Public schools

Hey reporters, wanna know what's taught in a public school's Bible class? Ask teachers, students

Hey reporters, wanna know what's taught in a public school's Bible class? Ask teachers, students

I'm always fascinated by news stories about Bible classes in public schools.

I first delved into the subject 20-plus years ago when I wrote a front-page story for The Oklahoman on a debate over elective courses in Bible and religion in the Oklahoma City School District.

In today's post, I want to highlight a Des Moines Register story that goes the extra mile — yes, the reporter actually talked to teachers and students — in reporting on a bill introduced in the Iowa Statehouse.

The Register's lede:

A Statehouse proposal to expand access to Bible literacy classes in Iowa public schools is causing controversy among parents and educators. 
Proponents say classes on the Bible provide important historical or cultural context for students. But opponents say the legislation is a backdoor to teaching Christianity.  
To get more perspective, the Des Moines Register went looking for places where the Bible is already being taught in Iowa classrooms. 
It found a course in one of eastern Iowa's most liberal enclaves: Iowa City. 
Three high schools in Iowa City offer a "Bible as Literature" class.

Now, that opening isn't the most exciting one I've ever read — but it certainly presents the facts in an impartial and straightforward manner.

Keep reading, and the paper offers some nice details from teachers and students about what the class actually encompasses:

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Can teens study the Bible on non-sectarian terms? This project says ... yes they can

Can teens study the Bible on non-sectarian terms? This project says ... yes they can

Few if any U.S. media noted that Nov. 12–18 was National Bible Week, but the origin of the observance has feature potential for this time next year.

That’s because in 1941 the NBC radio network, with the blessing of President Roosevelt, launched the first Bible Week by devoting a Sunday to on-air readings from the Good Book, something unimaginable in 2018. And as it happened, the chosen date was Dec. 7, so Scripture had to be interspersed with breaking news bulletins on Japan’s Pearl Harbor attack.

Here’s a different bid for biblical penetration of culture, in case your outlet hasn’t covered it yet. Since 2005, the non-profit Essentials in Education (E.I.E.) of New York City has campaigned for U.S. public high schools to offer elective courses on the Bible that are academically valid, fully legal under the U.S. Constitution, and acceptable to believers of any religion –- or none.   

E.I.E. does this with “The Bible and Its Influence,” its innovative and carefully non-sectarian textbook, sold in print and digital formats. The publication (.pdf here) benefits from a notably broad lineup of 40 consultants, with lawyers and public school educators alongside Jewish, “mainline” Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Mormon representatives.

To date, “Influence” has been taught in 640 schools in 44 states (the exceptions are Delaware, Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming). Nine states have passed laws that encourage schools to offer such non-sectarian Bible courses (Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Kentucky, which joined the list in June).

The latest angle, discussed at an Oct. 24 presser, is efforts to go global. There have been discussions with members of parliament in Brazil, Finland and Great Britain;  pilot projects in Canada, Rwanda, South Korea, Taiwan and Communist China; and academic conferences on this concept in Australia, the Philippines and even Hindu-dominated India.

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