Letters to the Editor – Weekly Issue of September 26, 2011
Readers write in with responses to an Opinion piece advocating that Americans should teach the Bible – in school.
Teaching the Bible in school
Nyasha Junior's commentary, "For cultural literacy, teach about the Bible in schools" (August 15 & 22) is the beginning of an important discussion. By teaching the Bible as historical literature, the teacher's skills could be challenged, with respect to maintaining the separation of church and state (a post-Revolutionary War initiative, by the way).
However, such an effort would be much more relevant to the education of our youth and future world citizens if the literature of all three of the major Abrahamic faiths were taught at the same time. Imagine the ignorance that would have less soil in which to grow.
I love the Bible. I love education. I respect others' beliefs. And I am sure that requiring public schools to teach the Bible, even if only as literature or as history, is a bad idea.
I know of no public school of education that includes the Bible in its curriculum of teacher education, so there are virtually no teachers state-certified to teach this subject. As it is, very few public school teachers know enough about literature to stray very far from the traditional paths. It's fair to say that almost none of them would be able to construct a curriculum based on the Bible.
If the Bible were taught, then it would seem fair also to include the Koran and other literary staples of the world's great religions. And where would this list stop without offending lots of people? There are plenty of examples of great literature to fill the curriculum without using the fundamental works of world religions.
Finally, if the literary aspects of the Bible were taught, what translation would be used? Religious leaders have had a hard enough time settling on a translation for their own use in worship.
It is not possible at this time to teach the Bible as a cultural document in schools for three reasons:
1. For many parents the Bible is not a cultural document. It is the Word of God, which may not be parsed, analyzed, or critiqued. This vocal minority will likely demand that any school offering scholarly, objective biblical study immediately stop tampering with the religious beliefs of that group.
2. Few teachers are equipped with sufficient scholarly background to teach the Bible as a human document reflecting the dilemmas and changes of history. Teachers would likely fall back on their old Sunday School lessons, sectarian to the bone.
3. There are almost no middle- and high-school level instructional materials. Teachers often fall back on sectarian materials that present biblical episodes or topics in decidedly faith-based ways.
I was a party to ending the offering of Bible classes in several local schools. I hated having to do it, but the classes were little more than indoctrination to literalist interpretations of scripture.