Headline News reported on a story pertaining to teaching the Bible in Tennessee schools. Organizations like the ACLU have a concern that this is an attempt to inject religion into our public schools. As illustrated by a commenter on Facebook, this assertion is not far from the truth as the comment clearly leaned toward the desire to inject God into every day life. While the course is an elective, you just never know how it will be implemented. Even as an elective, funding for such a course still comes from taxpayer dollars. Any way you slice it, there appears to be an immersion between church and state, two things that should remain separate in our education system.
This issue is a complex one and when discussed, typically becomes an argument between believers and non-believers. That is a lesson in futility I choose not to entertain in this post. I won't waste my time highlighting who is the more rational member in this discussion. I already know which one is. I'll approach this debate from another direction.
High school courses are meant to lay the foundation for what you become in life. Whether you decide to dive head first into the job market or continue on to higher education, that foundation should provide you with the necessary skills to continue on either path. High school courses should be geared towards college and the work force. Courses like math, english, literature, and science should be at the forefront of our children's minds in high school. They are our future and unless they get a solid footing in these subjects, they will find it incredibly difficult to compete in todays job market. A class examining the Bible regardless of the intent will offer no added benefit in this regard.
If a course on the Bible should be taught, there is only one way it should be approached. A teacher well versed in literature should offer a curriculum which revolves around the literary analysis of the writing in the Bible, not a Faith based course praising the existence of a higher power. All the symbolism and literary style that went into writing the Bible is well known to theologians. If anything, a literary approach to the Bible would erode away at the evangelical movement, not accentuate it. In my own experience, very few who take the Bible literally have the patience to listen to me ramble on about writing styles present in religious texts such as the Bible. From a literature perspective, the Bible is nothing more than a collection of short stories. From just such a standpoint, familiarizing yourself with these stories is no different than acquainting yourself with the works of Henry David Thoreau or Robert Frost. Granted, Thoreau and Frost blow the Bible out of the water in terms of literary depth, but it's still literature. Those of us who do not take literature literally to the same extent evangelicals do the Bible take no issue with writings of many different backgrounds. Ah, but that's assuming people behind the movement pushing the Bible into our education system want a literature course, not a Bible study class, something that should be left in church.
So where does that leave me on this subject?
Save the Bible analysis until college. I took a course covering the Old Testament in college because in addition to a six credit philosophy requirement, I also had to knock out six credits of theology. It was a Catholic university, after all. That knowledge has fallen on deaf ears when discussed among religious zealots like evangelical Christians. That knowledge means absolutely nothing to them, yet as someone who is fond of literature, the twists and turns of how the Bible was written remains interesting from both historical and cultural perspectives. From a scholarly standpoint, even the most shrewd Atheist should respect the text even as a non-believer.
Whether you're someone who wants more Jesus in your life or a literary aficionado raring to acquire knowledge that allows you to criticize religion, a course like this will be of some benefit, but only if taught as a literature course, not something Faith-based designed to spread the "Good Word." Still, this is not something that should be taught to young minds preparing for college and the real world. Religious studies really require a certain level of critical thinking, something our young minds in high school should acquire first and use at the college level to expand those horizons.
My final say: Keep it in church, in private schools with religious affiliations, and at the college level. Want to take a useful elective in high school? How about a foreign language? Music? Theatre? Even a computer class would serve you better than an entire course about the Bible.