Saturday, July 01, 2006


The exclusion of the Bible from curricula is having an unsurprising result: people can't read and understand the classics of Western civilization:
William Faulkner's "Absalom, Absalom!," Herman Melville's "Moby Dick," and Toni Morrison's "Song of Solomon" are literary works included on the syllabi for many English courses for which professors say knowledge of the Bible is valuable.

"Regardless of a person's faith, an educated person needs to know about the Bible," was the response of a professor quoted in the Bible Literacy Report II: What University Professors Say Incoming Students Need to Know. The report was released June 1 by the Bible Literacy Project at an academic symposium on the Bible at Baylor University.

In addition to being a sacred scripture to millions of Americans, the report said the Bible is "arguably the most influential text in all of Western culture." Not knowing about the Bible impedes a student's ability to understand classic and contemporary literature, the report said.

Nevada English scholars agree with the findings, but a Washoe County School District administrator voiced concern about teaching the Bible in public schools.

Assistant Superintendent Jerry Holloway said there are other means for students to get access to the Bible outside of the school system.

"We need to be careful that we're not putting anything in place that is specific," said Holloway, curriculum director for 25 years. "The world is not all Christian."

The Bible's place in the classroom can be justified by the importance of students having cultural literacy and becoming critical thinkers, said Dan Halcomb, English and journalism teacher at Reno High School. That does not mean teaching a course solely on just the Bible, he said.

"What every good teacher tries to do is teach students how to interpret things on their own," he said. "Nothing should be left out of that discourse, and that includes the Bible."

Halcomb said students seem poorly informed about many biblical references in literature, including the Genesis story of Adam and Eve.

Western literature is filled with biblical references, whether it's Shakespeare with its estimated 1,300 biblical references or Melville's characters of Ahab and Ishmael.

"To not understand the references we often find in western literature is to not understand the literature itself," Halcomb said.

But as you can read above, the war against public religion has frozen those running public education from being able simply to deal with the Bible without being frozen in fear or condescending in dismissal. Cutting society's connection to Scripture is causing our cultural decadence on many levels.

No comments: