BIBLICAL LITERACY: Bible becoming more common as public classroom subject

Increasingly, according to pollsters and educators, students do not understand terms and phrases rooted in the Bible and common to Western language and literature. If polling is indicative, many high school students could not identify the origin of phrases such as “the patience of Job,” “the wisdom of Solomon” or “Good Samaritan.”

The Bible Literacy Report, released last year by the Virginia-based Bible Literacy Project and conducted by the Gallup Survey with funding from the John Templeton Foundation, found that 90 percent of high school English teachers thought it necessary for students to have some knowledge of the Bible for life success.

The report quotes an Illinois teacher as stating: “I think from the standpoint of academic success, it is imperative that college-bound students be [biblically] literate. For the others, I think it’s important for them to understand their own culture, just to be well-grounded citizens of the United States?to know where the institutions and ideas come from.” Other teachers said biblically illiterate students “take more time to teach,” the report noted.

In its conclusion, the report stated: [N]o controversy among adults, however heated, should be considered an excuse for leaving the next generation ignorant about a body of knowledge crucial to understanding American art, literature, history, language, and culture.”

That advice is being increasing heeded.

In March the Georgia legislature, with a nod to public school Bible classes, which are already recognized as constitutionally protected, mandated the Bible be used as the main textbook in suchelective classes.

The Georgia law favors curricula such as “The Bible in History and Literature,” published by the North Carolina-based National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, which uses the Bible itself as the main text. The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools released a statement March 27 applauding Georgia for its decision.

In Texas, where school districts are not mandated to choose a particular curriculum or textbook, two large school districts have drawn media attention for plans to introduce elective Bible classes next fall.

In Odessa, the Ector County school board voted last year to offer a Bible class after more than 6,000 public signatures were presented to the board supporting such a class, drawing coverage from the New York Times and other prominent media outlets.

In December, the board chose the National Council’s “The Bible in History and Literature,” drawing criticism and talk of a potential lawsuit from a local college professor who claims the curriculum is sectarian.

Near San Antonio, the New Braunfels Independent School District made a similar move, approving in a 6-1 vote another Bible curriculum called “The Bible and Its Influence,” developed and published by the Bible Literacy Project.

Both curricula have endorsements from evangelical Christian leaders. Southern Baptist Chuck Colson and conservative World magazine columnist Gene Edward Veith have written favorably of the Bible Literacy Project’s textbook?which has also received support from mainline Protestants and some Jewish groups. Others, such as Presbyterian D. James Kennedy and Pentecostal pastor John Hagee, have endorsed the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools curriculum.

The choice of curricula has been controversial and sometimes partisan; Georgia’s bill was supported by Republicans and was pitted against a Democratic bill that pushed for the Bible Literacy Project’s textbook.

In Alabama, a similar bill favorable to the

TEXAN Correspondent
Jerry Pierce
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