Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Georgia, public schools, and the Bible
There are 180 schools districts in the state of Georgia. Public school districts. School districts which are paid for with taxes paid to the state by its hard-working citizens. These are not religious schools or Sunday Schools. Because they are public school districts they are bound by the constitutional provision that the state must refrain from mixing religion with public education. Public schools contain students of many different faiths or of no faith. It is not the business of the public schools to teach material from any particular "holy" book for any reason.
Georgia missed that constitutional lesson along the way. Or more likely, Georgia is flouting the law! Forty eight of its schools districts have been conducting "Bible education classes." Because Georgia is overrun with fundamentalist Christianists, it has been able to get away with this by claiming they don't teach any particular religion but rather the "literature" of the Bible. But what the Bible says depends on who is interpreting it. And the material they use interprets the Bible from a fundamentalist Christian perspective. One example is that all the magical stories are treated as factual.
Honk, honk! The material used in these classes is from an fundamentalist Christianist outfit called the Bible Literacy Project. The BLP is a thinly-disguised attempt by radical Christianists to foist their religious/biblical beliefs on unsuspecting and basically ignorant young people. It appears that you could sit through a year's worth of classes and never learn that the creation stories, the Noah story, the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David and Solomon are mythological in nature and not historical. You can read a more detailed and scholarly analysis of BLP material here.
What's quite humorous is that while the Bible Literacy Project is less offensive than other such biblical "projects," it isn't fundamentalistic enough for the nutcases on the far right, like World Net Daily and you can get the flavor of their hostility to it here.
But however one feels about the Bible and however one interprets the Bible is irrelevant. The Bible is not to be taught in our public schools. Neither should the Quran be taught in our public schools. Nor any other religious "holy" book. Georgia has enough Christian churches to gag a god! It seems most sensible that those churches should be the sites for Biblical "literacy," or any other biblical studies. That's why there are churches, which, by the way pay no taxes!
Well, there's good news in and amidst the economic decline. Because of the lack of funds, only 16 school districts are able to offer Bible classes in the coming year! Budget cuts, you know! That's still 16 too many, and these school districts are still in direct violation of our constitution (the Law!) but that will not deter them from what they perceive as a "good" thing.
Bible studies are not "good" things when run by fundamentalists who interpret the Bible according to their faith. Can't really blame them, though, because if they turned that around and really understood what the Bible was and how it came to be and how it was written, they'd probably lose their faith!
So, we can rejoice that fewer young people will be exposed to a faulty understanding of the Bible. And perhaps we can take all of this as a good sign; a sign that Georgia's school districts don't take "biblical literacy" too seriously. When push comes to shove, economically, the first thing to go is Bible classes! Yeah!
Now, perhaps there could be a special emphasis in history and civics classes about how our Constitution provides for a separation of church and state and how, if students want to know more about their particular religion or holy book, they should ask their parents or their pastors/priests!