Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bible Class in High Schools Just Ain't a Good Idea

Nampa charter school to use Bible as textbook - Salt Lake Tribune

Like my Dad used to say: Just because you can get by with something, doesn't mean it won't bite you in the butt one day.

Well, teaching the Bible is public school is one of those things that will come back to haunt us one day.

Now I'm sure the folks up in Idaho at this charter school think they will be educating the students but we all know that indoctrination is ever so closely behind. One doesn't have to whip out the King Jim to teach the Genesis Creation Myth in comparison to the Enuma Elish since most literature books include the relevant passages.

The problem is not the legality of teaching the Bible but the functionality of teaching the Bible in a public school. The dangers are legion. Too many extremists on both sides have prayed for a class like this (pardon the pun) --- the Extremist Religious Right/Dominionists just can't help proclaiming the Genesis Myth as historical fact, that dinosaurs were on the Ark & that our nation was founded on Christian principles; ardent atheists can't wait to impress on these young, evolving minds that the Bible is a collection of fairy tales.

The possibility of a Pat Robertson teaching a high school Bible class scares me as much as Richard Dawkins teaching it.

Or what about a Bishop Spong teaching a Bible class? Would a conservative believer want Spong's ideas presented to high schoolers?

Then comes the very real political question: if the Bible can be taught in public schools at the insistence of a majority, the same law should then allow any other religious text to be taught in the schools. Who wants the possibility of a radical Islamo-Fascists teaching the Koran to 16 year old Johnny? Is that any different than a Christian Fascist telling high schoolers that the Bible teaches anyone associated with abortion is a murder & the righteous thing to do is to do everything possible to protect life --- imagine what can happen when impressionable minds hear that sort of rhetoric?

It is the same thing teenagers in Iran are told when they become suicide bombers to get Allah's glorious reward.

Here in GA, the Macon Telegraph reports that despite the Georgia State Board of Education's approval in 2007 of courses in the Bible as history and literature, at least ten school systems in central Georgia are not offering the courses in their high schools. Their reasons are varied-- cost, scheduling problems, church-state concerns and problems in finding impartial teachers. A spokesperson for the Hancock County school system said: "We found that since many of our students have such a strong spiritual upbringing that is firmly grounded in Christianity, there was very little interest on the part of the students to take such a class."

I was quite concerned that the Idaho charter school is using material from the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools. (See Rob Boston article on this group.) That;s like Gandhi teach a class on proper shoe design.

Here is my list of questions that I think should be answered before any Bible class is taught to public school students.

1) What Bible translation will be used? KJV? NIV? NLT? Catholic? Jehovah Witness? Jewish OT?

2) What qualifications will you be looking for in a teacher?

3) What supplemental textbook is going to be used, since the group that helped the sponsor write the bill is the same group that sells the extreme right version of the supplemental text?

4) How will issues like tongues & baptism be handled?

5) Who will help formulate the lesson plan since the State is giving no guidelines?

6) Will the BOE members be influenced by their personal faith regarding this course?

7) Are you prepared for the guaranteed lawsuit that will come if this elective is taught since it would be the gov't sanctioning one faith over the rest?

8) Will this single issue become a rallying cry for the next political campaign as to what Bible version is used?

9) Will the content of the course become a political football so that the majority denomination on the school board decides how to teach a Bible course?

10) Are you aware that the other places where the lawsuit over this issue has been filed, it costs the BOE hundreds of thousands of dollars?

11) Will there be public meetings on the design of this course?

12) Will there be a committee of religious leaders to help design the course's content? Why or why not? Who chooses the religious leaders to be on this committee?

13) Will parents be allowed to sit in on the class?

14) Can we bring our attorney to sit on the class also?

15) Can we also bring representatives from the ACLU & AU to sit in on the class before we file the lawsuit?

16) Who's version of creation is given the preferred Biblical interpretation?

17) Will evolution be dismissed as anti-God?

18) Will it be taught that there were dinosaurs on the Ark?
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