Mandatory Bible curriculum…

The Fort Worth Star Telegram carried a story this morning about a bill before the Texas legislature concerning the introduction of mandatory Bible curriculum in public classrooms. Late yesterday afternoon, I was asked for a comment. Below is the full text of my comment:

“While I am sympathetic with the desire to familiarize public school students with the history and literature of the sacred texts, and while I concur that Western Civilization owes much of its political and cultural heritage to the influence of Christian beliefs and practices, I am dubious about the possibility that sacred texts can be taught in public schools without sectarian indoctrination on the one hand, or secular indifference on the other.

It is true that a basic knowledge of biblical themes and backgrounds can only deepen a student’s appreciation for the many disciplines of learning that are touched by the Christian faith, but I resist the assumption that often undergirds efforts to introduce such instruction in the public schools: namely, that “putting the Bible back in the classroom” is going to solve America’s social ills.

In short, I agree with the diagnosis that Americans are shamefully ignorant of the sacred texts and traditions that have informed and influenced Western Civilization. I cannot agree, however, with a prescription that thrusts the handling of those texts upon teachers who will be, in many circumstances, as biblically illiterate as the students they purport to teach. If a good dose of biblical knowledge will cure what ails us, I would prefer that it was administered in a venue more suited to explore those complex themes by educators better equipped to explore them.

Pardon me if I’m not excited about the prospects of football coaches teaching the Torah to varsity cheerleaders.”