Senate Bill 79: We Don't Need Your Education
By Matt Hutaff
Mar 28, 2006
What was Georgia's answer to news its public education system ranked 40th in the nation? Starting up Bible study classes for high school students.
Yesterday's legislative endorsement of Senate Bill 79,
a bipartisan effort that creates a series of electives discussing the
historical and legal aspects of the world's best-selling book, makes
Georgia the first state in the union to support Bible education. "I am
confident that the course[s] will pass constitutional muster," said
bill sponsor Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams after his proposal
met with widespread approval.
Should the bill find favor with
Governor Sonny Perdue, the Georgia Board of Education would require
that public schools offer classes on both the Old and New Testaments.
Distancing themselves from the spiritual aspects of the Bible, said
legislation is designed to teach about how the scriptures redefined
law, literature, art, culture and history. Teachers would also be able
to reference other religious texts at their discretion.
It seems the bill's authors have been very judicious in secularizing a class that by its various nature is religious.
"We do have the opportunity to learn about it in church, but it is a work of literature," said Patrick McAllister, a high school junior. "We shouldn't exclude it [from school] just because it's religious."
Ah, but that's where you're wrong. The Bible should be excluded for precisely that reason.
education does not need an elective course on religion. In theory it
exists to teach fundamental principles like reading, science and
mathematics to children so that they can develop a better awareness of
the world around them. While it's become public record
that socialized education is designed to keep children docile and
subservient to the government, the laws of this nation establish no
prejudice of one religion over another. Placing a Bible in a student's
hand does just that.
How can the Bible teach a high school student about the law? Do we really need to draw a correlation between the Ten Commandments and our modern judicial system? Hammurabi's Code predates any Judaic system of law -- why not study the ethnoreligious aspects of ancient Mesopotamia?
that matter, how can the Bible be used as a historical reference? Many
stories are apocryphal, fantastic or drawn from other earlier, oral
traditions. Despite what devout Christians would have you believe,
there is no contemporary historical proof that Jesus existed beyond the
New Testament, non-canonical texts and word of mouth. The Bible is a
record of faith, re-interpreted and changed over thousands of years to
fit an orthodox view of Christianity.
There are other issues to
consider: Which version of the Bible? Which interpretation? Which
scholars can be relied upon? Which version of Christianity gets top
I don't have a problem with the above, by the way. Men
and women around the world enrich their lives by studying the Bible and
its many layers of meaning. People who adhere to the values put forth
by Jesus -- namely tolerance, love and forgiveness - give credit to a
lasting faith and religion. But Christianity is a deeply personal and
wildly inconsistent religion, and placing it in a public school not
only sets up a battle for which flavor is most accepted, it goes
against the very idea of a society free to pursue whatever belief they
"The chances of being able to teach a
constitutionally legal Bible class in public schools is going to be
very difficult," said Sen. Vincent Fort, one of the senators against
SB79. "If you want your child to learn the Bible, teach it to them
yourself, take them to Sunday school or have them take the class in
Exactly. There are so many other avenues for people to
learn about what faith does or doesn't drive them. And there are
hundreds of books that delve more deeply into the historicity of the
Bible than any 12 week course could provide.
Really, though, my
disapproval for this legislation isn't its progression towards
state-sponsored religion or theocracy. It's that our public education
system is such a mess that it boggles the mind to divert funds away
from what few core classes exist to what amounts to glorified Sunday
Classes are overcrowded, with children often sharing
coursebooks that are old and outdated. Creative outlets such as art and
music classes continue to fall under the budget axe.
Teacher salaries continue to drop; fewer men and women are choosing to become teachers in the first place. Those that do find themselves pressured to conform their curriculum around faith-based initiatives and other programs that please the Bush Administration. It's a miserable time to be in school.
So let's strip money from things that matter for things that don't. Simple as that, right?
Georgia is home to the town that arrogantly charged that Halloween should never fall
on Sunday because Halloween is the day of "the devil," so I'm not
surprised that public Bible study classes are being birthed there. I
just don't understand how any Georgian entrusting their children to the
state's care could warm to the idea of their son or daughter having an
old math primer but a new King James.
Bible thumpers of course brush aside any concerns.
"To be fearful that this is just going to promote something — goodness, as nefarious as Christianity," said Sadie Fields, chairman of the Christian Coalition of Georgia [emphasis mine] on concerns of proselytizing, "I think ... their fears are baseless."
Allow me to be the first to call bullshit.
You don't need a class to study the Bible. Just start right here... and
then thank Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope for providing this
information free of charge:
What's up with the "lost books of the Bible"?
Who Wrote the Bible?, part I
Who Wrote the Bible?, part II
Who Wrote the Bible?, part III
Who Wrote the Bible?, part IV
Who Wrote the Bible?, part V
Copyright © 1998-2006 TheSimon.com
View this story online and more at: http://www.thesimon.com/magazine/articles/canon_fodder/01120_senate_bill_79_need_education.html