Vouchers are out and the Bible is in Georgia high school classrooms. The state legislature voted down plans for vouchers, and many lawmakers cited concerns about the effect of vouchers on the state’s public schools. But this week, a plan to introduce a course in the history and literature of the Bible as an elective in high school was approved.
The version of the Bible used will be determined by local school boards. The full year class will include Old Testament and New Testament. One senator expressed the thought that since Bible study is so much a part of many students’ religious lives, and of the culture in many parts of the state, that it would be good for students to have an academic view of it available to them.
I think this is a good point. Freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion. By making the course academic, and an elective, it fits within the guidelines established for public schools on first amendment issues, and does not endorse the religion itself. There is some concern that teachers or students could take advantage of the situation to impose their views, but that can be monitored by the local board with the cooperation of students and parents.
Having a course like this removes the invisible line that students tiptoe around – celebrating religion in their personal lives but avoiding any mention of it as an important experience in relation to school. Also, not all Christians have the same point of view, and students will be exposed to different interpretations of text through discussions with all students in the class, not just the ones they worship with. Add to the discussion the points of view of Jewish students, and those who use other holy books or who do not practice any religion, and you have a great opportunity to open young minds.