Sunday, July 20, 2008

Texas School Board approves Bible class but not a curriculum

The Houston Chronicle has reported that "local school districts got a green light Friday to offer high school students an elective Bible course without the specific state standards that some contend are necessary to guide well-intentioned teachers from straying into religious proselytizing."

This is just as I expected and wrote in earlier posts. It appears that the State Board didn't know what kind of curriculum would be appropriate to put into place, and figured that if it did so, they would face litigation. Well, they are going to face litigation no matter what they do, but to give no guidelines is asking for major trouble. How many education majors ever take a religious studies course? How many have any idea how to teach a religious studies curriculum? How many even are aware that there is a difference between teaching about religion and teaching religion?

But even this difference won't matter because there are going to be lawsuits no matter what kind of course is run. Consider the parents who will take the school to court if the teacher were to teach about religion? What will happen when the students begin to learn that the historical, literary, and social history of the Bible is not what they have been taught in church? The parents will scream that their children are being taught against their religion, and will sue or kick out the teacher just as we saw in the Friendswood incident. If the teacher teaches religion, that is proselytises and turns the class into a prayer bible study, then other parents will sue that the separation of church and state has been infringed upon.

What a mess!

27 comments:

Hall Monitor said...

This story was featured on http://detentionslip.org! Voted #1 for crazy news in education.

Leon said...

I don't think it is possible to separate teaching about religion from teaching religion. All Bible study comes down to a religious position. We have not even begun to approach the Bible in a rational manner. Even the anti-theology of atheists is just another form of theology.

How hard is honesty here? Apparently it is impossible. Anyone who claims to be able to teach about the Bible, rather than advocating one religious position, would have to begin by stating their own religious interest in this and then go on to admit the difficulty in separating their own views on what is inspiring from what the actual contents of the Bible are. The absolute claim to objectivity on anyone's part is not believable. Begin with an admission of subjectivity and then maybe you have a slight possibility of gaining some rational insight about an ancient culture.

Leon Zitzer

José Solano said...

Americans tend to get rather hysterical over this issue as Christophobia seems to run fairly deeply in the US. I don’t see this subject being any more difficult to teach objectively than say American History, which is a required course. Talk about subjectivity, we know very well how strong prejudices can be instilled through American History. As a school board member I recently reviewed history books for adoption by my school district to see what biases, slants and general propaganda students might be subjected to. I taught American History for a number of years and you can be sure it was a very different course from what other teachers were offering students. Just imagine having students contemplate that the American Revolution was a mistake!

Geoff Hudson said...

And just imagine students having to contemplate that Jesus, John the Baptist and Paul may have been fictitious. Or may be Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes were also a fiction of someone's imagination, at least pre the first century Jewish war - none are in the DSS, and only 'Essenes' are in the extant extensive contemporary Works of Philo. I suggest those reponsible for the 'oral law' were not Pharisees, but prophets speaking as they thought, in the Spirit. In the view of the Jerusalem priests who wrote the Nahum Pesher, the 'seekers of smooth things' (Vermes) or 'those looking for easy interpretations' (Martinez) were their rivals the prophets who were not at all averse to being involved in politics. And if Jesus did not exist, Muhammad made a big mistake too.

Rick Hubbard said...

If I thought there was ANY likelihood that secondary school teachers, by themselves, could assemble a legitimate “Bible Studies” curricula appropriate for public schools, I’d say to Texas, “Go for it”. I think it is reasonable to predict, however, that they could not do so. I’d be more than happy to alter my prediction if anyone could point to classroom “Bible Study” materials that did not originate in some kind of overtly religious/sectarian environment.
Where would one find curriculum material, for example, that discusses the arguments that the Pentateuch was the result of a long editorial process that ended perhaps as late as the Hellenistic period? Or, where might one find even a mention of the recent suggestions that the biblical “history of Israel” found in the Deuteronomistic History is probably “highly idealized” (read, “fictional”) inventions by very late religious interests? Name ONE book, suitable for high school students that might even mention the puzzling synoptic relationship between the first three gospels, that Paul’s letters were actually written before any of the gospels or the Apocalypse is just one among many pieces of similar literature that was common in the Mediterranean basin for several centuries. Go ahead. Name one, I’m waiting.
Is it important for high school students to be able to compare the merits of these kinds of scholarly propositions? I don’t think so, but if students aspire be religiously literate they need to know that every religious claim proceeding from some “scriptural authority” is not immune from questioning.
Then there is the question of WHO is qualified to teach about this subject matter and WHAT those qualifications might be. An algebra or biology teacher is presumed to have at least rudimentary competence in mathematics or science as demonstrated by satisfactory completion of some specific set of college level courses. What should the qualifications be for a teacher of “bible studies”? Should it be perfect attendance pins for 10 straight years of Sunday School classes? Would a letter of recommendation from a local preacher be sufficient? If traditional disciplines like mathematics and science are legitimate qualification paradigms, would it not be reasonable to require “Bible studies” teachers to have some standard of college training in the subject matter?
For the last few decades there has been persistent murmuring about our society’s abysmal state of religious literacy, in general, and biblical literacy, in particular. As near as I can see the murmuring has changed nothing. There are still many qualified folks who COULD do something but who have not. Is there a reputable religious studies scholar who would be willing to devote the time necessary to write a “Bible Studies” textbook for the high-school market? Is there a reputable publisher who would publish it if it were written? Is there a local school board even marginally qualified to make a judgment on such a text book and to adopt it as part of their school’s curriculum?
The chance that a lucid and cogent “Bible Studies” curriculum will be developed in Texas or any other state is nil. The chance that there will be an abundance of conflict and litigation in Texas over this issue is 100%. We will all be worse off because of it.

José Solano said...

This is to be an elective course and anyone who doesn’t like the teacher or the curriculum does not have to take it. All states have essential “teacher standards and practices” that determine teacher qualification to teach subjects. The Texas Department of Education has provided the standards required to teach such a course.

Provisions for this course have also been enacted through the Texas Legislature in House Bill 1287. The legislative authorization to offer this course dates from 5/25/07.

The Bill stipulates: “e) Before adopting rules identifying the essential knowledge and skills of a course offered under this section, the State Board of Education shall submit the proposed essential knowledge and skills to the attorney general. The attorney general shall review the proposed essential knowledge and skills to ensure that the course complies with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and the board may not adopt rules identifying the essential knowledge and skills of a course offered under this section without the attorney general's approval under this subsection.”

By rule the entire community is invited to participate in determining the “essential knowledge and skills” of the subject.

The Bill also provides for the teaching of other courses on varied religions.

Avoid media slants and provocations by reading the actual law. See http://www.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/schedule/2007/july/full_board/attachments/thur_6_teks_review_a3.pdf

The sky is not falling and we must not allow Christophobic reactions and the non-governmental manipulations of the ACLU’s threats of lawsuits, intimidate us into denying communities their Constitutional rights.

I for one would love it if someone with Dr. DeConnick’s understanding would teach such a course but high school classes do not require that teachers have such credentials. On the other hand, I would simply pull my child out if someone like Geoff Hudson taught it.

Peace.

José Solano said...

Sorry. There's only one "n" in DeConick.

Geoff Hudson said...

Well Mr Solano, I would teach the bible from a skeptic point of view. Most children would understand that miracles do not happen, no-one is resurrected from the dead, no-one walks on water or changes water into wine, or heals the blind and the lame, or is conceived by a virgin (without a modern procedure). And this is only stuff that is obviously wrong.

José Solano said...

That’s precisely why I would pull my child out of your “Bible class,” Mr. Hudson. You wouldn’t be teaching the Bible. You would be merely trying to instill your preconceived opinions. The Bible presents its own testimony, believe it or not.

Geoff Hudson said...

You are dead right Mr Solano, the bible does have its own testimony. It is the end product of a number of iterations written by people with their own particular biases. Those biases are open to some obvious questioning, are they not?

But how about the following as an example of a less obvious problem? Why is there no mention of Pharisees in either the DSS, or the Works of Philo? And in that connection, why is Jacob Neusner reluctant to attribute even the earliest stratum of rabbinic literature to the Pharisees (one for Leon)? Why does 'Paul', supposedly a Pharisee, give only one brief reference to them (Gal.1:14)? There can only be one answer.

José Solano said...

Sorry Mr. Hudson but I haven’t the time to engage in far-out speculations and conspiracy theories. This thread is about a high school course offering in Texas. I’ll let Dr. DeConick address your theories if she wishes.

Peace.

Gail Dawson said...

Dr. DeConick, thank you for this post and your other recent posts about the necessity of religious literacy in American culture. I especially liked your following comment: "What will happen when the students begin to learn that the historical, literary, and social history of the Bible is not what they have been taught in church?"

I teach courses on OT, NT, and Christianity at a community college. The classroom dynamics are fascinating as the students come to understand that there IS such a thing as teaching about religion, *and* that their classmates all have very different understandings and interpretations of the biblical texts.

Leon said...

In response to José's comment that the Bible can be taught objectively just as American history is: There is a big difference. With respect to American history (or most subjects), it is acknowledged that there are different interpretations of certain aspects of the subject. A good teacher will talk about various approaches. And if he or she does not, it is not that hard to find alternative views, if a student searches.

But with the Bible, alternative views are so strongly suppressed, it is difficult to find them. Any Bible class will most likely be an act of cultural imperialism, giving the students one interpretation and trying to pass off that intepretation as fact.

When they get to the Ten Commandments, will the teacher tell them that "commandments" is an incorrect translation of the Hebrew word? Will the teacher point out the passage where Moses addresses God with the feminine form of "you" and also uses some feminine metaphors to describe God? Will they learn that the so-called betrayal by Judas is not a reported fact in the Gospels but an interpretation of the Gospel story?

The answer is probably no to all these questions. The only way to begin — just barely begin — to approach any objectivity would be to teach a course on the history of Bible translation. That would be fascinating and a good way in to the subject. But right wing Christians would oppose it and scholars would not be too happy either, as it would mean exposing many errors, some of which continue to this day.

Gail says she has successfully taught students on the college level that it is possible to look at different Bible interpretations. If so, I congratulate her and wish her continued success. But I wonder, Gail, if it comes out that the OT expression is itself an act of cultural imperialism and that many Jews find it objectionable. Just wondering.

Leon Zitzer

José Solano said...

Hi Leon,

What I said is “I don’t see this subject being any more difficult to teach objectively than say American History which is a required course.” That does not mean that American History is taught objectively. I certainly taught it very differently from other teachers in areas such as the American Revolution, the Mexican American War, the Spanish American War, the War of 1812, Abraham Lincoln’s real view of the black people, the Vietnam War, etc. It would be the same situation when trying to teach the Bible objectively. Different teachers will approach it differently. But you could not escape my class. Not so with this Bible course. If you do not like the teacher or the content you don’t have to take the class.

I have had lots of teachers in many different classes that were extremely biased and you risked getting a lower grade if you questioned their interpretation regardless of how well you knew the subject matter. It happened to me even in Spanish literature courses when we were analyzing works by Miguel de Unamuno or Federico García Lorca.

I know of a high school theory of knowledge class with a teacher that made it a propaganda course to instill her extremist political philosophy on students. I can go on and on with courses being imposed in California and elsewhere.

It’s certainly not a perfect world. But as I say, you don’t have to take this Bible class. Let those communities that think it is a valuable course offer it. I’d let my child take it even if it were taught by someone like Erhman. Maybe not Pagels. Best of all someone like Witherington.

Peace.

Rick Hubbard said...

The Texas law was probably written with good intentions but it seems to me that its execution is likely to be an unqualified disaster.

Foremost among my many concerns is the laws appointment of the attorney general as the final arbiter of the “knowledge and skills” content of any curriculum. The current Texas Attorney General is certainly a good politician and clearly he has the credentials necessary to practice law (he even served on the state supreme court). Chances are he is also a decent human being. But which of these attributes qualify him to assess the adequacy of a curriculum?

Texas Attorney General Abbot seems to have a history of promoting sectarian religious interests. He wrote a friend of the court brief in the Van Orden v. Perry (decided by the US Supreme Court in 2005) in which Abbot defended the propriety of a display of the Decalogue on state owned property in Austin. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Texas display was constitutional, but more importantly Abbot’s unsolicited involvement in the case marks him as sectarian activist whose neutrality toward religion in the public domain is suspect. Therefore granting Abbot (or another Attorney General) the authority to determine what is or is not appropriate in a “Bible Studies” curriculum does not inspire confidence.

This is only an aside, but did you know that the Texas State Constitution prohibits someone from holding public office that does not believe in a Supreme Being? See Article 1, Section 4 of the Texas Constitution.

Gail Dawson said...

Leon, I can only second what Dr. DeConick has said in her post.

If someone doesn't have an academic background in the discipline of religious studies, that person has no business teaching the subject at any level, including the K-12 level.

Ability to read the original languages (your translation issues concern), understanding the history and cultures of the time in which the texts were written, familiarity with the history of interpretation, understanding of the specialized vocabulary of religious studies (e.g., terms such as 'myth,' 'cult,' and 'apologetics')--these are only some of the prerequisites for a teacher of religious studies.

Amd per your last comment, while I used OT as an abbreviation in this comment, I use both the terms "Hebrew Bible" and "Old Testament" in the classroom--after explaining why there are different terms.

José Solano said...

The requirements for teaching a class in the public schools are set by particular state departments charged with determining minimum teaching standards and practices. You may be an outstanding scholar in a field and still not be eligible to teach a high school course in that field.

My wife holds a PhD, is a trainer of math teachers nationwide, develops math curriculum, publishes math books yet would not be licensed to teach math in any public school at any grade level because she lacks certain requirements unrelated to her field. On the other hand someone could be hired with far lower credentials in the field. That’s just the nature of the beast. Try changing it if you can.

Likewise, it’s possible that someone with Dr. DeConick’s credentials or a great musician, etc. would not be licensed to teach a high school Bible or music course as they may lack other qualifications. Yet they might be professors at some university.

There is a desire to suddenly make qualifications to teach a high school Bible course stricter than for any other course. We need to overcome the urge to imagine that public school teachers need to be scholars in their fields. If that were the case we would simply not be able to run a school district.

José Solano said...

Hi Rick,

I’m afraid you are mistaken about the Texas Attorney General’s role in reviewing this Bible course. He does not determine what the essential knowledge and skills are. That is done by the State Dept. of Education, the local school district, parents, teachers, community members, etc. The role of the attorney general is simply to ensure that what they come up with “complies with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

Please remember that in the US Supreme Court case you cite on the display of the Decalogue it was a 5-4 decision. The dissenting judges are qualified to be attorney generals. The Texas attorney general may agree with them on the Decalogue. Had someone like him been on the USSC the decision may have gone the other way. We cannot expect everyone to judge and think as we do. Judges frequently make decisions that I disagree with but we must abide by our democratic/judicial system. Nevertheless, if you don’t like the course your child does not have to be in it.

It’s interesting that the Texas Constitution requires that public officials believe in a supreme being. You can start a campaign to change that if you wish. While you are at it you can campaign to cancel the birth of Jesus Christ from being a national holiday, prevent presidents from taking a religious oath of office, reject the pledge of allegiance in public places, etc. But all such efforts merely corroborate my view of the growing Cristophobia in the US and demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the First Amendment.

Peace.

Rick Hubbard said...

Mr. Solano:
I am not mistaken. That the Texas Sate Attorney General is the **final arbiter** of curriculum decisions, albeit ones previously authorized by the State Dept. of Education, there is no mistake. My discomfort with this procedure is that a decision entire matter ULTIMATELY lies in the hands of a single individual who has previously demonstrated a bias toward a purely sectarian agenda.

With respect to my aside about the “supreme being” clause in the Texas State Constitution, the only person who would have legal standing to challenge its constitutionality would be someone who could demonstrate “personal harm” resulting from the proscription. Presumably that would be a candidate for elected office in Texas; therefore I see no point in even raising an objection to it. Certainly I have no interest in seeing it over-turned, although I DO wonder what would happen if a practicing Buddhist tried to run for public office in Texas!

Furthermore, official government observance of a religious holiday (Christmas) is not likely to be challenged (by me or anyone else) head-on any time soon. What very likely WILL be challenged, however, is the preferential treatment given to certain Christians by virtue of this policy. Odd though it may seem, not all Christians observe the holiday on December 25 and, in fact, some Christians do not observe the holiday at all. Non-Christians (including Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and dozens of other religious devotees) OBVIOUSLY do not celebrate “the birth of Jesus Christ” but many of them have religious holidays of their own. The root issue then is about why a religious holiday of one religion (Christianity) is sanctioned by the government while no other religion is similarly privileged. The US Supreme court has firmly established a doctrine of “no preferential treatment for one religion to the detriment of another”. If a challenge to the practice of a defacto “official observance” of Christmas is ever argued before the US Supreme court, I can’t imagine that even the current justices would fail to prohibit it in the future.

A few years back a group of faculty, students and staff at the public institution where I work raised the same issue and were prepared to take legal action to eliminate preferential observance of Christian holidays while blatantly ignoring the holidays of non-Christians. Litigation was never initiated against the university. Instead the university agreed to officially recognize non-Christian holidays (although paid time-off, like Christians get for Christmas, has yet to be instituted).

The accusations of “Christophobia” that you direct toward everyone who does not share your particular religious convictions is disconcerting. Can we then justifiably call Christians anti-Semites, Buddhist-Bashers, Hindu-Haters or Islam-aphobes because we want equal treatment? Why does the whole system shut down for Christmas, but Yom Kippur does not even get mentioned, much lkess observed in so many public institutions?

But let’s get back to the original issue: Bible Study as part of the curriculum in public schools. As a broad general concept, the idea has undeniable merit. Regrettably, however, the way the program is being structured in Texas is woefully inadequate. It will inevitably be challenged over and over again in the courts and will generate immense amounts of conflict and divisiveness.

José Solano said...

Mr. Hubbard,

You are most certainly mistaken about the attorney general being “the final arbiter of the ‘knowledge and skills’ content” of this curriculum. His position is merely to determine if it “complies with the First Amendment.” That’s what House Bill 1287 states. You may not like what you presume his decision might be but that’s life in our form of democracy. Abbott is an elected official who won office through a landslide victory over the Democratic candidate, winning 60% of the vote!

State Constitutions are frequently amended. In Texas there is a legislative process for doing this and the amendment becomes part of the Constitution when approved by a majority through a general election. The Texas Constitution has been amended 456 times. Your work to change the Texas Constitution must be with the Texas Legislature and does not need to “demonstrate ‘personal harm.’” (I’m neither a Texas Constitutional attorney nor even a Texan but my statements here I believe to be factual.)

I do not accuse everyone who does agree with my “particular religious convictions” of Christophobia. I was recently traveling in England and found a significant majority of the people not being particularly religious or outright non-believers but they don’t have that knee-jerk reaction and animosity against prayer and religious instruction in public schools which I term Christophobia. Hindus, Buddhists, Moslems, etc. do not generally exhibit Christophobia. There are certainly extremist fanatics among all groups. This is an American phenomenon based on a misunderstanding of our First Amendment that is unfortunately spreading to other countries and cultures. It appears that you yourself would support canceling Christmas as a national holiday and you imagine the US Supreme Court would support such a view. I don’t think so.

There is Islamophobia and hatred against Jews and other religious groups. I do not condone it but certainly recognize it as I recognize Christophobia. In the US there is a general religiophobia.

As to why Christmas and not Yom Kippur etc., it’s really quite simple. It’s a question of numbers. Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah are holidays in Israel and government offices, banks and public transportation are also closed for the Shabbat. The vast majority of religious people in the US are Christians. In NYC, where there are large numbers of Jewish teachers and kids, public schools close for Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. Christians never had a problem with that.

We must not be intimidated by the ongoing threats of lawsuits that would deny people their rights in the US. The unelected ACLU must not be allowed to control our democracy.

Thanks for the discussion.


Peace.

Leon said...

Gail,

I am glad that you have explained to your students the terms Hebrew Bible and OT. It's a good start. However, I think "Hebrew Bible" is only a partial correction to the OT term. A more complete correction would be to explain the terms Torah and Tanakh, and emphasize that Torah is not the Law, a mistranslation.

And what translation of the Bible is being used? The RSV? NRSV? Any other? Do your tell your students that they are holding a Christian Bible in their hands, not just because of the NT, but more significantly, because Christianity puts the books of Hebrew scripture in a different order than Jews do. If you are telling your students all this, then I highly commend you for it. But if not, then it makes my point that teaching the Bible without telling students that this is really a Christian Bible is to already introduce a subtle prejudice into the study. Even more, it is an act of cultural hegemony.

José is right that in any subject, you can get teachers who approach it in a prejudiced way. We all have stories like that to tell. But the Bible is very different. There is probably no other book that has been as misused as the Bible. Theological interpretation dominates. The Bible has always been a battleground. Not much has changed today. Only that scholars have become more subtle in introducing their theology into their "objective" study.

If this was part of the course or even better the main focus — in other words, to teach not just the history of translation, but how theology has determined (sometimes very subtly) the way the Bible is presented — then I might be for Bible study in the public schools. Admitting how much we lack objectivity in the study of the Bible is the best way to begin to find some objectivity. But if do not look at how much biased interpretations still affect our reading of the Bible, then I am afraid that it is just going to amount to an act of cultural imperialism.

Ironically, the best proof that I might be right are the people advocating for teaching the Bible in public schools. They know very well there will be nothing objective about it. It will be a Christian interpretation that will be offered, and only one Christian interpretation. That's what they want. The question is not whether it is right to do this. The question is whether they have the power to get away with it. Will the students get to hear from Anabaptists? I doubt it.

Separation of Church and State has given us a wonderful era of peace from religious persecution. Now some people want to go backwards and lead us down a dark path again. (Just like undoing the financial restrictions of the New Deal era is leading us to economic hard times again. They repealed the law against usury some years ago. Can you believe that? Ah well.)

Leon Zitzer

José Solano said...

We must stop demanding objective and scholarly perfection from high school teachers in order to offer a course. I used American History as an excellent example of where dangerous prejudices can be instilled in youth, far more dangerous than Bible misinterpretations, and yet it is a required course. We simply have to take our chances that students may have a war hawk teacher justifying all the worse policies of our government throughout its history or a peaceful anti-war Anabaptist or Quaker. Maybe they’ll hire an Anabaptist to teach the Bible. They tend to be very knowledgeable of the Bible.

Maybe if people started studying the Bible it would not be so “misused.” We are a fairly biblically illiterate society. Through study people can reflect and perhaps tell a particular minister, “I don’t remember reading that in the Bible. Where did you get that from?” They might be able to make more intelligent, more informed decisions rather than merely following the emotional declarations of prejudiced preachers and politicians.

The sky will not fall and our Constitution prevents the establishment of religion by our government. That’s where the attorney general’s examination of the curriculum comes in.

I have no fear of having an elective course on the Koran, the Tao Te Ching, the Mahabarata, the Conference of the Birds, the Nag Hammadi Library, etc., or a comparative religion course. (The Kama Sutra might be hormonally a bit much for a high school class.) I would actually prefer that a Muslim teach the Koran class. Such courses will for the most part do nothing but good. Of course a lot would depend on the teacher but unlike with American History my child would not have to take the class.

Peace.

Leon said...

José makes an excellent point: Given that the Bible has been misused so much, isn't education about it the best antidote? Normally, I would agree with this point. As Nat Hentoff is fond of saying, the cure for bad speech is more speech, better speech. I would apply this to Bible study on the university or college level, but not in public schools. That is because the Bible is so different from any other subject. It is entirely subject to theology which you can better combat on higher levels of education, but much harder to do in high school. Even university scholars cannot escape imposing their theology on their so-called objective research. In high school, it will be impossible.

First of all, there is a hypocrisy in saying this is about Bible study. There is no Bible. There is a Christian Bible and the Jewish Bible. When people advocate teaching the Bible, they mean the Christian Bible. They are going to be reading the books of the Bible in a Christian order and not even mention that Jews order them differently. But you can't say this is a Christian Bible class or it won't be allowed. So everyone lies and says they are advocating Bible literacy, when it is really Christian Bible literacy.

Any translation you choose will be replete with theology. The NRSV has decided that the Greek word for brother should be translated as "member of the Church". There is no other subject that faces this kind of problem. Now if all these problems were made a prominent part of the class, that might be promising. But if a teacher did put these problems up front, he or she would probably be fired in less than a week.

There are good things that could be done with a Bible class. If I was forced to teach such a class, I would love to teach one on democratic ideas in the Jewish Bible and how they influenced the Pharisees and rabbis to emphasize constitutional government and due process as checks on the powers of kings and priests. But as wonderful as that would be, mixing up religion in public schools is a bad idea.

As I said in a post above, the whole point of this is that advocates of Bible study are not out to encourage knowledge of the Bible. They want to inculcate Christian theology. Separation of religion and state has been a great thing for our society. Let's keep it going.

Leon Zitzer

José Solano said...

I’m sorry Leon but your approach is much too limited and rigid for a high school Bible class. You would be the only one capable of teaching it in your view. Mine is a far more liberal and realistic approach and I could find a great number of people from diverse faiths or no faith to teach the class. Just select some of the writings from the Old and from the New Testament and have the students read them. Then provide some information on how they may have come into being and who the people were and are who try to follow the teaching of the Scriptures. You can simply say “so and so thinks this and so and so thinks that.” It’s as simple as that. Read the books the way you would read any other literature. This is one simple approach. There may be hundreds of other simple approaches. You confound things with your nit-picking. I’m sure those involved in developing this curriculum will have no significant problem. The problem will be invented by the Christophobes with wild sky-will-fall fears and exaggerations.

In terms of real life problems Bible teaching is far more innocuous than teaching an American History class. In fact, it will do no real harm whatsoever. Relax, get parental permission and try reading Genesis and/or the Gospel of John to a teenager. Tell him it’s myth or tell him it’s historical or some combination of the two, whatever. Then document how much harm it does him or society.

Peace.

Leon said...

My God, you are fanatical, José. I was not suggesting that a course on the Bible and democracy should be taught in high school. Nor would I want to teach it. I was only saying that it would be a fascinating class, but as fascinating as it would be, it would still be wrong to teach it in the public schools.

Your responses here are the best examples of why teaching the Bible in public school is so wrong. Your claim that teaching the Bible is more innocuous than teaching American history is incredibly absurd. There is no simple approach as you suggest. It is all riddled with theology. But then that is exactly what you want. It will all be a subtle indoctrination into a theological point of view. The fact that you could not say the simple thing and admit that the Bible and demoncracy would be a very interesting class is indicative of just how rigid you are. You are focused on getting Christian teachings into school under the guise of doing an honorable, innocuous education thing. It is frightening the way you try to appear rational while promoting the power of one cultural group. Let every church, synagogue, etc. teach their views in their own schools. Spreading it to public schools can only have a pernicious effect. The fact that you are discontent that this is confined to your own religious backyard is very telling.

Leon Zitzer

José Solano said...

I’m sorry Leon but this discussion must come to an end now. You have stated your fears and projections and are now succumbing to just personal insults. My position is clearly stated and reasoned. I wish you well.

Peace.

Leon said...

Being exposed for what you are doing, José, and being insulted are not the same thing. Your belligerence and hostility towards anyone who does not share your brand of Christian faith is extraordinary.

Leon Zitzer