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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Let's Throw the Book at Students

          I really think kids today, and probably for the past twenty to thirty years, have been sadly deprived in the public education they have been receiving. I'm not blaming the teachers for the most part. I do think that most of them are doing the best they can within the boundaries they have been confined.  I am placing blame on the shoulders of misguided school boards, education departments at the state level, the judicial system, parents, and society as a whole. There is a lot of foolishness that is inflicted upon our children by special interests and liberal buffoons that takes the place of quality and relevant education. The most important textbook and literary resource is rarely used in our classrooms.

Here is my debate question for today:

Should the Bible be mandatory course study throughout the entire K - 12  public school curriculum?

       The book commonly referred to as THE HOLY BIBLE is indisputedly the most influential book of Western Culture. I'm sure somebody will dispute this statement and if  that's you then I'll be interested in your evidence as to which book has greater influence.  THE BIBLE  is the best selling book of all time, a fact which is documented by a number of sources. Having possibly sold more than all of the other required or recommended reading books combined is, in my opinion, enough to make it a book that should be not only acknowledged but also studied. The fact that THE BIBLE was the first book to be printed in mass production and  prior to the printing press was widely distributed through copies transcribed by hand also gives this book extraordinary significance. However the main reason for all students in the U.S. to have regular study of THE BIBLE as a requirement is the sheer influence this book has had and continues to have on our culture.

          1.  Literature:  THE BIBLE should be taught as literature and literary influence. The book contains poetry and prose which has been read and appreciated for centuries. And not only has it been read, it has been allluded to with great frequency in literature and literary works have been even based on stories and passages from THE BIBLE. Shakespeare alludes to THE BIBLE over 1600 times in his plays. It would be absurd to relegate biblical allusions such as these to obscure footnotes in literary works when a solid education based on the source would make far more sense. Even from the standpoint of words and idioms, many of these are based on biblical allusions.  When someone says they've met their goliath, what does that mean?  If you are versed in a Bible background you know the answer to that.

       2)  History:   THE BIBLE is history. In some cases there may be some dispute as to its accuracy, but there are many things studied in school that are disputed.  A part of education is looking at opposing viewpoints and coming to rational conclusions as to what is correct. Much of the history presented in THE BIBLE is absolutely accurate and new discoveries continue to be made that authenticate what is presented in biblical historical accounts. As far as presentation, their are interesting approaches taken in THE BIBLE that deserve attention, such the geneologies.
            Perhaps more important is THE BIBLE's influence on history and how the book directly influenced societal mores, political decisions, legal directives, and other ways that made our society go in some of the directions it went. There are so many biblical references used by our Founding Fathers, as well as numerous historically important speeches by great Americans like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and so many others. Without a strong biblical background students have no reference point to understand these allusions other than assuming that another person's footnoted explanations are correct, which is sometimes shaky scholarship to rely upon.

       3). Culture:  Some of Western Civilization's greatest works of music and visual art, as well as the art mediums of popular culture, depict or reference things taken from THE BIBLE.  Granted though much of the U.S. educational system is sadly lackly in exposing students to the great fine arts, it would still  be a good thing to be able to arm them with enough knowledge to recognize what they are seeing when they encounter a work that has something to do with THE BIBLE--it's called being informed, or educated.  Even pop culture such as movies and music frequently incorporates biblical themes and ideas. There are too many to even begin to list, but one that immediately comes to mind the THE DAVINCI CODE.  Solid biblical knowledge can give a modern audience greater critical discernment and more understanding to appreciate works that have these types of references.

        4)  Philosophy and critical thinking:  Rather than focusing on teaching what to think it might be more useful to teach them how to think. Frequently students are indoctrinated or programmed rather than encouraged to examine many facets of a subject matter and make logical deductions. THE BIBLE offers some unique philosophical ideas that are worth studying which opens up many opportunities to develop strong critical thinking skills.

         5)  Ethics:  Students in the U.S. are becoming sadly lacking in good ethical behavior.  Our educational system does not seem to be doing much to change that.  THE BIBLE is about ethics to a great extent, and the ethics portrayed therein are fairly universal.  Many of our nation's laws are based on biblical laws. These biblical laws make good common sense and are worth study and evaluation.  I see nothing but value in teaching students things like stealing and lying are wrong.  There is a real upside to studying ethics in school in every grade.

         Using THE BIBLE as a text and a book of study is important to our students because it has been a touchstone for our nation, our culture, and our society. It should be presented as objectively as possible with no bias in either direction. We have other requirements such as American History and Foreign Language.  One could question the value of these moreso than an ongoing Bible study. Students are given certain novels and other literary works as standard required and recommended fare in English classes. Why those and not THE BIBLE?  I am of a strong opinion that in order to preserve our nation's values, heritage, and culture we should promote THE BIBLE over any other text.  This book represents who we have been and who we are.  I want to keep it that way.

        What about you?  Would you be disturbed if the U.S. education system required a course of study of THE BIBLE throughout the entire educational career of public school students and if so, why?  As long as no particular religious agenda is being pushed, what is the real downside to studying THE BIBLE?  Have I realistically stated the influence of  THE BIBLE upon our society and if not, why does this book seem to be so important? Try to be rational in your argument and please don't pander to anti-Christian stereotyping or religion bashing.  Try to convince me that I'm way off base in my thinking on this or help me prove why I am correct.

        So are you up to a game of catch?  Let's have a good time. I've tossed it out to you, now it's your turn to toss it back.


  1. Hoo-boy.

    Such an idea is UNCONSTITUTIONAL. It would be in total violation of the First Amendment of the United States, because the Bible is a religious text. That is its sole purpose and reason for being. (There may be other things we can learn from it, but it was certainly not written for any secular purpose.)

    How do you intend to teach the Bible WITHOUT religious elements? The only way to do that would be to have the teachers announce at the beginning of class (as one of my college English Lit professors did) that the students would be expected to treat the text as LITERATURE (history/culture/etc) ONLY. That, in short, we were to treat the text as FICTIONAL. I can't imagine that this is what you have in mind, but that would be the only way to handle it. You could say that some people believe it's the true word of God, but you would have to TEACH it as though it was NOT religious truth. What a mess that would be.

    LITERATURE: You compared it to Shakespeare. Kids in K-12 do not study Shakespeare. If you are studying this text as literature, it would be better suited to a college class (like the one I took) that also included such ancient works as The Illiad and Dante's Inferno.

    HISTORY: the Bible is not a history text. What purpose would there be to follow the geneologies if we're not accepting the Bible as a religious text? These figures are only important from a Jewish or Christian perspective. If the Bible is tangentially relevant (e.g. a Biblical reference in a speech of historical importance), I'm sure it can be appropriately discussed in summary form as needed.

    CULTURE: I don't need to read the Bible to study a famous painting of the Madonna or Handel's Messiah. It can be discussed as needed without being studied directly.

    PHILOSOPHY/CRITICAL THINKING: no single text is required to teach critical thinking, and the Bible is not a philosophic work. All such concepts within the Bible can be taught WITHOUT the text itself. The only reason to study the Bible itself is to keep these concepts within their religious context.

    ETHICS: I assume you are referring to the Ten Commandments. These are not the basis of our laws. We do not prohibit idolatry, coveting, or being a dishonorable jerk to our parents.

    And why would we need to teach "do not steal" within the context of the Bible? DO NOT STEAL. It harms your fellows and you wouldn't like it if someone did it to you. It makes for a worse society. Let's discuss. There. Ethics without the Bible. The only reason to use the Bible as a basis for these discussions is to emphasize the point that GOD SAID SO (and I've never found "because I said so" to be a particularly compelling or indeed ethical reason for doing anything).

    If you feel the need to base ethical discussions in a historical text, there's always Hammurabi's Code, which avoids the religious issues entirely. Not to mention the fact that the Bible condones incest and slavery and is considered by some to be downright unethical.

    (to be continued...)

  2. (part 2)

    The Bible is not a touchstone for our nation, historically speaking. John Adams as President signed a treaty (ratified by the Senate) which stated that "the government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion." The Bible is not remotely needed to preserve our nation's heritage, values, or culture, and indeed many of the founding fathers were quite hostile to the text. Modern Americans have added the Bible into our society, but it is not the basis of our country in any way, and it does not represent "who we have been and who we are." As Abraham Lincoln said,
    "The Bible is not my book, and Christianity is not my religion." Teaching the Bible in public schools would be exclusionary, and would make a mockery of our Constitution, and would therefore undermine rather than support our country's values.

    "Why not the Bible?" Because teaching it with reference to God and religion is unconstitutional. Because teaching it without God and religion largely invalidates the text, and would likely be an affront to believers (the 1st Amendment was meant to protect religion from government as much as the other way around).

    I hope I've presented my ideas in a sufficiently respectful manner...

    (Word verification: crest. Appropriate to the recent toothpaste post!)

  3. `
    rLEE-b ~
    Good topic, Bro.

    “The Bible, the holy book of Judaism and Christianity, is the most widely known book in the English-speaking world. It is divided into two main parts, commonly called the Old Testament and the New Testament. … No one in the English-speaking world can be considered literate without a basic knowledge of the Bible.”
    ~ The Dictionary Of Cultural Literacy [page #1]

    rLEE-b, you said, “THE BIBLE is the best selling book of all time.”
    Ironically, it’s also been the most frequently stolen book of all time.

    It would be un-Constitutional (i.e., illegal) for the Federal Government to dictate that The Bible be used in classrooms across the nation. Just as it is un-Constitutional (i.e., illegal) for the Federal Government to be playing any role in national education as it does today. There is no Constitutional provision for Uncle Sam to oversee education in the United States, as the words of Madison and other Founding Fathers made quite clear.

    If The Bible was to be used in the schools (as it once commonly was), that decision would have to be made at a state or local level. Personally, I would wholeheartedly applaud any school district’s decision to “reintroduce” The Bible in the classroom. The First Amendment, as understood and drafted by our Founding Fathers and as ratified by the Original States, in no way, shape or form forbids the states of the union from teaching from The Bible in their classrooms if they wish to... the author of the phrase “Separation Of Church And State”, Thomas Jefferson, said so.

    It amazes me to find that, despite having read The Book from Genesis to Revelation no less than 14 times, I am still able to make new discoveries in it. Gosh! It’s almost as if some prescient, superintelligent god-like being dictated it. Weird, huh?

    The Bible is the deepest, richest, most “philosophic” book I’ve read in my 50 years of life. And quotes from our Founders taken out of context notwithstanding, it is also unquestionably the foundation of American law, government and ethics.

    I have plenty more I could say about this topic, but I’ll save it for the massive Blog Bit I’ve had “in the works” since before I started blogging at this site.

    ~ Stephen
    <"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
    so a fool repeats his folly."
    ~ Proverbs 26:11>

  4. Glad to get your take Stephen. I thought this would be up your alley. I look forward to your "massive blog bit" because I know you are very well researched and clear on this topic.

    Thank you for your lengthy response. I think I may have chosen too weighty or too delicate topic here as I was hoping for more response. Maybe everyone else is trying to catch up to their NaNo word count like I have been doing today.
    Hope you will check my friend Stephen's response and check his blog -- he writes some great "stuffs" and political commentary. I will address your response shortly I hope. I've been trying to break the 30,000 word marker today and get another couple thousand tonight. Still trying for that 5000 wd day on just the novel.

  5. Okay, Carrie, I've passed 30,000 wds so I'll pause for what I hope is a brief response.

    1) 1st amendment is against establishing a state religion. Reading a book is not the same as establishing a religion. If anything to ban the bible would be more like infringing freedom of speech which also in the 1st.

    2) No announcement or disclaimers necessary. Just read and study the book with well thought out instructional guides. There are already Bible courses in place in some public schools that are working with success. Present the information for instruction and discussion with appropriate background materials and let some critical thinking and individual reasoning kick into gear.

    3) didn't compare it to Shakespeare, I noted that Shakes., as well as numerous other authors, often refer to the Bible in there works. Kids in 7-12 most certainly do study Shakes. in most districts I'm familiar with. When I was in elem school, I may have not actually Dante or The Iliad, but I was certainly familiar with those works.

    4)the Bible is certainly a book about history, much it authenticated by other sources or archeology. The geneology can be an interest exercise to study. Why take the work on the word of someone else's summary and opinion. Poor scholarship in my opinion when it come to a work that is of major influence in WESTERN CIVILIZATION.

    5)you can look and listen to works and enjoy them, but to truly appreciate and understand them you really need historical context and background.

    6)The Bible expresses some very distinct philosohy and has been a major influence to many philosophers. The Bible can stimulate some great exercises in critical thinking as could Harry Potter-- which has the greatest depth?

    7)10 Commandments have a great influence in history of law. No matter what, today's kids need exposure to plenty of good ethics and I don't care who said so, or where they come from. If the Bible helps provide good influence that's fine by me and I would be amazed that any parent or any one else would be adverse to that.

    8) I disagree with what you say about the founding fathers but the major point that I wanted to make is that most, if not all, of them were well-grounded in biblical knowledge and had respect for and often quoted from the Bible.

    Keeping our children ignorant of the Bible, God, and religion will make them less educated and more vulnerable to accepting foolish ideas and to being malleable to the ideas of forces that like to destroy the American way and traditions.

    Thank you

  6. Personally I wouldn't go as far as to say introducing the Bible into the public school system is illegal. There are way more issues which hide behind the guise of the First Amendment that violates free speech. However, I will say that the Holy Bible should be kept within the Church, parochial schools, Bible colleges and other religious convergences that share in its beliefs and principles. If we introduce the Bible into public schools then we may as well include all the other religions and its doctrines. I think schools should focus more on English Lit, World Languages and all the other subjects that have fell miserably within the system.

  7. Ooh HUGE topic. I am a Christian, just let me say that upfront, but I actually would not want the bible introduced as a mandatory text in any school system (except private Christian school where parents sign up for that)

    Here's my reason why- if you are going to make the Bible mandatory then what is stopping the school system from making a whole host of other religious texts mandatory? There are a lot of really influential religious texts out there and personally I would not want my children studying all of them. and you can't just pick the Bible and then say no to all other texts no can you.

    I agree with Carrie. How can you teach the bible without the religious elements? The two go hand in hand I think.

    As for the bible being a worthy of study in literature... well, frankly I think would be hard to see past the religious elements to just focus on the prose or poetry. If you take the meaning out of it, what have you left?

    Gutsy topic arlee. I admire your courage in posting your feelings. I hope I stated mine without offending :)

  8. I sincerely want to thank those who participated in discussing this difficult topic. There were some excellent points made.
    I hope that others might continue to contribute to this.

    In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man's welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.
    Abraham Lincoln---
    Reply to Loyal Colored People of Baltimore upon Presentation of a Bible on September 7, 1864 (CWAL VII:542)

    The English Bible - a book which, if everything else in our language should perish, would alone suffice to show the whole extent of its beauty and power.
    Quotation of Thomas B Macaulay

  9. Please don't muddy the issue -- no one is talking about "BANNING" the Bible, we're talking about failure to choose it as a school textbook. Yes, the public schools can teach ABOUT religion, so long as they are not seeking to ADVANCE religion. But I think it is a very difficult thing to do, especially since you're clearly not talking about a "survey of religions course" that would also include the Koran, etc.

    The United States Supreme Court has stated that "government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion." That is far broader than just prohibiting the creation of a "state religion."

    I'll be back again to touch on the other points you've recently raised, but I had to mention this topic right away. The First Amendment is so misunderstood, and it makes me so frustrated and angry...

    Here's a nice summary of the legal issues.

  10. rLEE-b ~
    I wish to briefly comment on two points raised by your other readers and then I am going to move on to other matters.

    #1: >>[if you are going to make the Bible mandatory then what is stopping the school system from making a whole host of other religious texts mandatory? you can't just pick the Bible and then say no to all other texts no[w] can you.]<<

    Actually, the power of the states to govern themselves under the original understanding of the Constitution (and more specifically illustrated by the Bill of Rights) does indeed provide the authority to do just that if the legislatures of the states with the support of the people wish to. Our Founders would agree that the Federal Government is precluded by the U.S. Constitution from interfering.

    I'm not saying that I myself would necessarily agree with this action; I'm merely pointing out that it could be done, and done legally. With an estimated 80% of the American People proclaiming themselves in polls as self-described "Christians", it is unlikely that The People would choose to make any religious text other than The Bible acceptable in school curriculum.

    All that would be needed is for The People of the states to become educated about the original intent of the Constitution (which their forefathers ratified) and then elect state representatives who would be willing to take back from the Feds the right of self-government which has been un-Constitutionally wrested from the states.

    #2: >>[The First Amendment is so misunderstood, and it makes me so frustrated and angry... LINK: Here's a nice summary of the legal issues.]<<

    The opinions of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are probably the last ones that should ever be introduced into an objective discussion about religion and the state. Here we are faced with a group with such a strident, overwhelming agenda that they are disqualified from consideration.

    The ACLU was founded in 1920 by Roger Baldwin who wrote in his 30th anniversary Harvard classbook: "I am for Socialism, disarmament, and ultimately the abolishing of the state itself as an instrument of violence and compulsion. I seek social ownership of property, the abolition of the propertied class, and sole control by those who produce wealth. Communism is the goal."

    No private organization has done more to misinform the American public about our true heritage and to reconfigure our time-honored traditions in ways that allow for the adoption of Socialism than has the ACLU. [Read "The ACLU Vs. America" by Sears and Osten; and "None Dare Call It Treason...25 Years Later" by John Stormer.]

    Thomas Jefferson warned future generations of Americans that if they were to truly understand their liberties, they would need to go back and gain an understanding of what the founders intended when they first constructed the Constitution.

    It is not in the interest of the ACLU, and would not further that organization's sly, un-American agenda, to explain in any examination of the Constitution and The First Amendment how liberal, activist judges have deliberately misused the Fourteenth Amendment in order to turn the Bill of Rights inside out, thereby using it as a weapon against the states (rather than a shield of protection for the states, as it was intended) while centralizing power in the hands of the Federal Government. To understand that, one would need to read authentic, objective writings by Constitutional scholars who are not secretly seeking to undermine the entire American way of life in the name of Socialism / Communism.

    Thats' all for me, rLEE-b. Got other debates to tend to, Buddy.

    ~ Stephen
    <"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
    so a fool repeats his folly."
    ~ Proverbs 26:11>

  11. Carrie,
    My intent was not to muddy the issue, but to clarify my points in context to what you had countered. I was using idea of "banning the Bible" as an extreme example of what could happen in some cases.

    I am not a fan of the ACLU, but the link you gave was excellent and pretty well describes the parameters in which I would think the study of the Bible in public schools should be approached for the most part. I believe this link supports what I was trying to say, by expressing it somewhat more in depth and better than I did.

    I do not think teaching the Bible should be used to promote any religion, but only to provide a firm knowledge of Western Civilization's most influential book and whatever decisions students make over a twelve year education should be based on their own personal convictions and not peruasion by any teachers, outside texts, or otherwise.

    I heartily support study of other religions and comparative studies of those religions as elective studies,as well a general overview of other major religious texts in these classes. However those texts do not deserve the same attention overall in the schools in our nation because they have not had the same impact and cultural influence as the Bible for us.

  12. Stephen,

    As always you have nailed it. I'm really looking forward to that "massive blog bit"!

    I hope more readers out there will start looking at some of the really substantial things you have to say in many of your postings. And the funny and weird material is very entertaining as well.


  13. I think that we should clarify on the first amendment issues at hand. The first amendment has two "prongs," one that has to do with the establishment of religion and the other has to do with free exercise. If there is no state sanctioned religion and the study of the bible does not hurt the exercise of people to practice their religion freely, then there is no harm and it is fully constitutionally protected. I have read hindu texts in my highschool education and I was not under any impression that this was an attempt to impose on my belief system as a christian. If anything, we are so afraid of the arguments against the use of the bible that we have gone too far in the other direction. If anything, we should be exposed to philosophies from a wide range of religious texts so that we will not make rash judgments on any religion. School should make us less ignorant; not more afraid of learning about our own and other cultures.

  14. Good point, Diana, and I'm with you on that. When I was in high school I hungered for knowledge like you talk about and would research it on my own.
    This was in the late 60's. At our public school in Tennessee they actually had a class in Bible, which now I wish that I had taken, that was taught by a Baptist preacher. Then again, we also had daily prayer and scripture reading that was sent over the intercom to every classroom during homeroom period.


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