Alabama: The Bible as Public School Curriculum?

I’ve been very critical about the teaching of Intelligent Design in public high school science classes recently. While many people are adamantly opposed to the use of the Bible in any form or context in public education, I strongly disagree with them. In order to properly understand western history, religion, literature, art, society, culture and philosophy, I find the Bible totally indispensable. For me, where the line is to be drawn is about the context in which the material is be studied.

You won’t find me agreeing with Democrats very often, but I’ll give a couple of them some credit on this issue from WorldNetDaily:

Two Democratic leaders of Alabama’s House of Representatives introduced legislation that would authorize local boards of education to offer a course in Bible literacy as an elective in grades 10-12.

The bill, expected to pass both legislative chambers without opposition, would make Alabama the first state to offer a Bible curriculum in a public education setting.

The legislation, introduced by Speaker Seth Hammett and Majority Leader Ken Guin, refers to use of a course called “The Bible and Its Influence,” with an accompanying textbook authored by Cullen Schippe and Chuck Stetson and published by the Bible Literacy Project.

As I’ve not read the textbook, there may be grounds to oppose the bill based on its content — time will tell on this issue. Also, for the sake of disclosure I should add that I’ve placed bills in front of both of these sponsors before, and will likely be doing so again when the state legislature reconvenes.

This said, these Democrats seem to have a more rational and libertarian grasp on the issue than their Republican counterparts, one of whom wishes to ban books that refer to homosexuality in a positive or even neutral light. Mel Seesholtz provides his take on the topic:

Gay novelist Michael Holloway Perronne sent a copy of his novel A Time Before Me, along with a miniature shovel, to Alabama lawmaker Rep. Gerald Allen. The Alabama legislator had proposed legislation to remove from school and public libraries books with any gay content, no matter how small. When asked what he’d do with all the works by gay and lesbian artists, and all the other works that refer to homosexuals and homosexuality, Rep. Allen said, “I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them.”

Seesholtz provides a rather pertinent point:

That would have to be a pretty big hole to contain everything by gay and lesbian writers and other works that had “any gay content.” A partial list of artists, authors and thinkers to be buried would include Sappho, Socrates, Plato, Alexander the Great, Michelangelo, Emperor Hadrian, Richard the Lion Heart, Peter the Great, Francis Bacon, Montezuma II, Virginia Woolf, George Frideric Handel, T. E. Lawrence, Tchaikovsky, Lord Byron, Florence Nightingale, Tennessee Williams, Andre Gide, George Cukor, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, Leonardo Da Vinci, Christopher Marlowe, Herman Melville, Horatio Alger, Jr., E.M. Forster, John M. Keynes, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Noel Coward, King James I, Queen Anne, Langston Hughes, Hans Christian Andersen, Tom Dooley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Dag Hammerskjold, Rainer Maria Rilke, Edward II, Gore Vidal, James Baldwin, W. H. Auden, Susan B. Anthony, Leonard Berstein, Malcolm Forbes, Henry James, James Joyce, Georgia O’Keeffe, Marcel Proust, Jean Cocteau, Cole Porter, Alan Turing, Rudolph Nureyev, Christopher Isherwood, and Aristotle.

This Republican censorship goal is indeed scary, as it would deprive our youth of vast bodies of important knowledge. However, Democrats often take these things too far, especially when the try to ban all references to God and Christianity. Homosexuals and the Bible have both had a strong influence on western society, and to deny either is simply burying our heads in the sand.

It has long been my opinion that separation of church and state issues have been politicized by both the right and the left for purposes of self-aggrandizement — generally to the detriment of our students. Finally, someone has proposed what appears to be some common sense legislation which will allow youth to actually learn the about biblical history, literature and philosophy in a proper context.

If we truly wish for our children to make the world a better place, it is important for us to provide them every possible tool at our disposal. Censorship from the right or the left deprives them of these critical resources.

UPDATE: Debate has already started on the issue:

But Larry Darby, former head of the Alabama chapter of American Atheists, said the bill would lead to the Bible being taught as faith in Alabama public schools.

“This is just an instrument to open the door for preachers to proselytize,” Darby said.

Barry Lynn, head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State in Washington, said the course could turn into a faith-based class, depending on who taught it.

  1. Good post.

    Teaching biblical history wouldn’t have to include anything about faith for example how the early Christians used the new Roman road system to preach or the crusades.

    It is my opinion that each individual school and local community should decide what is taught. I am not against the teaching of evolution as long as it is being taugh as a theory and I think intelligent design could also be taught with little or no problem without even mentioning Christianity.

    As long as the class is not required I see no problem offering it.

    On the homosexual books, in high schools students should be able to make their own decisions about what they read and if someone finds something offensive to damn bad and they don’t have to read it. I hope students don’t believe everything they read.

  2. I think a philosophy class which does not include Aristotle or a western civilization course which omits Alexander the Great is oxymoronic. The student should not be compelled to take the class, but if they do, correct information should be taught. Anything short of providing the truth (or at least an honest quest thereof) is fraud, IMO.

  3. I challenge any history teacher to teach history accurately without including religion. I am not just talking about Christianity but all religions. I say it is an impossible task. The athiests certainly should understand that.

    How would one explain what a major motivation was for settling the “New World”. Sometimes we are ridiculous in trying to purge all references to God, Allah, or any other name given a monothiestic Higher Power.

    Have we gone insane in our educational system? Are we to allow the absurd to rule? Protect minority rights but why allow them to dictate all policy?

    I am all for teaching history and philosophy in its proper context even referencing God when appropriate. I can see no offense to nonbelievers. If they are so sensitive they cannot handle the mentioning of the word God, then they can crank up their own private schools and teach whatever they choose.

  4. The problem with such legislation is that the Christians won’t accept the Bible being taught as literature as that would put it on the same plane as any other book. They will want it taught as divinely inspired. All this does is open up another can of warms from the American Taliban.

  5. The Bible will be taught as history not as literature. If no one is required to take the class what is the problem.

    And are you saying that it is ok to teach a religion such as Islam or Hinduism? And would it be ok if a teacher was teaching about religion and wanted the students to learn about the Branch Davidians, could he teach about that?

    Things have gotten so out of control, the Declaration of Independence was removed from a school because it was unconstitutional because it mentioned God.

    I don’t get angry when someone in my school brings in a book of wicca but when I brought in the Bible the “American Taliban” (other students) told me what I was doing was unconstituional and I brought in my copy of the Constituion to prove them wrong. I didn’t force my views on anyone. Another student and I studied the Bible before school started.

    We need to make sure everyone knows that everyone no matter how popular or unpopular their views they can say any damn thing they want any damn time they want because this is a free speech zone.

  6. Jake

    I agree with you. I doubt if you rounded up other students, held them against their will, and then forced them ro read or listen to the Bible.

    You are protected under the Constitution as much as an athiest or wicca is protected.

    What has happened to reason? What has happened to “equal protection”? Bible toters, just like gun toters are protected under the Constitution.

  7. godless

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you choose to deny the existance of God, that is your right.

    What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

    If Jake is disallowed to practice his religion or even study about it in school, then you cannot be allowed to preach the nonexistance of God. You want to shove your belief system on others. What gives you that right?

    I challenge you and other athiests to write in this forum coherent arguments in favor of banning religions or the mention of God anywhere, anytime in the public forum as you advocate.

  8. Like godless, I am a bit scared of the American Taliban, especially since I hail from the state of Roy Moore. It is one of many reasons why I am opposed to teaching “Intelligent Design” – as there is no academic relevence and it would (by default) be taught as “divinely inspired.”

    This said, to avoid reference to the Bible is to rewrite history, which is intellectually dishonest. If this bill passes (I’m sure it will) it will be our responsibility to monitor the classes and ensure that the Bible is being taught in the proper academic context.

  9. I vote for the King James version. I find that having the words of Jesus in red helps me keep track of the characters. (just kidding Julian)

    I am all for some Bible history if it actually teaches history. Perhaps they can teach Comparative Religion instead- what a great way to bring meaningful debate to our already religiously diverse public schools. I have said that I do not align myself with any religion, but I think that religious texts bring understanding about man and his current events. These books are great tools, not to mention great reading, when they are read for puposes other than teaching division and hatred.