Thursday, August 04, 2005

Teaching the Bible in Public Schools

The Odessa, Texas, School Board has made waves by approving a plan to allow an elective course on the Bible to be taught at the local high school.

We can thank the New York Times for attracting national attention to this news item. I found out about it by way of Tom Carter, who brought the issue to my attention through this post on his excellent blog.

The NYT, of course, cast the whole thing in the lurid colors of slack-jawed yokels reintroducing creation history and using urban legends as evidence of the Bible inerrancy.

At first, I was appalled that a public school board anywhere would flaunt the constitutional separation of church and state in such a clumsy, heavy-handed manner.

Then I remembered that it was viewing it all through the eye of the NYT, so I took a second look.

It turns out that all the accusations of creation science and the use of urban legends as biblical proofs come from opponents of the course. Which include militantly atheistic outfits such as Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

I located the outfit which created the course. They are the The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools. I was able to access their site yesterday, though not today. I suspect the NYT article has caused them to crash their server.

The syllabus for the course (the contents page, at least) says nothing about that. Rather, it appears that the course is teaching the history of the early Jews and Christians rather than any creationist nonsense. This, all liberal protestations aside, would be a wholly appropriate course, even in a public school, since it would instruct students about the Judeo-Christian roots of our society-- those roots which have had the single, most profound effect on the moral and cultural structure of Western Civilization.

I haven't seen the detailed syllabus. It costs $150. But then, the NYT wasn't willing to spring for the actual syllabus, either. The NYT relied exclusively on the opinions of various opponents of the new course.

The NYT can afford $150 to get real information rather than second hand gossip, for crying out loud.