Guest Editorial: Bible class a bad mix for public high school curriculum
The idea of teaching about the Bible in our secular public high schools is a non starter.
Aside from the Constitutional issues of the government favoring one religion over another, which teaching the Bible surely would do, there are countless other issues which make the mixing of religious indoctrination and public education problematic.
No religious books or writings have any place in the public, tax supported, schools.
What would be the curriculum of such a course? Which version(s) of the Bible would be used? Would the Bible be treated as the immutable word of God to be taken literally word for word? Would it be treated as a collection of parables and metaphors, probably fictional, but meant to guide human behavior? Is the Bible merely legend with historic overtones? Is it literature, open to analysis and interpretation?
Who will decide what interpretation is the right one? What parts of the Bible would be used? Who makes that choice?
The Bible, by its very nature, is not subject to being taught as a completely secular document, with the possible exception of a few university courses in comparative religions. It is evident by the countless sects, denominations, religions, synods etc. that there are profound differences as to what the Bible is and what it means.
These differences have caused persecution, wars, bloodshed, massive suffering, displacement, discrimination and other horrors. What chance is there that a Bible course could be designed to please everyone?
Even if it were possible, what about the people who use other religious documents? Should there be courses for them too? What about those who subscribe to no religion? Should their tax money be used for religious instruction?
There is a relatively simple answer:
If you are concerned that our young people know too little about the Bible, accept your responsibilities as parents or other interested parties, and teach them. Take them to church and Sunday school. See that they have interesting books about the Bible. Have family or neighborhood Bible study.
Study a few verses a day with your children. Send your children to private schools for the indoctrination of your choice.
Our young people are not ignorant in certain areas because they are stupid, but because their time, energy and attention are stretched in myriad ways.
Because they are young, they need time to grow and to learn how to think independently. Because they are unique separate beings, don’t be surprised if they reject your priorities.
Give them the foundations of self respect, respect for diversity in others, reading skills, the process of making good choices, self discipline, the importance of lifetime learning, knowing right from wrong and how to assert the freedom to become themselves. If the Bible aids in this process, use it.
The greatest gift you can give your children is to help them believe in their potential. Praise them and encourage them.
For many, the teen years are a time of self-doubt. They often crave structure at the same time they reject it. It can also be a traumatic time for their parents and teachers.
You can do a lot to make it easier by letting your kids know you love and believe in them. Remind them that they are unique in the whole world.
There is only one of each of us. There never has been another one just like you, nor will there likely ever be.
The journey to becoming you may have its challenges. We all need guidance along the way. There are no guarantees. You have the power within you to make a positive difference.
What you do with the incredible gift of your uniqueness will be your destiny and your legacy. Make it count.
David W. Leibforth is a resident of Clarkdale. He was a high school teacher for 35 years and a former member of the Clarkdale Town Council, where he served as vice mayor.