May 27, 2005


Why the Bible Belongs in America's Public Schools: Without knowing Scripture, kids can't understand literature or U.S. history (DAVID GELERNTER, May 27, 2005, LA Times)

[W]ithout knowing the Bible, you can't begin to understand English literature or American history. And a recently published survey finds that American teenagers don't know the Bible well enough. (The study was commissioned by a group called the Bible Literacy Project, conducted by Gallup and funded by the John Templeton Foundation.)

How to respond? Do we dare teach the Bible in our own public schools, built and staffed with our own money? Or do we surrender to Creeping Litigation Anxiety? To the fear that any course that includes the Bible is bound to provoke lawsuits — although there is nothing unconstitutional about teaching stories and language fundamental to American culture?

Some background: Shakespeare and the Bible in English are the twin foundations of English literature. Many believe that the Bible (especially the King James translation of 1611) is the more important twin by far. It "has influenced our literature more deeply than any other book," wrote the British scholar Arthur Quiller-Couch. Bible-blind students are apt to misconstrue "the implications, even the meaning" of what they read, wrote educator and critic Herman Northrop Frye.

Can you understand American culture without knowing the biblical context of "covenant," "promised land," "shining city on a hill"?

Further, the Bible and Bible-centered Protestantism are central to U.S. history — to your history if you are American, whether you are Protestant or not. The founders had varied beliefs, writes the philosopher-historian Michael Novak in "On Two Wings," but they found common ground "by appealing to the God of the Hebrews and the religious heritage of the Torah, a 'Biblical metaphysics.' "

As public schools exist for the sole purpose of raising up a republican citizenry and as you can't comprehend the Republic unless you understand its Judeo-Christian ends why not just teach the Bible as religion?

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 27, 2005 6:29 AM

Public Schools exist to churn out little Trotskyites, I thought that this had been settled by the ACLU v. Everyone case of 1968.

Posted by: AML at May 27, 2005 3:27 PM

Everyone should know what's in the Bible. I read it to my kids. We started at Gen 1:1 and went straight through.

I certainly think the Bible ought to be taught in public schools. I can't wait to see the parents' reaction when the kiddies come home and ask, ' How come Abraham was ready to kill his son in the 120th trimester?'

Posted by: Harry Eagar at May 27, 2005 4:15 PM

Gelernter is doing yeoman's work at the LATimes.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 27, 2005 4:20 PM


Rare sense.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 5:01 PM

Harry proves the adage once again: "Scratch an atheist, find a fundamentalist."

Posted by: Pontius at May 27, 2005 9:59 PM

Fundamentalism is the only intellectually responsible position to take toward any sacred text. Either it's all true, or none of it is.

But what Orrin is advocating is not to teach what's in the Bible but what he wishes were in it.

If you actually let those midget moral entrepreneurs loose inside, they will be appalled. Mine were.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at May 30, 2005 1:34 PM


That's the teacher, not the teaching.

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2005 3:40 PM