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The Bible in South curriculum

Posted By Volume 49 Senior Editors On December 23, 2009 @ 2:58 am In Editorials and Opinions | Comments Disabled

Sophomore Jack Summers was recently exempted from reading the Bible in English class, following discussion between the Summers family and South administration. As Summers’ mother wrote in a letter to the editor of The Newton TAB, Summers chose to “exercise his First Amendment right to be an atheist.

While a student’s personal preference should necessarily be accommodated for, it is relevant to note that the First Amendment states that there should be no prohibition of the free exercise of religion, nor should any law dictate the establishment of any single religion. Can it be said that the study of the Bible in the sophomore curriculum infringes on this right?

As stated Justice Robert Jackson in McCollum v. Board of Education (1948), “one can hardly respect the system of education that would leave the student wholly ignorant of the currents of religious thought that move the world society for … which he is being prepared. That is to say that even the nonbeliever should acknowledge that faith has been, and still is, an enormous influence on human thought.

From poet Dylan Thomas to authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, religious allusion has been a major part of Western literary tradition, both as a vehicle of expression and a subject of analysis. In history, entire wars have been waged on religious grounds; figures from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr. have drawn from Biblical events and teachings; currents of Judeo-Christian theology run throughout Western philosophy and morals.

That being said, even in a non-religious context, the Bible as a primary source document is an important text. In South’s curriculum, the Bible is examined strictly as a piece of literature and not as a religious text; no matter whether it is considered by others to be the Word of God, in the context of the classroom it is treated as literature.

Summers took issue with the reading of the holy text itself more than the fact that religion was part of the curriculum. But students read the actual Scripture for the same reason that they read A Midsummer Night’s Dream and not No Fear Shakespeare, and that is because in literature especially, the original wording is vital for analysis and understanding. With the actual text of such an old and influential piece of writing available, there is no reason why it should not be used, as long as it is not subject to religious interpretation in the classroom.

Some would argue then that on those grounds, students should also study the texts of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other religions. But in structuring an English curriculum with a finite amount of time to be allotted, it is natural that the Bible’€the best-selling book of all time, the best-selling book of the year every year, arguably the oldest and most substantive influencer of Western thought and literature’€should be prioritized.

Denebola commends the South administration for being so willing to accommodating to Summers’ preference, but would like to place emphasis on the importance of the study of the Bible in the sophomore English curriculum. Given that the context is non-religious and focused instead on the literary aspect and historical context of the text, the Bible is a valid unit of study and as such deserves as much respect and compliance as any other English unit.

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URL to article: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/12/23/the-bible-in-south-curriculum/

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[1] Teacher absences take a toll on South students: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/05/13/teacher-absences-take-a-toll-on-south-students/

[2] Selected Poems of Emily Dickenson: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2008/03/19/selected-poems-of-emily-dickenson/

[3] South students praise teacher: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2008/04/16/south-students-praise-teacher/

[4] Cultural differences should not be overlooked with burqa: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/11/02/cultural-differences-should-not-be-overlooked-with-burqa/

[5] Faculty Focus: Michael Kennedy: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/faculty-focus-michael-kennedy/

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