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Bibles in Class? Not Just for Sunday School Anymore

The separation of church and state is a little less distinct at Hamilton County Schools in Tennessee. Funding from a special grant program means that students can elect to study Bible History in public schools.

While religion classes aren't uncommon in universities, topics of faith are muted in lower grades of public schools. For almost 90 years the program "Bible in the Schools" has provided up to $1,000,000 a year to cover Bible History courses.

One sophomore says, "It's not really based on religion. It's history, Bible history you're learning the history, it's just like another history class."

If learning the Bible is just another history class, Ben Stein's new movie might just count as science class?

Stein's movie Expelled hits screens today. We took a peek at the role of teaching evolution in education a while back, but now the Scientific American has an article that outlines "Six Things in Expelled That Ben Stein Doesn't Want You to Know...about intelligent design and evolution." I can't wait to see the movie, and this is the perfect companion read before you buy that tub of popcorn.

Privately funded Bible study in public schools? Is studying the Bible like learning history? Did you take a peek at the things Ben Stein doesn't want you to know?


thelorax thelorax 9 years
Actually, Ben Stein's movie had nothing to do with having biblical teaching or any kind of religion in classrooms or scientific institutions. The whole point of the movie was the educational and scientific communities' complete and utter exclusion of any possibility but evolution from a single cell organism, conceived with a bolt of lightning and incubated on the backs of diamonds until it came crawling out of the muck. Expelled was an intelligent look at the suppression of intelligent thought. Scientists and historians from a variety of backgrounds, including various institutions and even other countries, were allowed to state their beliefs and participate in the discourse. Stein asked them open ended questions that allowed ample opportunity to clarify their viewpoints. Never once did Stein advocate for religious indoctrination - he simply condemned the restriction of examining other possibilities IN ADDITION TO Darwinism. And the article that you linked to, Things Ben Stein Doesn't Want You to Know, contains several misrepresentations. Read it with a grain of salt if you haven't seen the movie and are not familiar with Ben Stein himself.
bailaoragaditana bailaoragaditana 9 years
I don't think that there should be any private funding for religious education in schools - that sounds like a slippery slope. BUT. I do concede that reading/analyzing the Bible, whether or not one is Christian, is key for understanding historical events and works of literature right through the present day. However, such a class should also cover ancient mythologies, the Torah/Talmud, the Qu'ran, the Vedas, and other major religious/philosophical texts - because that's really what it's about. It's all philosophy in one way or another, and it all had a good deal of influence on the shaping of society, culture, and history generally...
demeter demeter 9 years
I really don't see the big deal. It's a choice, right?
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
You bring a good point Lula. It's the parent's and the religious community's job to teach morals. What happens when the parents don't teach morals, either through education or by example? The problem with society (or at least my neck of the woods) is that parents are too concerned about being their children's friend. Morality is for the church, but then they don't bring their kids to church.
lula29 lula29 9 years
Also, I think the problem with teaching the Bible comes in when those teaching it try and push moral values, which I wouldn't at all agree with, mainly because I don't think anyone, Christian or other, wants a stranger in the public school system teaching their kids their morals. That's not the job of the school system, but of parents and the religious community the student belongs to.
lula29 lula29 9 years
I think it's fine for the bible to be taught as it relates to literature and history, especially if it's an elective. I'm not christian, but I still recognize how much the christian bible impacts history, literature, politics and thus having a knowledge of the text is invaluable. I also think other religions should be taught as well. It would do a lot to further our understanding of the world in general.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
So that calls another question then, can you accept large donations from organizations and not get hooked into that organization's agenda?
siren6 siren6 9 years
"I think that to an extent, when you are accepting the money of an outside organization, you are taking on that organization's agenda as well." I absolutely agree, Bookish. Even if the class as an elective, by allowing it on the curriculum it's being presented with some degree of endorsement or validation when it's listed along with to the rest of the approved curriculum. I think it's asking a lot of kids to have to think through the motivations behind "purchased" electives - just my $0.02.
Bookish Bookish 9 years
"Personally, I think accepting private grants to be used to further specific agendas or courses of study in public schools is a really slippery slope." I agree, and it's not just religion. I was looking into the geology program at one of the colleges close by- only to discover that it was largely funded by an oil company, that there was a strong petrochemical bent to the curriculum, and that something like 85% of all graduates of the geography program went on to work for the oil company who funded the classes. That, to me, was completely disappointing, since I was looking at geography as a way to help the planet and not plunder it for its resources. Unfortunately, it's the only geography program around. I think that to an extent, when you are accepting the money of an outside organization, you are taking on that organization's agenda as well.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
Since I didn't refer to any religion specific, I wouldn't have a problem with it, as long as prayer to all dieties is allowed (Freedom of religion, not from religion). The point is the vast majority who have a belief system are not violent people, and prayer or meditation help people cope with troubles.
siren6 siren6 9 years
I wonder what our world would be like if there was more exposure to the Bible, and prayer in school. That's probably all well and good for a country with a national religion, but assuming you're talking about a country founded on the separation of church and state (example: the U.S.) I think it would create a pretty marginalizing space for anyone not adhering to the belief structure supported by the chosen scripture and style of worship you propose... which would in turn would be totally inappropriate in a public education system. I really couldn't disagree with you more. Would you feel the same way if you were the minority living in a predominantly Islamic country? How - or who - would choose which Bible and belief to practice in a public school system in a multi-religious society? Could you with confidence leave the choice in the hands of a school board to speak for your tax dollars and select one "source of comfort and strength" to teach everyone in school? Personally, I think accepting private grants to be used to further specific agendas or courses of study in public schools is a really slippery slope. I used to respect Ben Stein as an intellectual and all around nice guy, but I'm certainly looking at him differently the more I read about his "Expelled" project.
ohjeeze ohjeeze 9 years
UnDave35, please don't forget that not everyone is a Christian and the world would not be a better place if everyone was. How would you feel about children being exposed to the Koran or the Torah? I think it would be a good idea to educate young children about all religions not just Christianity.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
I'm glad students are being exposed to the Bible. Religion is not just about believing in something, it's having something to belive in. It's a source of comfort and strength. I wonder what our world would be like if there was more exposure to the Bible, and prayer in school.
AliCherri1 AliCherri1 9 years
I went to public school for k-12 and I took a Bible Lit class in 12th grade.
Mamarosa Mamarosa 9 years
As a non-religion individual, when I went to private school for the education (my public school was at risk of loosing accreditation) I was surprised how much I enjoyed the theology courses for their value in providing historical context to people perceptions and for providing the opportunity to discuss what I believed. High school can be a time of amazing emotion and discovery and to have 1 hour of my life every day dedicated to thinking about how I felt about all of this really helped me define who I was in the long run. I think the key was to have a teacher who was willing to discuss a wide variety of theological theories and who knew a bit about teenagers. It's something that I missed when I graduated and went into a strictly science education. After that experience I believe we all should take a bit of everyday to think about- "what do I believe about this world? " I hope the proposed high school class takes this prospective.
ohjeeze ohjeeze 9 years
Religion is based on faith and history is based on fact. If you believe that that a man was capable of parting the red sea and that a man was capable of turning water into wine then you are acting on faith not fact. Now the real question is are children mentally mature enough to realize that those events could have very well happened but they also very well could not have happened?
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
actually a jewish historian named Josephus published works containing two passages in reference to Jesus.
cine_lover cine_lover 9 years
Well the Bible does exist. Just depends on how you view the Bible, and its significance ;)
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
Look, let's not get into this whole does the Bible exist or doesn't it argument. The point is, I have other stories to comment on and I just can't get bogged down in a philosophical conversation right now. I love reading your comments and I cherish our time together, but a story just came up on an 8 year old who divorced a 20 year old Yemeni husband and I've got precious little time!
cine_lover cine_lover 9 years
Sy, I am totally in TGIF mode!
cine_lover cine_lover 9 years
You don't have to take the stories and say they ARE history, but can also take the stories from the Old Testament and put them in historical context, and see the relation to the stories and the influence they had on society in different periods of time. You can also look at the "fables" and see the links to historical events. There is much you can do when studying Religious literature.
syako syako 9 years
Okay. That is a lame argument. :rotfl: Happy Friday!
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
I guess I'm talking about the Old Testament here. I think using that as an "historic text" is a little odd, considering they are more or less a patchwork of fables. As for the Jesus remark, yes there is Roman documentation claiming that a man named Jesus existed and was crucified for reasons of State security, so, I do cede to your point.
laurelm laurelm 9 years
how an it not looked at as history? the dead sea scrolls (parts of the BIBLE) are from the first century b.c.e and are believed to be remains from the library of Essenes they describe many events that took place and despite being the oldest evidence of the bible found they do not differ from much younger translations of the bible (a key part in proving historical significance) we look at Egyptian, Mayan, and other archaeological documents as part of history this is different because it is a religion you do not believe in?
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
I have to disagree with that raciccarone. Now I will agree that it takes a leap of faith to believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and is the son of God. However, I believe there is plenty of evidence that the man named Jesus of Nazareth did exist.
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