Monday, January 14, 2008


Biblical Passages

Here's an interesting development: Georgia passed a law opening up public schools to the teaching of courses on the Bible ... and (almost) nobody came.

According to L'Angra Webster, a spokeswoman for the Hancock County school system:

We found that since many of our students have such a strong spiritual upbringing that is firmly grounded in Christianity, there was very little interest on the part of the students to take such a class.
Other districts are pleading poverty, an already overcrowded curriculum or the need to focus on new graduation requirements. Joe McDaniel, associate pastor at Mabel White Memorial Baptist Church, sees other considerations:

I think it's easier for systems to duck that issue than deal with the legal issues that accompany church and state and religion. Although it is the Bible Belt, there are different denominations and faiths here. We've become so multicultural, and something said that is kind or unkind about one religion may bring issues. It's easy for some systems not to touch it.
Oh, my! You'd almost think that the purpose of the Establishment clause was to protect religions by telling the government to keep hands-off!

The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, that has created a bible study program supposedly suitable for public classes, reports that only seven Georgia schools last year adopted courses on the Bible. But the NCBC may be having a little problem with some of the concepts in the subject matter.

First of all, they boast in the article that its courses "have never been challenged legally because it presents the Bible objectively and as part of the regular program of public school education." That's a little fib. Moreno v. Ector County Independent School District was one such challenge. It also displays a little inconsistency right on the front page of its own website. First it says:

The program is concerned with education rather than indoctrination of students. The central approach of the class is simply to study the Bible as a foundation document of society, and that approach is altogether appropriate in a comprehensive program of secular education.
But the very next sentence is:

The world is watching to see if we will be motivated to impact our culture, to deal with the moral crises in our society, and reclaim our families and children.
Huh? Secular study is reclaiming children from a moral crisis? And where have I heard that phrase about impacting the culture before? ...

You'd think that people so hot to teach the Bible might learn something about what it supposedly forbids.

You may be interested in reading Mark Chancey's critique of the curriculum. It's available here.
It might not be a problem if it were indeed objective. From what I have heard about this outfit, and from a quick look at the chaplain's link, I don't think that is the case. What does the course say about the authorship and time of writing, especially of the Pentateuch? A truly objective course very likely will differ from a Sunday School course.
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