[I]t's not too hard to accept the argument that, in western society, "an educated person is familiar with the Bible." Coloquial speech in America is laced with Biblical references. In fact, Matthew 22 is central to understanding the secular/religious struggles that led to bloody European wars - and eventually, a new nation built on the principles of freedom of religion, freedom from religion (freedom of thought) and freedom of the press. But turning teachers loose to teach the Bible as literature?Well, first of all, one wonders why it's hard to accept the role the Bible plays in our cultural history at all. But beyond that, there must be a name for the kind of argument that pretends to be concerned about the integrity of one thing, but is secretly really concerned about something else. Somehow--and I really hate to question Day's motivation here--it doesn't really seem like he's concerned about how the Bible would be taught, but rather has that little voice in the back of the brain--overactive in many civil liberties types--that keeps whispering how the First Amendment says that we should eliminate religion from the public square altogether.
Get this: In high school, books do not teach themselves so much as teachers teach them.
Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that it is NOT the intent of Boswell, Worley or Carroll to have the Bible besmirched. Let's assume they merely wish Kentucky students to become more familiar with the Bible's literature. Let's assume they have no interest in "establishing religion" so there will be no effort to direct how the book must be taught, or what lessons should be taken from the text. Let's assume there will be no special requirements of English teachers teaching the Bible than there are for teaching Hamlet.
Just exactly how might that work in the classroom of a teacher who held no particular reverence for the good book?
Of course, if that were the case, Day would be doing the same thing he accuses the sponsors of Senate Bill 142 of doing: taking a public position for reasons other than their stated ones. I am willing to listen to Day's protestations on this, but I will have to say I remain unconvinced.
More importantly, however, if teachers are not competent enough to teach such a basic course in Bible literacy, then why are they teaching in our schools in the first place? Are public school teachers really so Biblically illiterate that they are incapable of teaching such a course?
If we admit--as the bill states and as I think any learned person would have to admit, and as Day says he is, with minimal pain, willing to admit--that Biblical literacy is necessary for a competent understanding of our "culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy," then what Day is in fact saying is that our schools are populated by people who do not have a competent understanding of our culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy.
This is quite an admission on Day's part. In fact, it is a stunning vote of no confidence in our public schools.
If the army of teachers we have out there are so pedagogically challenged they they would screw up a Bible literacy class, what other subjects are they incapable of handling? Are they butchering history right now, even as I write, teaching that the Egypt was populated by mummies and that they wrote in hydraulics? that Homer's books were not really written by Homer but by another author of the same name? or that Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock?
Are teachers even now on a rampage through other subjects, creating educational havoc as they go? Are they telling their poor unfortunate charges that a semicolon is a reference to the small intestine? that H2O is hot water, and CO2 is cold water? and that Penelope was the last hardship Ulysses endured on his journey?
Where are his blog posts expressing concern over whether we should teach math, science, literature, and foreign language on the grounds that teachers might mess them up? If teachers are not cometent to teach a Bible literacy course, then why should they be considered competent enough to teach anything else? If the lack of teacher competence is an argument against having Bible literacy classes in our public schools, why isn't it an argument against having any other courses in schools?
It can't be because they may be biased in teaching the Bible: they can be biased in teaching anything. Try taking an English course at a state university. In fact, we set up whole departments in our universities for the express purpose of indoctrinating students in political ideologies--but I don't remember Day speaking out against Womens' Studies departments in the recent past.
In fact, I wonder if Sharon Oxendine, president of the state teacher's union, shares Day's view of the lack of teacher ability. Sharon, you there?
Day's argument isn't with this bill, it's with the system he claims to support.