Friday, March 23, 2007

Teach the Bible in our Public Schools

The cover story of this coming week's Time magazine is "The Case for Teaching the Bible" in our public schools.

The argument for doing this runs as follows.

1. Teaching the Bible in schools--as an object of study, not God's received word--"is eminently constitutional."

2. "The Bible so pervades Western culture... that it's hard to call anyone educated who hasn't at least given thought to its key passages."

3. The current civic climate makes teaching the Bible in public schools a "now more than ever" proposition.

4. Many believe that knowledge of the Bible is essential to being a "full-fledged, well-rounded citizen."

5. "Polls show that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the Bible holds the answers to "all or most of life's basic questions." Yet, "pollster George Gallup has dubbed us "a nation of biblical illiterates." Only half of U.S.dults know the title of even one Gospel. Most can't name the Bible's first book. The trend extends even to Evangelicals, only 44% of whose teens could identify a particular quote as coming from the Sermon on the Mount."

6. "SIMPLY PUT, THE BIBLE IS THE MOST influential book ever written. Not only is the Bible the best-selling book of all time, it is the best-selling book of the year every year. In a 1992 survey of English teachers to determine the top-10 required "book-length works" in high school English classes, plays by Shakespeare occupied three spots and the Bible none. And yet, let's compare the two: Beauty of language: Shakespeare, by a nose. Depth of subject matter: toss-up. Breadth of subject matter: the Bible. Numbers published, translated etc: Bible. Number of people martyred for: Bible. Number of wars attributed to: Bible. Solace and hope provided to billions: you guessed it. And Shakespeare would almost surely have agreed."

7. "If literature doesn't interest you, you also need the Bible to make sense of the ideas and rhetoric that have helped drive U.S. history."

I agree with these points. In my Philosophy of Religion classes I find students mostly interested in the Bible and largely uninformed as to its content. For a long time I have said that it seems public schools widely miss the mark in education in not teaching the book that is "bedrock" for American history. And Jesus - like it or not, remains the most influential person who has ever walked this planet. Finally, to ignore the public teaching of religion is carrying church-state separation to aburd extremes since "religion" remains, arguably, the most driving force behind what is going on in the world today (as it always has been.