Teaching the Bible in American public schools

Texas passed a law in 2007 that requires its public schools to teach the Bible — and this law is about to be enacted for the 2009-2010 school year.

The social studies chair at Whitehouse High School in Texas claims that “The purpose of a course like this isn’t even really to get kids to believe it, per se, it is just to appreciate the profound impact that it has had on our history and on our government.”

But America is not a Christian nation — there is no national religion. Thus, is it right to force kids to learn about the holy book of one specific type of religion that not everyone practices? Why not also teach the Koran, or the Torah?

I can understand offering a course in religion (though, I would argue such a course should still be optional) and its impact on American history. But it seems to me that there are limited ways to teach the Bible specifically without teaching students to believe in a certain idea. After all, many people don’t even believe the Bible to be true, so what are they supposed to take away from this course? Does a mandatory Bible class operate under the assumption that the Bible is the true word of God and something that should not be questioned?

I think even some very religious folks would agree that religious beliefs is something that should be taught at home, not in a public school.

This sort of law opens up further questions about the role of Christianity in America. Why is it, for instance, that everyone makes a big deal about having a black president, or a woman president, but not a non-Christian president? Could a non-Christian president even have a chance of being elected? Why is it that the President elect must swear on a Bible at his inauguration ceremony? We are not a Christian nation, but we sure do act like one most of the time.

Just some food for thought.

Source for the quote: Texas public schools required to teach Bible this year, KLTV,  http://www.kltv.com/global/story.asp?s=10933571

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Teaching the Bible in American public schools

  1. Jon

    The Bible should definitely be taught in public schools, but in literature class, alongside other influential fictional works like Great Expectations and The Odyssey. Today’s children, even the most fervently devout fundamentalist Christian ones, are pathetically undereducated in the Bible.

    I have come to a conclusion. There needs to be a Bible video-game…oh God (pun intended I guess) I’m getting really excited about this. I needn’t say more, but just imagine playing through a few of these scenarios:

    *Daniel in the Lion’s Den (can you say BOSS BATTLE!)
    *The crucifiction of Christ (imagine forcing players to LOSE in order to continue the game!? Unless, of course, you are playing as Pilate and the Romans)
    *Tower of Babel (It’d be like an RPG where you have to go around and talk to everyone IN THEIR OWN NEW LANGUAGE!)
    *The Battle of Jericho (C’mon, obvious. The best part would be finding some war trumpet in a chest [think Zelda here] to blow down the walls of the city)
    *Jonah and the Whale (what a great side-quest)
    *Noah and the Ark (Picture Noah armed with a tranq. gun hunting for Bison)
    *The plagues of Egypt! (You can eventually summon them at any time. COOL!)
    *Jesus and Mary Magdalene (Scandalous, for mature audiences only)

    The list goes on. Anyway, what a great way to teach kids what happened since they are pretty much abandoning books these days anyway.

    Just my 2 cents while I sit here in Architecture studio eating a stolen Turkey sandwich.

  2. jlkelly23

    I have no objections to the Bible being taught in literature class, or perhaps a religion class, though I am not convinced that it’s a problem if people are undereducated in the Bible. I’m 22 and completely undereducated in the Bible, even after going through weekly Sunday School until I was 18. I never found it interesting or necessary (I suppose I should mention that I am also a borderline atheist).

    I do think, however, that even if the Bible was taught in literature class, it would be difficult to make sure teachers stay on task. That is, making the class completely about the literature, and treating the Bible as literature as opposed to a belief system. Many teachers would succeed in this, but I fear that many others, particularly those who are strongly Christian (and I’m sure there are many in Texas) would be unable to treat the Bible as just literature, preaching a belief system in a public school is unacceptable.

  3. Jerry

    Interesting: “We are not a Christian nation, but we sure do act like one most of the time.” Exactly, how would one define a “Christian nation”?

    • Justine

      Well, for instance, the UK is a Christian nation since the Church of England is recognized as the national religion. We do not have a national religion in the US – though I’d argue that a lot of Christians who want the Bible taught in public schools act like Christianity is our official religion. It’s not, which is why I find it a bit strange to promote teaching the Bible, but not other religious books.

  4. the public schools on our district can really give some good education to young kids. they have high standards ;“

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