ATLANTA — Georgia is poised to introduce two literature classes on the Bible in public schools next year, a move some critics say would make the state the first to take an explicit stance endorsing _ and funding _ biblical teachings.I'm stultified by the controversy surrounding this move by the Georgia Board of Education. The Bible is the best-selling book in the world, with a 600% lead on the runner-up. It is nearly impossible to understand the last two millenia of human history, especially of post-Greco Western thought, without at least a cursory grasp of what it contains. I'm empirically-minded and non-religious yet clearly aware of how obvious this is.
Just a few non-exhaustive events and movements it has inspired or influenced:
- The fall of the Western Roman Empire.
- Anti-Judaism in Europe, from St. John Chrysostom's Homilies against the Jews to Luther's On the Jews and Their Lies to Nazi Germany.
- Isonomy (both at the individual and national levels) through priests like Montesinos, Vitoria, and Las Casas.
- The laying of the groundwork for Newtonian physics by the French priest Jean Buridan, Steno's stratigraphic principles, and Newton's own inspiration for inquiry, among other early scientific contributions, were facilitated by their shared belief in a rational creator that would not act in capricious vanity--in opposition to Islam's idea of omnipotence without bounds or understanding ('Inshallah'), Buddhism's immovable conception of the physical world and the laws binding it as ephemeral (and Socratic philosophy can be seen similarly), animism's mysticism, and the Confucian focus on emulating nature without manipulating it.
- The Crusades that momentarily halted almost five centuries of Islamic aggression and expansion into Europe and disrupted the continent's internecine fighting. Secular leaders like Raymond of Toulouse of the First Crusade epitomize the religious motivations for the reclaiming pilgramiges to Jerusalem, and the Hospitallers' construction of a grand hospice in Jerusalem to care for pilgrims first and later the downtrodden in general at no expense to its hosts evince a Christian impetus.
- Moralistic self-improvement on a personalized level, as illustrated by John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and the Protestant idea of an individual calling, the idea that work is intrinsically rewarding, a way of doing God's work without an eye for personal gain (as opposed to the Catholic emphasis on 'works'), that forms the basis for what Max Weber called the "Protestant Work Ethic".
- Poland's struggle against the Soviet Union.
- The zealotry of the Inquisition and the dogmatic opposition of some in the Catholic Church to the veracious theories put forth by Galileo.
- The contemporary social conservative's opposition to abortion (pithely found in Jeremiah 1:5's "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you..."), emphasis on personal charity (Matthew 25:40's "The king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'"), and opposition to homosexuality (Romans 1:27's "In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.")
Those sporadic points are pulled from a mind full of mush that spent thirteen years in the public school system and another four at a state university. The influence is far more pervasive than I can possibly make clear.
It is absurd that those who argue against parental groups wishing to remove controversial books from school reading lists are not up in arms over how little attention is given to the Bible, especially the Gospels. That various ideas and lifestyles floating around in the stratosphere should not be denied to 'empowered' children is the typical argument, so the Bible should be at the top of their advocacy lists. Clearly the value of exposure to biblical writings and their historical relevance outstrips the value in reading fictional books about pedophilia, drug-use, and sexual experimentation.
The ACLU, self-described defender of individual freedom, doesn't like Georgia's proposed courses (both of which are electives):
Maggie Garrett, legislative counsel for the Georgia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the curriculum approved Tuesday _ like the Legislation itself _ is vague.Wow. Then it is time to scrap every course ending in -studies. Might want to ax political science courses and the humanities as well. Governmental schools are replete with examples of teachers pushing their ideological beliefs on impressionable children, and the ACLU often defends their right to do so. The best way to combat this problem is by offering video-recorded lectures to students so that the top instructors can be utilized by millions of students, instead of putting them in front of mediocre minds often times less intelligent than they are.
"They didn't put in any outlines describing what they can and can't do constitutionally," she said. "The same traps are there for teachers who decide to teach the class."
Some teachers might seek to include their own beliefs or be pushed by students into conversations that include religious proselytizing, Garrett said.