19 votes

A conservative Christian group is pushing Bible classes in public schools nationwide — and it’s working

8 comments

  1. dubteedub Link
    I can just imagine the collective outrage in these same states if a group of Muslim activists tried to get legislation passed that would encourage studies of Islam or the Quran. I am sure we would...

    Activists on the religious right, through their legislative effort Project Blitz, drafted a law that encourages Bible classes in public schools and persuaded at least 10 state legislatures to introduce versions of it this year. Georgia and Arkansas recently passed bills that are awaiting their governors’ signatures.

    According to Americans United’s analysis of the texts of state Bible-class bills, all but South Carolina’s — which includes permission to teach alternatives to evolution, along with “religions of the world” — focus on the Christian Bible.

    The Alabama, Georgia and West Virginia bills say schools can teach the Old or New Testament, or both. Florida’s bill, which not only encourages but also requires public high schools to have an elective religion course, called for either “objective study of religion” or “objective study of the Bible”; consideration of the bill was indefinitely postponed this month.

    I can just imagine the collective outrage in these same states if a group of Muslim activists tried to get legislation passed that would encourage studies of Islam or the Quran. I am sure we would hear no end to the need for a separation of church and state then. The amount of hypocrisy on the American religious right is maddening.

    11 votes
  2. [7]
    The_Fad Link
    I'd rather theology not be taught at all in public schools, save for universities where it can be treated with proper academic rigor. Note here that I don't mean to say, "all religion should be...

    I'd rather theology not be taught at all in public schools, save for universities where it can be treated with proper academic rigor.

    Note here that I don't mean to say, "all religion should be forbidden from schools". There are certainly educational aspects of every religion that can be very beneficial to a developing mind; I just don't think there should be entire classes devoted to one specific religion in K-12 public schools. Use the Bible's Psalms to teach poetry in English, or if we MUST have theology in public schools keep it broad; classes on branches of religion, such as the Abrahamics, or inject study of African theology into your US History class while covering the slave trade, showing how the various belief systems made their way to the Americas via slavery and grew from there.

    Anything that passively or actively dissuades someone from critical thinking or focuses on believing in that which you cannot prove does not have a place in general, public education. In my opinion, at least.

    10 votes
    1. [2]
      CALICO Link Parent
      I happened to live in Massachusetts during my Middle School years, and in 7th grade History Class we spent our first quarter on religion. We covered the history and basic beliefs of Christianity,...

      I happened to live in Massachusetts during my Middle School years, and in 7th grade History Class we spent our first quarter on religion. We covered the history and basic beliefs of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Time spent seemed about equal, and it was more academic than anything else—or, at least as academic you can get with 12 year olds.

      That to me seems like a well enough way to go about it. Until this point we had only really touched on ancient history, and a primer on major world religions is a good idea before you get into stuff like Galileo or the Holocaust. A lot of Western history is driven by theology, and unless you know why the Church had a stick up their ass with heliocentrism, or why the Jewish people are looked down on in history, a whole lot of it just won't make sense.

      We never got into any religion as deep as some groups or politicians might want, and I'm glad for that. But we did learn a lot about the variety of belief systems across the world, and I'm glad for that too. It's helped to boost both empathy for the stranger, and provide context for atrocities done in the name of a religion or because of a religion.

      12 votes
      1. dubteedub Link Parent
        That sounds great. I am all for a world religions elective class or a history curriculum that would delve into the history of various religions. I took a world religions class in college for a...

        That sounds great. I am all for a world religions elective class or a history curriculum that would delve into the history of various religions. I took a world religions class in college for a general elective and it was great learning about different cultures / traditions and how these religions all evolved.

        My issue is with the state encouraging / mandating public schools teach a class on Christianity that focuses on the teachings of the bible and apparently in some cases taught by actual pastors. That is just a huge breach of conflating religion with education. We already have enough Christian indoctrination that a sizable portion of Americans don't believe in evolution or "know" the Earth is just 6,000 years old.

        6 votes
    2. [4]
      mrbig Link Parent
      Shouldn’t major religious movements simply be part of the History curriculum? They actually ARE history. Makes sense to me.

      Shouldn’t major religious movements simply be part of the History curriculum? They actually ARE history. Makes sense to me.

      6 votes
      1. [3]
        The_Fad Link Parent
        That would work, sure. Though I would imagine that would focus less on the specifics of the doctrines themselves (excluding where necessary, of course) and more on the impact of the overall ideas...

        That would work, sure. Though I would imagine that would focus less on the specifics of the doctrines themselves (excluding where necessary, of course) and more on the impact of the overall ideas and themes of the works. Which is totally fine, I've got no problem with studying theology. I just think it's dangerous to present such a heady, difficult topic to kids still in K-12 education.

        If forced to compromise, truthfully, I would probably be fine with theology courses in the last year or two of public education. By that point I feel most people have their core beliefs (though perhaps not their personal identity) pinned down pretty hard, and if they don't then there's no reason to keep them from exploring whatever avenues they might choose. But, there must be some mechanism to compensate for the geographic effect of, for example, growing up in the Midwest where (theoretically) every single school would have Biblical theology classes but theology outside of that "accepted norm" would be either de facto unavailable or purposefully avoided.

        I say this only because I've lived in the Midwest my entire life and, at least in Missouri, it's very much an "it is how it is" culture, primarily driven by the state's history of poverty, blue-collar work, and strong cultural ties to the religious south. I'd run out of fingers and toes were I to try and count the times myself or friends were unable to pursue an academic enterprise solely because there was "lack of interest". There are funding limits that also play into this, of course, but going down that path leads only to an entirely different can of philosophical worms in which I will likely once again reveal myself as a bit of an outsider.

        That brings me back to my original point, though: If we simply allocate formal theological studies to post-secondary education, we avoid all of these issues. It's not a perfect fix, but I'd think it's better than the way we currently treat it; that is to say reactive, rather than proactive.

        3 votes
        1. [2]
          mrbig Link Parent
          Why have theology at all? And I say that as a religious man...

          Why have theology at all? And I say that as a religious man...

          2 votes
          1. The_Fad Link Parent
            I think there's value in theology and spirituality, in that it provides people with a sense of comfort or understanding beyond what they otherwise may have access to. There's plenty of people who...

            I think there's value in theology and spirituality, in that it provides people with a sense of comfort or understanding beyond what they otherwise may have access to. There's plenty of people who live their lives totally uninterested in academic pursuits and only need something behind which they can stand when life inevitably gets difficult, and I see no fault in that. People deserve to feel happy, because without happiness then what are we even here for? Random chance? I mean, probably, but that's not exactly helping many people sleep at night. I could wax poetic on the beauty of the structural simplicity of the atom comparative to its functional depth, and perhaps throw in some Einstein and Sagan, maybe a couple quotes from the Buddha or Mahavira, but that will be largely lost on anyone without a solid understanding of who those people were or why they should take their words to heart.

            Do I dream of a world where religion is truly treated as a purely historical pursuit? Sure, but that's not a practical belief, at least for the age in which we currently live. Therefore it behooves me most, in pursuit of my OWN happiness, to compromise and understand the limitations of what can and cannot be achieved by my own hands. If that means allowing theology to continue to prosper and spread, then so be it. I sometimes fail, but I do try not to presume to think I know how best everyone might pursue their own brand of happiness in life. That's a very personal question that many people die without ever having answered, and it would be a detriment to my own happiness to know I had a hand in robbing that from someone.

            1 vote