Virtual Voices

Media says Bible classes lagging

Religion

The media is sounding a dirge for public school Bible classes, saying students, teachers and even pastors just aren't interested. Sheila Weber, vice president of communications for the Bible Literacy Project, said the media isn't telling the whole story.

Macon.com reported that it has been two years since Georgia passed legislation to allow Bible classes, but Weber noted that legislators finished writing the class standards early in 2007, so last fall was the first time schools could implement classes. Weber said it takes time for schools to learn of the curriculum and then approve it, but thirty-two schools in Georgia are already using the Bible Literacy Project textbook, The Bible and its Influence. Some 168 schools in 35 states have adopted The Bible and its Influence, now in its second year of circulation.

The Associated Press quoted a teacher who said Bible Belt students are apathetic: "We found that since many of our students have such a strong spiritual upbringing that is firmly grounded in Christianity, there was very little interest on the part of the students to take such a class."

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But a school in southern California went from one Bible class to three when 50% of the senior class enrolled. An atheist student contacted BLP to say that "he loved taking this class because he didn't know any of this material and didn't have a way to learn it," Weber said. She added that churched kids, many of whom have a paltry knowledge of Biblical content, appreciated learning "the full breadth of content" instead of hearing from their churches what they should believe.

A pastor objected to the curriculum because it would be "almost impossible" for someone to teach the Bible without injecting beliefs: "Advancing of religion is best done by the religious community, not schools. … There should be a separation of the two."

Weber said Bible Literacy Project whole-heartedly agrees. The manual trains teachers to direct all questions of belief elsewhere, and the textbook is for an "academic, non-devotional course." Teachers may "neither promote nor diminish faith."

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