I read with interest Mr. Leibforth’s guest editorial “Bible class a bad mix for public high school curriculum.” His arguments, in my view, are insufficient for his conclusion to keep Bible instruction out of high schools. His suggestion of leaving it to parents to familiarize their children with the Bible is good; however, since the Bible was taken out of our schools the trend has clearly been increasing ignorance about biblical things.
The core idea he advances would have been foreign to the nation’s founders: that the public square or conversation should exclude all religious expression. We all agree that sectarian indoctrination is undesirable in a school setting; but this has nothing to do with the value of understanding the text of the book most responsible for our heritage, to say nothing of what until very recent times was believed to be the source of the country’s moral and legal values.
The principle stated so eloquently by Thomas Jefferson (separation of church and state, so stated in a private letter from his pen) was important to the founders because they feared the federal government choosing an official religion.
They emphatically did favor public religious expression and the acknowledgement of the Creator, from whom our ideals, said they, derived.
Mr. Leibforth then proceeds to ask questions which expose his basic misunderstanding of the purpose of putting a Bible course in secondary curricula. His questions convey the fearful specter of “religious indoctrination”, a straw man fallacy by the stringent requirements of the Arizona statute authorizing elective Bible instruction for credit.
The purpose of teaching the content of the Bible in secondary education, where students should be developing critical and independent thinking skills, has to do with exposing them to educational content which will enhance their understanding of literature, history, the arts, and the moral values on which western civilization rests. This newspaper’s readers will find much testimony to the value of Bible instruction at the website www.teachthebibleinschools.org.
I applaud Leibforth’s encouragement of parents to teach their children in their choice of religious expression, or of no religious expression. Many whom I know have been diligent to do this. At the same time, however, most people find this a difficult and uncomfortable task they have little time for. I likewise laud his obvious appreciation for the individual person’s worth. But this ought to incentivize us to provide the broadest possible liberal arts and classical education for our children, not just in private schools, but in all our schools.
For most of our nation’s history the Bible was taught in public education. We are not wiser than our forefathers in this regard. We owe it to our youth to let them achieve their potential by providing them the tools of knowledge and the historical context of our culture.
Barry W. Jones