Saturday, September 24, 2005

A Bible Textbook Begat by Church-State Separation - Los Angeles Times

A Bible Textbook Begat by Church-State Separation - Los Angeles Times:
"Who asked, "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Was it Cain, Noah, Abel or King David?)

What happened on the road to Damascus? (A: Jesus was crucified. B: Mary met an angel of the Lord. C: St. Paul was blinded by a vision from God. D: Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss.)

Only a third of the American teenagers in a nationwide Gallup poll last year correctly answered the first question, attributing the quote from Genesis to Cain. And, a similar percentage of the 1,002 teens in the survey were aware of the story of St. Paul being blinded by a vision from God on the road to Damascus.

An overwhelming majority of the nation's students are biblically illiterate, educators say. Yet, they add, knowledge of the Bible, its characters and references is essential in understanding Western literature, art, music and history even for students who come from other religious traditions, are agnostics or are atheists. On Thursday, a new textbook designed to help teach public high school students biblical content without violating the separation of church and state was released in Washington, D.C., by the Bible Literacy Project, a nonprofit group that promotes the study of Bible content, not belief, in public and private schools...."
Maybe it's my low expectations, but it surprised me that as many as 1/3 of teenagers could answer those questions correctly. I had been under the impression that the level of Biblical literacy in the country was lower, and not just for teenagers.

A wide spectrum of religious groups scholars and Constitutional experts has endorsed the project. The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, is deferring comment until his organization can carefully examine the new textbook The Bible and its Influence.

I am reminded of a conversation I had years ago with a high school history teacher who was also a Christian. He told me that the latest history textbooks for public schools had essentially purged any mention of the religious dimension of life in colonial America, as well as how the Presbyterian Church influenced the form of government the new United States would take. One of his comments was that this was like teaching Elizabethan era literature without recognizing the many Biblical references and allusions that characterized much of the writing of that era.

It is heartening to know that people have worked long and hard to come up with a curriculum that takes into account the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, but at the same time recognizes the significant contribution of the Bible to literature, art, music, history, and culture.

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