ONTD Political

GOP Lawmaker Wants Bible Study Taught In Public Schools

10:47 am - 01/24/2013
Arkansas Bible Course Bill Proposed By Rep. Denny Altes To Teach Elective In Public Schools

Arkansas schools could soon have an easier way to teach a Bible course as part of its public curriculum.

Republican state Rep. Denny Altes has proposed a bill that would allow the state's public school districts to adopt an elective curriculum for academic study of the Bible. The course would "consist of a nonsectarian, nonreligious academic study of the Bible and its influence on literature, art, music, culture and politics" and would "be taught in an objective and non devotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate students as to either the truth or falsity of the biblical materials or texts from other religions or cultural traditions."


Laura Bednar, assistant commissioner for the Arkansas Department of Education, tells KTHV that some schools already teach such a class, as school districts can request elective approval from the state by submitting a curriculum proposal. Altes' bill would just make a Bible course accessible to more schools.

A similar bill died in committee in 2011, WPTY reports. The new piece of legislation requires a licensed educator who will not be selected based on religious affiliation or beliefs, and can only teach from a strictly academic perspective.

Legal experts tell WPTY and KTHV that the bill as written is legal and does not violate the separation of church and state -- because it proposes an elective course that is to be taught objectively.

Martha Williams-McMurrian, the grandmother of children in Arkansas public schools, says she supports the measure, telling KTHV that "God should never be taken out of the schools." But others called the course "brainwashing" and said a Bible course must be taught alongside other religious texts as well.

Altes' proposal comes nearly a year after Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.) signed legislation that that requires the state Board of Education to design a high school elective course titled "The Bible and its influence on Western Culture," which would include lessons on the history, literature and influence of the Old and New testaments on laws, government and culture, among other aspects of society.

Arizona became the sixth state to allow districts to offer a high school elective Bible course -- Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and South Carolina were the only ones with laws permitting these courses. Other states like Kentucky had introduced similar proposals, but the bills have failed to become law.

Posted: 01/23/2013 4:06 pm EST. Updated: 01/24/2013 7:29 am EST


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pleasure_past 24th-Jan-2013 06:28 pm (UTC)
The course would "consist of a nonsectarian, nonreligious academic study of the Bible and its influence on literature, art, music, culture and politics" and would "be taught in an objective and non devotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate students as to either the truth or falsity of the biblical materials or texts from other religions or cultural traditions."

... You mean exactly like it already is wherever it's relevant? My AP English class studied bible stories right along with Greek mythology. We were tested on it and everything. We did a World Religions in both 7th and 9th grade. It came up in tons of classes, in fact. It just didn't get its own special little class.

No one believes you when you say you want God in the school curriculum for ~academic~ reasons, Republicans. The Bible already is in the public school curriculum for academic reasons. What you really want is obvious.
plumtreeblossom 24th-Jan-2013 08:12 pm (UTC)
Yes, this. In my high school English class we studied both Psalms and the Book of Job as literature. You can buy Spark Notes for many sections of the Bible. We studied Psalms as poetry, and Job for its literary symbolism. This was in public school, in the bright blue state of New York.

Of course, I don't expect Repubs to be familiar with public school curriculum. They'd like to shut the public schools down anyway, so I don't even know why they're flapping their little flightless wings about this.
nowiamsix 25th-Jan-2013 02:35 pm (UTC)
The class you're describing sounds a lot like one offered at the university I attended. I think it was called "The Bible as Literature" and it basically looked at different themes/symbols in the bible and then looked at other works of literature where those same themes were mentioned in an effort to more fully understand the text. I didn't get to take it but I really wanted to!

Even though I identify as a christian, I fully admit to cherry-picking through the bible and would love to have some of the lesser-known stories explained to me.

However, like you said, the motives behind this push have a very small chance of being altruistic...
romp 25th-Jan-2013 06:57 am (UTC)
Yeah, do they really want to talk about the politics that affects which books of the bible were chosen to be included and all that Council of Nicea stuff? I mean, I only know what I read in Nat'l Geo and the occasional educational TV show and I know that actual history does not fit nicely with the idea that God dictated the books to a few men.

Looking at how the Christian bible affected society might be a good lead-in to studying colonialism...
sobota 24th-Jan-2013 06:35 pm (UTC)
We have a class called 'The Bible as Literature' which is a close reading of the bible, but here in the South I can't see it as anything BUT a tacit acceptance of religion in the school.
oceandezignz 24th-Jan-2013 06:41 pm (UTC)
I'd had no issue with this, if it wasn't half-assed and poorly sugarcoated. What next, prayer under the guise of polite conversation?
nitasee 24th-Jan-2013 07:12 pm (UTC)
They tried that before under the guise of a moment of "silent prayer". Waste of time if you ask me.

Here's the, if a student really is a believer, don't you think they would pray on their own time? Why do they need a special moment during classtime? Oh, right, so they can hold their hegemony over everyone else.
vulturoso 24th-Jan-2013 07:12 pm (UTC)
Alright. As long as other religious texts are included. Students should also be allowed to learn about Agnostic texts, which include whatever we feel like reading whenever we want.
tinylegacies 24th-Jan-2013 07:24 pm (UTC)
Yup, throw in the Koran and the Torah and other religious books and I'm totally on board.

Edited at 2013-01-24 07:24 pm (UTC)
teacup_werewolf 24th-Jan-2013 07:38 pm (UTC)
Hell throw in the poetic and prose Eddas and the Bagahvah Gita and I'm down.
the_gabih 24th-Jan-2013 08:19 pm (UTC)
Oh man I wish we'd studied the Eddas and the Baghavad Gita in school. That would have been awesome.
teacup_werewolf 24th-Jan-2013 11:03 pm (UTC)
Eddas would be interesting to study the influence of Christianity in culture lore. Man I love me some Gita though Arjuna was the shit!
nonnycat 25th-Jan-2013 05:24 am (UTC)
There is a really interesting series on Tor.com about Snorri, the Eddas, and the influence of Christianity on Norse lore.
rex_dart 24th-Jan-2013 07:35 pm (UTC)
No. Aside from the fact that this is an obvious ploy to inject Christianity into public schools, a Bible-only class is university-level shit. High school kids don't need to study one book for a whole semester. It's the equivalent of having an elective English class that only talks about Dickens or an elective art history class that only talks about Botticelli; it's a fucking waste of time.
fishphile 24th-Jan-2013 08:15 pm (UTC)
Agreed.
wrestlingdog 24th-Jan-2013 10:54 pm (UTC)
Agreed.
windy_lea 25th-Jan-2013 02:36 am (UTC)
My high school did have a Bible as Lit class, but I believe it was an AP level class. There were several literature classes you could choose from to fulfill your Junior and Senior year English requirements, though, and they were split by semester. I guess that makes an elective? That is, no one took it who didn't have an interest.

I had the same teacher for my Modern Lit class, so I'm confident he really was treating it as an academic subject and not an excuse to interject Christianity into the classroom. I'm still side-eyeing the proposed bill, though. There's already a method for schools to get approval for that sort of elective, so... meh.
bleed_peroxide 25th-Jan-2013 02:45 pm (UTC)
That's a good point. I wouldn't mind such a class if it had equivalent electives for other religious texts, but the problem is how limited the time is in high school - spending an entire semester on one book is very intensive, and I'm not sure how that would work or how practical it would be to offer such a course for multiple religions texts.

Of course, that's assuming he doesn't mean it as anything else but a very thinly veiled attempt to squeeze Christianity into schools, which is highly fucking doubtful.
idemandjustice 24th-Jan-2013 08:00 pm (UTC)
My oldest is going to be starting kindergarten next fall. The shit they're doing to public schools is so upsetting.
sophiaserpentia 24th-Jan-2013 08:07 pm (UTC)
Mm hmm. And when someone actually teaches the course from a skeptical perspective there will be *no* complaints from parents, principals, or school board members, right?
mollywobbles867 24th-Jan-2013 08:10 pm (UTC)
My high school had a Bible study elective. I doubt it was secular because the only people I ever heard of who took it were religious. I doubt this will be secular.
the_gabih 24th-Jan-2013 08:18 pm (UTC)
So long as the Bhagavad Gita, the Quran and others receive similar treatment, I'm good with this.
tabaqui 24th-Jan-2013 08:42 pm (UTC)
GIVE IT UP. And get your frigging religious bullshite *out* of my public schools. For fuck's sake.

(Well, not 'my' schools, per se, as i'm in Missouri, but public schools as a whole.)
ladylothwen 24th-Jan-2013 09:02 pm (UTC)
My high school had a Bible Study elective class that I was put into when the other elective I'd chosen was booked up. While the teacher had been religious and most of the kids religious it was surprisingly low key. Occasionally there were things that made me uncomfortable because at the time I was really discovering I was an Atheist. But no one shamed me for disagreeing and we had healthy discussions about religion. When one new comer boy vocally said I was going to hell the rest of the class shut him down his disrespect.

Besides, "The Bible and its influence on Western Culture" is already a class and it's called World History and is taught right along side with other religions and cultures. I'd suggest you pay attention but it'd probably strain you.
wikilobbying 24th-Jan-2013 09:30 pm (UTC)
The course would "consist of a nonsectarian, nonreligious academic study of the Bible and its influence on literature, art, music, culture and politics" and would "be taught in an objective and non devotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate students as to either the truth or falsity of the biblical materials or texts from other religions or cultural traditions."

riiiiiiiiiight

i'll make them a deal - if they include a diverse selection of religious texts (and i mean, including ones from non-abrahamic religions) and how they have influenced literature, art, music, culture, and politics, then they can have at it. frankly, i find that sort of thing fascinating. but about the bible and only the bible? yawn. we have christian churches who do bible studies on sundays and even on certain weekdays for that.
teacup_werewolf 24th-Jan-2013 11:13 pm (UTC)
It kinda reminds me of World History class back in high school when the teacher used the Bible is historical text. Which looking back on it, kinda unnerves me. It's not the most accurate source and he sort of shat on other religions while were briefed on them. It was mostly out of ignorance than contempt. I mean he had no idea about the philosophy of Taoism and Buddhism (he said some crap about following the middle way and how it made no sense to him) but the way he just glanced over other faiths really pissed me off.

I have a feeling that this "Bible Study" is another fapping session for Xtian right. Even if they glanced at other sacred texts they are going to shat on them or stumble over them with complete ignorance.
redstar826 25th-Jan-2013 01:30 am (UTC)
The course would "consist of a nonsectarian, nonreligious academic study of the Bible and its influence on literature, art, music, culture and politics"

Honestly, I don't have a problem with this, if it is done right. I wouldn't expect every high school to have such a class. But some of the larger schools could pull it off, I think.

danceprincess20 25th-Jan-2013 02:00 am (UTC)
My HS had a bible class (and by my senior year there was Bible 1 and Bible 2, for the old and new testaments). I took both because I'd had the teacher before and knew it would be a joke. The Bible I owned was a Catholic Bible and I was literally the only person in the class without a King James' Bible. It was a SUPER religious, super Protestant class (while simultaneously being a total joke). My senior year (when I took Bible 2), we actually took a field trip to Holy Land in Orlando.
betray802 25th-Jan-2013 03:35 am (UTC)
Which one they cherry-pick worse depends on what topic they're on about at any given moment.
betray802 25th-Jan-2013 03:33 am (UTC)
We did this, in my Intro Lit in 10th-11th grades. Mr M announced he was teaching us the Bible as a work of literature, and sent home permission slips. I commend him for not outright saying he knew how many people forged their parents' signatures. His performance of the sermon 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God' -- in full Puritan dress, even! -- had to be experienced to believed.

An awful lot of budding atheists walked out of that class.
hinoema 25th-Jan-2013 04:49 am (UTC)
It's only important to separate church and state when it's something the church doesn't like, i.e. taxes or health care for birth control.
ladyofshalott06 25th-Jan-2013 05:56 pm (UTC)
The course would "consist of a nonsectarian, nonreligious academic study of the Bible and its influence on literature, art, music, culture and politics" and would "be taught in an objective and non devotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate students as to either the truth or falsity of the biblical materials or texts from other religions or cultural traditions."

I took a course like that in college. It set me on the road to atheism.

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