Hey reporters, want to know what’s taught in public school Bible classes? Ask teachers, students — GetReligion


I am always fascinated by news reports about Bible lessons in public schools.

I first broached the subject over 20 years ago when I wrote a front-page article for Oklahoma on a debate on electives in Bible and religion in the Oklahoma City School District.

In today’s post, I want to highlight a Monks Register story that goes further – yes, the reporter actually spoke to teachers and students – reporting on a bill introduced at the Iowa Statehouse.

The Sign up leads:

A proposal from Statehouse to expand access to Bible literacy classes in Iowa public schools is causing controversy among parents and educators.

Proponents say Bible lessons provide important historical or cultural context for students. But opponents say the legislation is a back door to teaching Christianity.

To get more perspective, the Monks Register went looking for places where the Bible is already being taught in Iowa classrooms.

He found a course in one of eastern Iowa’s most liberal enclaves: Iowa City.

Three high schools in Iowa City offer a “Bible as Literature” course.

Now, this opening isn’t the most exciting I’ve ever read – but it certainly presents the facts in an unbiased and direct way.

Read on, and the document offers some interesting details from teachers and students about what the classroom really encompasses:

The course has been offered for several decades, teachers said. It started as a way to teach students Bible stories, such as David and Goliath, which are common references in literature and pop culture.

Some teens don’t understand references coming into the classroom, teachers said. Others do, but they want to dig deeper into how the Bible has influenced literature and artistic expression like music.

he 12-week English course is offered to juniors and seniors as an option. In a sense, this is a crash course in what is often called biblical allegory.

“We talk about it not as a historical text, not as a religious text, but as a piece of literature,” said Kerri Barnhouse, a West High teacher who ran the course for about 10 years.

History is at its best when it sticks to what teachers and students know. That is, the program and the classroom approach.

Had I been the editor, I would have suggested either (1) leaving out certain sections of the story that accuse others of wrong motives, or (2) doing what is responsible for a point of journalistic view and let those attacked respond. These two sentences, for example, should be cut or expanded to include the other party’s point of view:

She and others who teach the class in Iowa City question the motives of the current legislation, which was backed by the conservative Christian group head of the family.

There is nothing stopping the class now, so they wonder why the legislation is being brought forward.

Despite this criticism, congratulations to the Register to go to a school and interview teachers and students.

It happens sometimes on stories like this, yes, but not enough.


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