Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The good book(s)

Bible thumping in my home state. From the Economist:

Bible Study

A bill that would allow for Bible classes in public schools was approved by a 50-1 margin by state senators on February 3rd. Regina Thomas, a Democrat from Savannah, was the lone dissenter. State Republicans had been trying to pass a version of the bill since 2000. The version that passed, sponsored by Tommie Williams, the majority leader, requires the state board of education to approve two new elective high-school courses (which are not required for graduation): one on the Old Testament and one on the New. The bill also requires that the Bible be used as a textbook.

A version of the bill sponsored by three Democratic members would have created only one course and would not have required the use of the Bible, but lack of support forced the sponsors to vote for Mr Williams’s bill. Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, observed that it was better to be seen “running and hiding in the rest room” than be accused of voting against the Bible. A spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, meanwhile, promised to watch the bill closely.

Meanwhile, in the "Humanities and the Social Studies" course I'm taking right now, we recently did a model lesson on the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Koran. (Students are required to know something about these books for the Regents.) We used literary analysis techniques to compare excerpts from the three books relating to certain topics (food, women, holy war, etc.). The lesson had its limitations, but it seemed like an interesting way to approach what is required material -- it completely steered clear from theology. (Though, even in my masters' level class of adults, it was not possible for everyone to look at the material objectively.)

The point is, holy texts do have a place in the high school classroom. But do they really need their own elective? Why single out the Old Testament and the New Testament for their own separate electives? This is a purely political bill that is meant to separate the bible-lovers from the god-haters in an election year (see the political scientist's comment).

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