.  This is pure B.S……………

  • AnalogousGumdropDecoder

    This is difficult.  I really think that, imagining a cultural vacuum, the Bible should not only be allowed to be taught in public schools but should actually be a mandatory part of the curriculum in literature and history.  It is a very, very influential piece of literature that – like it or not – has shaped history in a significant manner.  AND THAT’S THE WAY IT SHOULD BE TAUGHT.  I’m also (on paper) not totally opposed to the idea of public schools teaching world religions, comparative religion, or mythology.  I think these are important things any person should know about before entering college.  The problem is that – as we all know – this is not why this bill was created nor is it the manner in which the Bible will likely be taught.  Coming as it does from Arizona, this is obviously a Trojan Horse bill to proselytize Christianity in public schools.  If we’re going to teach the Bible in schools, it should be as a work of literature or as a historically influential text, or taught alongside other “holy” books or mythologies.  It should not have its own dedicated class when the Koran, the Vedas, and the works of Franz Kafka or J.D. Salinger do not.  Do these Republicans really think they’re kidding anybody?  Wasn’t the Republican party supposed to be worried about the economy?  So why are they suddenly focusing solely on “culture war” legislation?  I wouldn’t worry too much; this is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

  • Sware

    I can just see it now.  A teacher gets to this passage (or really any of the extraordinarily awful ones)…
     
    Samuel 1 
    25 Then Saul said, “Thus you shall say to David: ‘The king does not desire any dowry but one hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to take vengeance on the king’s enemies.’” But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. 26 So when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to become the king’s son-in-law. Now the days had not expired; So when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to become the king’s son-in-law. Now the days had not expired; 27 therefore David arose and went, he and his men, and killed two hundred men of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full count to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him Michal his daughter as a wife.therefore David arose and went, he and his men, and killed two hundred men of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full count to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him Michal his daughter as a wife.
     
    …kids go home from school telling their parents what they talked about in school.  Next thing you know parents freak out that no one was supposed to teach THAT part of the bible.  

    • AnonymousSam

       I was thinking this. The Bible has plenty of material that churches conveniently skip over. I’d like to see what the kids think when they read how God wants his believers to slaughter entire cities of people if they don’t all practice the same religion.

      “Mom, are the Catholics going to come kill us because we’re Protestants…?”

  • Sharon Hypatia

    Georgia tried this a few years ago. A two semester elective that taught the Bible as a literary & historic source. I read that it was cancelled a year or two ago because not enough students  were signing up for it.
    It seems that the non-religious kids weren’t interested and the religious kids were yanked from it by their parents when they found out the course wasn’t pitching their personal  fundie viewpoint of Biblical truth.
    Can’t have the kiddies exposed  to reading the Bible in an objective and critical manner, now, can we?

  • Page

    I wonder how long it will take for someone to get bible class in their schedule because the class they wanted was full. 

  • Rickray1949

    The only way religion of any kind should be taught in schools is as “Religions of the World: Past and Present”    Don’t forget to include my religion,” Gospel of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.”   I think as a subject it would be really interesting.  Then we could see exactly what religions really are:  “FAIRY TALES & MYTHS”  with a little history thrown in.   But that’s too simple a solution.  Every religion wants theirs to be the right & truthful one.  Mankind is f*****.

  • Electronicottage

     Some knowledge of the Bible as literature is essential to understand other literature and some history.  It is possible to teach it as literature; my husband has done it on the university level.  Selecting the instructor is somewhat like selecting the sex ed. teacher.  You can’t assign it to just anyone.  The instructor should be grounded in world literature, and if religious, should be able to keep personal beliefs completely separate from the text.  On the high school level, this does not necessarily require a full semester, but could be incorporated in a longer term covering other literature.  Then the references could be pointed out, and explained.  It is a matter of literary enrichment, not of religion or dogma.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Rhoades/100000175617377 Scott Rhoades

    If they are going to teach in they should teach in right along with the Torah, Qur’an, Bhagavad gita,  and other holy books in a comparative religion class. I’d like that to be done in ALL public schools as long as it is monitored for proselytizing.


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