Banning Books in Public Schools 

Banning Books in Public Schools 

What books should be in a public school library? That issue has erupted into a serious battle with librarians and teachers caught in the middle as special interest groups fight to include books supporting their causes. In contrast, others are intent on banning books in public schools. 

A research group known as PEN America found 2532 instances of banning books in 32 states in the previous school year (2020-21). They also counted 50 groups fighting to ban books. The American Library Association estimated 1600 different books targeted for bans or restrictions in the same period. 

A group called “Moms for Liberty” was founded in 2020 to fight the use of certain books and now has 100,000 members in 38 states. Legislatures in Texas, Oklahoma, and Florida have passed laws calling for criminal charges when authorities deem books promoted to children are “pornographic, obscene, or inappropriate.” However, we have not seen a consistent definition of these words. 

The books being targeted fall into two general subject areas. One is race, and the other is LGBTQ issues. Teens or perhaps preteens can deal with those issues, but they should not be forced on kindergarten or first-grade children. Some targeted books have passages about masturbation, oral and anal sex, and sexual assault. Such subject matter is not what a small child should be confronted with at school without preparation at home. 

The issue of race is quite different. Describing each race as having a built-in bias or set of properties is foolish. Not all white people are racial bigots. Not all people of color are poor or uneducated. Schools must teach the history of racial issues in America without polarizing our culture with sweeping generalities. 

The reaction of many Christian parents has been to remove their children from public schools and either home-school or send them to private schools. The challenges parents face will only get worse because our country has rejected Christian values. Our books have been banned in the past because they promoted faith in God and the validity of biblical Christian values. Atheists have led an effort to forbid our books on science and faith because they contain positive support for belief in God. 

Christianity opposes racism and teaches sexual morality, but banning books will not solve today’s problems of racism and immorality. The Church and home must be involved in teaching children proper sexual conduct and preparing them for the challenges they will face. For Christian parents, Proverbs 22:6 applies here: “Teach your children right from wrong, and when they are grown, they will still do right” (CEV). That teaching must be by example as well as by words.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: The Week for October 21, 2022, page 11.

Carson v Makin Discrimination Case

Public Private Religious Schools - Carson v. Makin Discrimination Case

On June 21, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a rare decision supporting Christian institutions. The case was Carson v Makin, in which the court decided that the state of Maine could not discriminate against schools with a religious affiliation. Maine had a tuition aid program for nonsectarian private schools but barred faith-based schools. The Supreme Court invalidated that rule saying, “The State pays tuition for certain students at private schools – so long as the schools are not religious. That is discrimination against religion.” This decision overturned a 2019 ruling by the U.S. District Court of Maine.

This is a complicated issue. As a retired public school teacher, I know the problems created when tax money is divided, so public schools get less funding. The point is not whether tax money should go to private schools but whether, if money is taken away from the public schools, who should get it. Parents who don’t want their kids in public schools desire the option of having their tax money go to a school of their choice.

The problem is that public schools get poorer, and teacher quality goes down. Years ago, I gave a lectureship in a public school that competed with several private schools. The public school was a mess. The restrooms hadn’t been cleaned in several weeks, there were rats in the building, and the furniture was in disrepair. The students in that school were from low-income families. The more affluent families sent their kids to private schools with better funding, a superior environment, and better teachers. The private schools expelled the kids with discipline problems, sending them to the public schools.

The Carson v Makin ruling is a victory for church-affiliated schools, but the problem for public education continues. The Supreme Court’s decision is not over how to manage education but how to eliminate discrimination against Christianity.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: drjamesdobson.org

Bible Literacy Project

Bible Literacy Project published The Bible and Its Influence

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.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Teacher Bible Case Settled

Teacher Bible Case Settled
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.

We hope that this teacher Bible case and others will wake people up to the fact that blind prejudice against religion in the schools deprives people of freedom. Restricting our freedom to quote from or share a Bible should not be tolerated in America.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Problems in American Public Education

Stable Family and Public Education

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 fact is that God’s plan for the family provides the ideal environment for kids to grow up with the drive and motivation to be productive adults. Ephesians 5:15-6:4 instructs Christians in these matters. As a public school teacher, I have seen the wisdom of that teaching over and over. No politician will ever be able to solve the problems of public education until the problems of the American family are resolved, and I would suggest that only Jesus Christ has the power to do that.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Religious Freedom and Equal Rights

Elementary Classroom and Religious Freedom
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.

Christians should stand up for our religious freedom, but that does not mean we have the right to force the Bible on first and second graders in the public schools. We need to be careful not to deny the rights of others in the process of standing up for our own rights.
–John N. Clayton © 2017