Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Georgia public schools to offer classes on Bible

The Good Book is going to get a good look down in Georgia:
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.

"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.
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.

6 comments:

BillyBob said...

Great points and observations!
Your last point really hits the target.....The question is not should the Bible be one of many sources of information in public schools--even the most nimble of thinkers (this excludes the ACLU "think tank")would agree to that. As to why others haven't embraced the thought before is the fear your last point touches on....It is scarry to think of what some clown might try to teach!

JSBolton said...

This shows why public schools can't sustain civilization. How can you teach history without reference to what happened? If history has Winston Smith's job done to it, how can there be informed and reasonable resistance to the implementation of even Khmer Rouge-type of despotism? This consideration alone should make clear why power-seekers need public schools. If public schools teach religion, they establish it. It is not compatible with freedom-from- aggression to have public schools teach, or refuse to teach, religion in some degree; therefore such schools ought not to exist. They should be privatized. Once this is done, the propaganda organs of the power-greedy are cut off. Spontaneous opinion and beliefs rule, and an actual marketplace of ideas becomes possible, as well as the expected charity houses of ideas. The historical role of religion would not be slighted, though. It would not be treated as just so much voodoo blocking the way of science. That the pious can remain seated and silent while the public schools make their religion ought to be nothing but superstition, maliciously obstructing the progress of humanity, shows scandalous weakness and indignity in the population. If they all rose and demanded the suppression and privatization of the government schools as such, the witches of the left would wither and dissipate, so to speak. The teachers of nihilism to the innocent, would be rebuked and cast down, as they should be.

undergroundman said...

I agree, although I'm not so sure that watching videos of great teachers is a worthwhile substitute for an actual teacher. Perhaps it would be better than being taught by a moron.

If we had Biblical education than perhaps these new Biblical scholars would start calling out the authority on its blatantly anti-Christian actions and policies.

Then again, in Georgia, this class is most likely going to be a course in co-opted religion taken by Christian fundamentalists. Core topics: creationism, abortion, activist judges, braindead economics, and how to accept Jesus into your heart.

I took Bible classes up till 8th grade.

crush41 said...

billybob,

But singling out Christian proselytizing is disingenious at best. Those in opposition to exposure to biblical writings do not appear concerned about all the other forms of dogmatic indoctrination that public school teachers and college professors routinely push.

John,

Well put, as always.

Underground,

I agree that a video substitute isn't absolutely optimal in a perfect world. But not everyone can get into MIT or Princeton, or have access to the best teachers from K-12.

Western students need to know the history of the civilization they belong to. It's the greatest the world has ever seen. It needs to at least be given a fair hearing.

undergroundman said...

"You argue that one big reason that most of humanity's highest achievers came from what used to be called Christendom was ... Christianity. Did you expect to reach that conclusion?"

Heh. We've got "the fall of the Western Roman Empire", the "Dark Ages", "The Middle Ages", and today's current problems to blame, at least in part, on Christianity. I guess it has achieved a lot.

The question we need to ask is (the essence of the ACLU's argument): can we trust schools present gullible children with a decently accurate view on the Christianity so they can make up their mind? Could it be harmful if they weren't?

Let's just say I'm glad that this is only happening in Georgia. It is likely the symptom of something worrying. If you watch Fox news, or if you've heard of Jesus camp, you might understand what I mean.

crush41 said...

Underground,

The Dark Ages saw the Carolingian Renaissance and the nascent beginnings of what would become the university system. Germanic invasions from the north and Islamic incursions from the south were creating chaotic upheavel during the heart of the Dark Ages.

The Italian Renaissance didn't spring up overnight. Buridan's theories on currency, Oresme's monumental work on how naturally occuring exchange rates are more conducive to economic activity than arbitrary ratios, and Azpilcueta's description of inflation, all occured during the Middle Ages.

The natural philosophy that really developed in the 12th Century broke from the Aristotlean understanding of nature in that it assumed a discernible explanation for natural phenomena. That is, non-living things progressively lost their attributes of personification. Smoke didn't simply rise because it liked the sky, or rocks fall to the earth because they liked the ground.

The Benedictine Cistercians made the first largescale use of hydropowered mechanization. Suddenly monasteries were self-supporting, even utility-creating. And the Catholic Church's networking allowed these advances to be transmitted throughout Europe very rapidly.

The first universal hospitals were constructed under the auspices of the Church in the 4th Century, breaking from the Roman focus on physicians caring for particular members of society.

Anselm, Occam, and one of the most important figures in Western thought, Aquinas, all operated in the Middle Ages. Scholasticism took rational, logical argumentation to a degree of sophistication that was unequaled in the rest of the world.

I wish American students were taught this. Instead, they are told to write-off the European thought prior to Dante. It's unfortunate.