Monday, April 28, 2008

Tennessee Bible Learnin'

Tennessee Senate Bill 4104 proposes the creation of "non-sectarian" high school Bible instruction courses under the guise of teaching history and literature.

On the surface, this seems like it should not really be a problem, but I think it is (surprise, surprise, right?)... First, the good things about this:
  1. The course would be an elective. If it were mandatory, it would be illegal IMHO.
  2. The course would be mandated to "(b)e taught in an objective and nondevotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate students as to either the truth or falsity of the biblical materials or texts from other religious or cultural traditions.
  3. It is directed to not include teaching of religious doctrine or sectarian interpretation of
    the Bible or of texts from other religious or cultural traditions.
  4. The course is mandated to not disparage or encourage a commitment to a set of religious beliefs.

Sounds good, right? Biblical references and quotes are all around us and it would do everyone a bit of good to have a frame of reference for where these "things" come from.

But the bible as history? Hmmm... problem there. Especially if "miracles" are taught as history.

And where is the oversight? I do not think that these tenets would be followed and I see no way of adequatley policing them.

Furthermore, why just the bible? How about an elective course on the Koran? Of course, Tennessee doesn't care about the Koran because this bill is just a way to sneak religious study into the schools.

Here's an elective course I'd recommend for high schoolers: Comparative Religion. Read, compare and contrast the "holy" books of the world's biggest religions: christianity/judaism, islam, hindu, and maybe buddhism. Learn about talking donkeys and flying horses. Read the whole she-bang for each and let the students actively discuss the things in these books. That'd be fun... but again, I'd worry about oversight.


Ceroill said...

Sigh. I agree about making comparative religion available.

coreydbarbarian said...

have y'all noticed just how desperate the fundies have gotten this year? stuff like this seems 2 be surfacing nationwide.
(and i'm still in shock that texas got it right so quickly).

but let us not overlook their message: the (protestant) bible is the centerpiece of our (revisioned) christian history as a nation.
if they can't force you 2 believe their religion, they can at least force your kids to believe that this nation was intended 2 be a christian nation.
seriously, if they didn't want to emphasize the (protestant) bible's relevance in 2day's culture, tennessee could offer a comparative religion course (some schools might already), but that is not the goal of this particular piece of legislation.

imo, the (catholic and protestant) bible(s) should be discussed inside an english lit course, for no longer than one week in any given course. this is high school level, after all. and its influence should only be discussed after its full history has been reviewed, which might take the first day of their bible literacy week.
as far as teaching history with the bible goes, it is the most referenced book ever written, and its influence on history, vast.
so in theory, they could reference biblical text and whatnot when teaching history. i don't think they intend 2 teach history from the bible.

that said, the fundies are still using the last of their political power 2 further entrench our culture with their religion. and that sucks.


Children in grade school and high school are generally under the guidance of their parents who are the ones entrusted to form the child's first looks at the world. In that time period the parent can ensure the child gets a steady dose of whatever belief system the parents want to impart. They can provide reading material, take them to church and can influence their extra-curricular activities. This, to me, is the time for the parents, not the schools, to mold the beginnings of independent thought. To get to the short of it...THESE CLASSES SHOULD BE TAUGHT AT THE COLLEGE LEVEL! This is the time for the child to pick and choose the belief system they wish to follow for the rest of their life. Such underhanded tactics; I shake my head in wonder.

Ceroill said...

Ideally it would be good to have such courses in Literature class, but few high schoolers these days read well enough to really understand the prose used in the King James Bible. Even the revised versions with more modernized language are above the comprehension level of most of the kids these days. Ok, maybe not most, but an uncomfortably large percentage.