Among other issues I’ve not followed closely on the blog due to a way too-busy summer is the issue of teaching the Bible in Texas public schools. The Texas Lege, failing to get a contract with Comedy Central, passed a law that says every public school district in Texas “may” teach a course in the Bible if kids petition for it.
The bill had fancier, slightly more legal language, but was just about that ambiguous (having drafted my first federal law <cough>34</cough> years ago, and having written many amendments to state, federal and local laws, and having survived the rigorous legislative drafting course at George Washington, I feel qualified to complain about the problems in the law’s language).
Left hanging were answers to these questions:
- Who or what determines the curriculum for such a course?
- Does the law require the district to offer the class, when a request is made? For one student? For ten?
- Will the state provide money to offer the class, since every district in the state is under-funded?
- Will the State School Board authorize texts for the class, so individual districts don’t have to spring to buy the texts, even though the state fund is grossly underfunded and text purchases in core areas like mathematics, science and English go begging?
The question about whether the law requires a course to be offered was bucked over to the Texas Attorney General’s office, but so far they have ducked the issue (if Greg Abbott were alive today, I’m sure they would have given a quicker answer so schools could prepare).
The question on whether the SBOE would offer guidance on curriculum was also answered in July. No.
About three dozen school districts in Texas’s 254 counties already offer courses in the Bible. Some have been sued for offering more of a Sunday school class, and they lost, or settled, by requiring real academic rigor.
What are the stakes?
Well, consider that Texas also has among the highest teen-age, school-girl pregnancy rates in the nation, which contributes mightily to a staggering drop out rate. Shouldn’t Texans be happy that kids can get instruction on Biblical history and its use as literature?
Well, have you read the Bible?
You know, I think you just might be right.
Anita over on her blog [Grace Unfolding] wrote an interesting article related to what you are saying, and she surprised the heck out of me with a new Biblical revelation (for me, anyway). The dude and the chick in Song of Songs (Song of Solomon?), even though they ended up in the sack, were NOT MARRIED! [bolding and link added]
I never really cared for the Song of Songs before – too many Christian guys quoting it to me when they bragged about how ‘Godly’ their marriage was and how the Holy Spirit was giving their sex life a boost. Puh-leese! Breasts like fawns? What’s next – thigh’s like calves? (Wait a minute… )
How will this play in Crawford, Beaumont, Pleasant Grove, Crockett or Paris? Oh, my.
So far the SBOE has gone with a “teach the controversy” philosophy in science. Turnabout is fair play, no?
- Dispatches on the Culture Wars notes that Odessa, Texas, adopted a tough Bible curriculum
- Texas Freedom Network gateway to the Bible in public schools
- Time Magazine’s March 2008 cover story, “The Case for Teaching the Bible”
- First Amendment Center, “The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide“
- ACLU statement on the Bible and public schools
- Dallas Morning News, August 7, 2008, “Texas must improve math, science education, task force says”