Bible study “introduced” to S. Dakota curriculum

Posted: February 1, 2012 in Current Events, Religion

Imagine living in a place where, when you went to school you were faced with learning religious doctrine and sacred texts.  No, I’m not referring to an Islamic country, but rather to South Dakota.  The state legislature of South Dakota has just passed a bill “encouraging” school boards to include more religious and Biblical study in their curriculum.  At this point in time, the inclusion is not mandated, just encouraged, providing the school boards with the option to do this if they wish.

Imagine being in a school where the board has instituted this.  It is not hard to foresee situations where students would be pressured into taking such courses, sitting in classes and receiving Christian propaganda.  Where are the rights of the non-Christian religions, or, for that matter, the non-religious.  While school boards would always claim that no student was forced to take these courses, the reality in some schools would be quite to the contrary.  Such courses would be regarded in some places with a lot of prejudicial passion and peer pressure to take the courses (or persecution if you declined) would no doubt be present.

Also, this kind of “encouragement” is just too close to an official policy statement for a public school system.  Here in Ontario, if you want religious instruction mixed into your education, you can attend a Catholic Separate School or a private school.  All public schools should approach religion with a long stick.

Now, oddly, I’m not totally opposed to Biblical study in public schools.  In the many years in which I taught in my last school, almost all of the students (including most of the ones from evangelical families) had practically no knowledge of Bible stories.  I’m talking about virtually no knowledge of the story of the Garden of Eden or of Noah’s Flood, or of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  I don’t know where I picked up my Biblical knowledge, but it seems to be way more than most people’s, including as I said Christians.  (In fact I believe that there is a previous post on this blog that I’m too lazy to search for, citing statistics about the complete lack of knowledge by Christians of basic Biblical stories.)

Why do I think they’re important?  For the same reason that I think that Greek myths are important.  Mythology, including that which is in the Bible, is critical to the metaphorical understanding of much literature.  Shakespeare, for example, uses mythological analogies constantly, as do the great poets.  -Not to mention Family Guy and The Simpsons.  Whatever else they may be, they are powerful stories that lend themselves to significant metaphorical use.  Without them, the door is shut on a lot of literary subtlety.

But, I don’t want it shoved down my throat.  Perhaps a comparative religions class that looks at everything from Greek myths (which were, in fact, religious in nature) to Biblical content, to Taoist, Islamic and Native American stories, would be beneficial.  It would never happen in these American communities, because in order to do so people would have to accept that a culture other than Christian may have some study value.

They would always insist that Christianity be placed on a pedestal above all other, -because, of course, the study of comparative religions would be threatening and people can’t be trusted to think for themselves.

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