Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Biblical Literacy

This story from USA Today on biblical literacy was sent to me by my friend Andrew. The basic point of the story is that biblical literacy is important, but schools are afraid to teach the Bible because we crazy Christians will use the book to proseltyze. Here is an excerpt:

Indeed, Newman says that trying to appreciate biblical allusions in literature without an underlying knowledge of Scripture is like trying to appreciate a good joke when someone has to explain the punch line. You might eventually "get" the joke, she says, but by the time you do, "it's not funny anymore."

Interestingly, a 2008 study published in Sociological Quarterly found that regular church attendance positively affected students' grade point averages. And while lead researcher Jennifer Glanville of the University of Iowa attributed much of this effect to the social and psychological benefits of being enmeshed in a wider community of like-minded peers and adults, some of this effect might also be explained by the greater biblical literacy young people typically acquire by attending church.

To stem the decline of biblical literacy, three states — Georgia, Texas and Tennessee — have passed laws in recent years calling for public high schools to offer elective courses that teach the Bible "in an objective and non-devotional manner with no attempt to indoctrinate students" (as
Georgia's law puts it).

A few thoughts...

1. It is always astounding to me to realize what an impact the Bible has had upon our culture...and how quickly our culture is changing. A significantly smaller fraction of our cultural output requires Biblical literacy in order to interpret.

2. Yeah, I have to admit if I were a teacher I would do use the Bible to teach about Christianity. Guilty.

3. It is always sad to see how fearful secularists are of proselytizing, or even the acknowledgement of religious belief in the public sphere. The objective is not protection of all beliefs (or lack thereof) but rather the removal of the acceptability of belief.

4. Would a teacher who doesn't believe the Bible to be true be held to the same standard of "objectivity?" Would he be required to NOT communicate his lack of belief? In other words, if a teacher taught about the life of Christ from the Gospels and considered those accounts to be mythical, would we be concerned about her communicating that to her class? If she mentioned that they were fanciful accounts, would we accuse her of proselytizing? I think the whole idea of objectivity is rather absurd.


Matthew said...

It's interesting that they think that teachers aren't ALREADY forcing their opinions on students. I mean, how many years did I have to listen to my English teachers drone on about humanism? And Sience? Psh, even at my Baptist college the science teacher said anyone who believed in a literal translaion of the genesis account was an idoit.

Also, the idea that an individual lacks the abilty to decern what they belief by the time their in high school fits very much in line with the "It's not your fault" worldview that the adult generation supports. That all our actions and beliefs are the fault of mommy or daddy or some teacher from yester-year

Em said...

I agree with your thought that objectivity is absurd. In England, the National Curriculum mandates religious education as well as sex education beginning in nursery school (that would be age 3). Our objection to our boys being taught proper human anatomy or the core beliefs of the Hindu faith in state school was the fact that it is impossible for those things to be taught without the influence of the teacher's worldview beliefs and prejudices being interjected into the conversation. How can anyone discuss religion and sexuality objectively? The headteacher, in an attempt to reassure us I guess, pointed out that the children also learn about Christianity. Needless to say it didn't have the calming effect she was expecting.