Teaching the Bible in Public Schools Is a Bad Idea—For Christians
According to a recent USA Today report, conservative Christian lawmakers in several states have proposed legislation that would “require or encourage public schools to offer elective classes on the Bible’s literary and historical significance.” But if conservative Christians don’t trust public schools to teach their children about sex or science, Jonathan Merritt asked last week, why would they want to outsource instruction about sacred scripture to government employees?
I taught a Bible as Literature class for a number of years at the Bronx High School of Science. The course was a semester-long elective. One time a student declared surprise that there were people who wanted the Bible mandated for public schools: “Don’t they realize how much sex and violence there is in the Bible?”
My students came from every possible background, and I was proud that my course was universally popular, though I was a visibly orthodox Jew (I wore a yarmulke). The course did not ever generate complaints, even though I taught it to hundreds of students across almost a decade prior to my retirement in 2003. Of course it is very difficult to teach the course in such a way that Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics, and atheists would all appreciate the effort.