We have learned about a very useful resource called Essentials in Education. That organization states as their mission, “We encourage high character through standards-based, instructionally sound, and high quality educational materials.” They have produced what they call the Bible Literacy Project.
Essentials in Education claims that they want to address issues beyond the academy and beyond the walls of the church. Because they are not church sponsored, they have had some success in areas others have not. One thing they have done is to publish a textbook titled The Bible and Its Influence. It was first published in 2005 and updated since then. The student textbook is a hardcover, full-color, 373-page volume that covers the content of Genesis to Revelation.
In 2006 a bill was signed into law in Georgia requiring elective Bible courses statewide. Other states have passed laws allowing academic Bible study. The textbook The Bible and its Influence has provided instruction to 125,000 students in 625 public high schools in 43 states. The Bible Literacy Project has not received a legal challenge.
The textbook was produced with input from 40 leading scholars and religious leaders. It presents biblical content including the narratives, characters, plots, poetry, letters, events, parables, prophecies, and proverbs in the Bible. Because the book is non-denominational and non-sectarian, not all preachers and teachers will like all of its content. However, it has been widely accepted by schools for use as a semester-long or year-long course. Special features include Abraham Lincoln and the Bible, Handel’s Messiah, The Bible and Emancipation, Shakespeare and the Bible. The Bible Literacy Project’s website states that “without an understanding of the Bible, today’s youth cannot fully understand literature, art, history, music, or culture.”
For the website of Essentials in Education click HERE. For the Bible Literacy Project website click HERE. To learn more about their academic materials click HERE.
In 2013 we had a news item in our printed journal about Walt Tutka, a teacher in New Jersey who was fired because he gave a Bible to a student. After four years, this teacher Bible case is settled.
Tutka said to a student, “So the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” The student asked him where that came from. Tutka showed the student the statement in the Bible, and the student asked Tutka for a Bible of his own. Tutka is a member of Gideon’s International, an organization that distributes Bibles to hotels and hospitals. Naturally, Tutka gave the student a Bible. The school system fired him.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission backed Tutka saying that the school system had unfairly discriminated against him based on his religion. The case was going to be filed as a federal lawsuit in May, but the school district decided to settle out of court. Mr. Tutka is now back in the classroom.
When I was teaching in the public schools in South Bend, Indiana, groups brought books explaining their faith to the schools and gave them to kids who requested them. There were never any problems over that, but times have changed. We have even heard of cases where a teacher had a Bible in their book rack on their desk in a public school and was told to get rid of it or be fired. If a teacher had a copy of The Humanist Manifesto, that would be OK, even though it is a statement of faith–atheist faith.
Sometimes I have the opportunity to speak to groups of teachers or community groups interested in public education. One of my comments in those presentations is that I know what the basic problem is in American public education. I can give it to you in a very simple personal statistic. In 1959 when I began teaching at James Whitcomb Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana, I had a freshman homeroom with 32 kids. Four of those kids did not have the same last name as the person who was listed as their parent or guardian. When I retired from Riley 41 years later, I had a freshman homeroom with 32 kids in it. Only four of those kids did have the same last name as their parent or guardian. Kids who grow up in a stable nuclear family have a distinct advantage over kids who grow up in a climate of change and insecurity.
I was reminded of that fact when our local paper came out on Mother’s Day with a list of the 12 valedictorians of Mishawaka High School—a large public high school in our area. All 12 of them had the same last name as their parent or guardian. Please do not misunderstand these comments. We are not saying that kids who come from homes where there has been divorce or death are doomed to failure. Many of our children turn out well in spite of us, not because of us.
The US Constitution guarantees religious freedom. At the same time, there have been constant attempts from a variety of sources to muzzle Christians and persecute those who openly profess their faith. Over and over we see Christians prevented from doing things that other religious groups or anti-religious groups are free to do. This can create a tendency for us to over-react when a problem arises.
The school board in Bartlett, Tennessee, shut down a Bible Club because of threats by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The Bible Club was for first and second graders, and the stated purpose was to read the Bible and pray. When I was teaching at Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana, we had a Gospel Chorus made up of students that met in the school outside of class time. I was part of a before-school program where I presented my lectures to students who wished to hear them and discuss the content. When I taught at Jackson High School in South Bend, we had mini-courses where for a week during homeroom, students could choose from a variety of activities. They could listen to my presentations in Christian apologetics, go swimming in the school pool, attend a class on ballroom dancing, play basketball, or attend a variety of other classes including a class on Islam taught by a Muslim cleric.
So what is the difference between all of these cases and what was going on in Bartlett? The chorus, the mini-courses, and the before school classes were all initiated by the students. Attendance was their choice, and their parents could come and sit in on what was taking place. In the Bartlett situation, the classes were set up and taught by adults. Students did not elect to participate in the Bible reading. The teacher decided that. Adults also would lead the prayer and decide its content. At Jackson High, the students could choose whether to participate. In Bartlett, pressure on children to participate was an inevitable consequence of the program. One wonders as to who was reading the Bible, what translation they were using, and who chose what part of the Bible to study.