March 29, 2006
This week’s theme appears to be works of fiction:
ATLANTA, March 28 — Georgia is about to become the first state to approve the use of the Bible as a textbook in public schools.
On Monday, the State Senate passed a bill providing money to high schools that offer elective classes in the Bible, and setting specific guidelines for those classes. The bill was approved by Georgia’s House of Representatives last week.
Gov. Sonny Perdue is expected to sign the law.
The bill creates two courses, the History and Literature of the Old Testament Era and the History and Literature of the New Testament Era, that can be offered as electives. It gives the state’s Department of Education a year to approve the curriculum, but it requires that the Bible itself, not a textbook, be the core material used. Supplementary materials can also be used.
Other state school systems offer classes in the Bible, but Georgia’s law would be the first to require that the Bible be the core text. Legislators in Alabama and Missouri are considering similar measures.
With the enactment of the law, public schools in Georgia will be pushed, once again, into grappling with whether or how ideas tied to religion can be introduced into classrooms without violating the separation of church and state.
Well, they can’t, as a Georgia school district discovered last year when a federal judge ordered the removal of textbook stickers that questioned evolution. It’s hardly surprising that Frances Paterson, an associate professor at Valdosta State University who specializes in religion and public education, thinks the new bill “might be a little constitutionally infirm.”
Tommie Williams, the Georgia Senate majority leader and sponsor of the bill, said the law was intended to encourage an understanding of the Bible’s myriad cultural influences.
“Kids are illiterate of the Bible,” Mr. Williams said. “They don’t understand the text and how it affects government or history. If we’re teaching a kid what the Good Samaritan law was about, they wouldn’t know.”
“Kids are illiterate of the Bible?” Williams, it seems, is simply illiterate.
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