I think public schools should be allowed to offer bible courses under the following two conditions: the courses are elective, and the courses are unbiased analysis of text, not religious in nature. By offering bible courses as an enrichment class to learn about the historical text, not preach about God, we are offering our children a heads up in the world.
Some may argue why we are not offering religion classes in Mormonism, Hinduism or Buddhism. Whereas I don’t think these should be neglected, for the sake of this specific question and debate, the reality is, in the United States, Christianity dominates most other religious culture. Our nation was founded as “one nation under God” and to this day many political speeches, debates, and societal infrastructures draw from this specific religious book. For this reason, I think it is important that the Bible, as a text be analyzed.
Martin Luther’s “I have a dream speech” had religious overtones enlisting Amos’s famous words from the Old Testament. Without a historical knowledge of the bible, people are left at a disadvantage.
The Bible, although not included on the best sellers list, would top the chart…every year. Although most schools include Shakespeare and other classics on their mandated reading list, the most popular book ever written is somehow skipped over. How can we justify that on an educational basis? Solely because it is religious?
Political debates surrounding Darwin vs. Creationism would be lost on a person that has no theological basis of Genesis. Although many choose not to accept Jesus as their Savior, it’s hard to ignore the contribution that the man made to our civilization, culture, and moral codes.
Setting aside religious implication, isn’t it important that our students identify with that portion of history? Students study historical figures ranging from Hitler to Columbus, yet one of the most influential figures who shaped our culture is ignored because of the religious overtones surrounding him.
Movies like Star Wars, The Matrix, and Babel have obvious religious overtones. Even Superman, whose name is Jor-el (meaning God in biblical Hebrew) is about a man who came down from the heavens to save earth. Popular books like Narnia are almost a retelling of the bible, yet without any general knowledge, the overtones would be lost. Any educated scholar would tell you that in order to understand subject matter, it is important to be familiar with it’s source.
A lot of kids are unfamiliar with religious subject matter. Allowing a child to sit down and analyze text does not mean they will somehow be swayed in their religion or become a religious zealot. A lot of kids benefiting from the class are atheist, or members of other religions that want a solid understanding of what everyone around them is talking about. Having a solid foundation is important.
I do believe a line should be drawn between education and religion, however I think a classroom analysis of arguably one of the most influential and popular books in history is necessary. Our politics, media, and ethical code are all categorized by this ancient text. Mandating how the class is taught is one thing, but categorically not allowing an elective like this as an option for students in schools is an atrocity.