Did you know that a new education law (passed in 2007 and now in implementation) mandates that Bible literacy be taught to our school children?
What does that mean?
First we can look at what it does not mean. Teaching Bible literacy does not mean:
- teachers, schools, and districts now have a green light to teach religion in public schools which would go against the Constitution (separation of church and state and all that!). The distinction is difficult to define, but it is important. Schools and classrooms are not the forum to dive into the teachings within the Bible. This is not a green light to preach to our children. It is an opportunity to look at the value of the Bible as an historic piece of literature.
- schools are not required to teach other world religions to give context or comparisons to the Bible. The Koran is equally historically relevant as a piece of literature, for example. (I think an elective on World Religions would be an appropriate means to tackle this Hot Button Issue. We had a Humanities class in high school that did just this.)
So what does teaching the Bible in a public school really mean, then?
First and foremost, it's an attempt to look at the historical value of the Bible as a work of literature. This is a nonreligious approach, however, that has been proven to be difficult in practice. Teaching the Bible should be an endeavor which most districts should navigate slowly and carefully. The gray areas are immense. The state of Texas did not provide curriculum guidelines or teacher training to support the new law. No monies have been allocated. Dallas ISD won't offer an elective in the Bible, nor will McKinney ISD.
Other districts like Irving ISD will incorporate literary elements from the Bible into their current teaching and curriculum. They are being safe and not risking breeching the separation of church and state. Districts that go forth with an elective class should take care to tow the constitutional line in order to avoid opening themselves up for litigation.
This will be difficult. In an article by MSN states that specific guidelines haven't been drawn by the state in order to avoid constitutional issues: afore mentioned separation of church and state. When no training is given and a course on the Bible is taught, it will be almost impossible to keep the instructor's personal experiences or beliefs out of the teaching. The MSN article goes on to quote Southern Methodist University associate professor in Religious Studies, Mark Chancey. Classes which study the Bible, he says, often promote creation science. Some classes denigrate Judaism. Some classes explicitly encourage students to convert to Christianity or to adopt Christian devotional practices. When there are teachers who say things like: I cannot preach to you, but if I could, I ™d say… and then go on to preach, the shades of gray become murky.
Bible literacy in public schools. It is a Hot Topic to watch closely and as parents we do need to keep ourselves informed about what’s going on in our schools. What do you think about this new Texas legislation?
I’m really curious about public opinion!
Visit Parent Advocates for Argyle Schools for more Hot Button Educational Topics