Texas Schools Struggle to Teach Bible Literacy

Schools around Texas are trying to find a way to incorporate Bible teaching into classrooms as mandated by a new law. However, the law is vague and doesn't provide a great deal of direction for school officials.

One initial version of the bill reads, "A school district shall offer to students in grade nine and above an elective course in Hebrew Scriptures and its impact and an elective course on the New Testament and its impact, or an elective course that combines the courses."

The final version of the bill reads a school district "may offer."

Dallas Independent School District has used the final wording as an excuse to skirt having to offer new classes, while other schools have chosen to add teaching about the Bible to current world history and literature courses, such as Frisco ISD and Irving ISD.

The wording of the bill makes it clear that the teaching will be strictly neutral and provide education about a greatly influential work, without convincing the students they need to be born again. For instance, in a typical college course looking at a T.S. Eliot poem, students are required to know the biblical allusions in the work as well as something about the references to the Hindu Upanishads.

Nobody calls their mom.

In a 2006 survey, 39 out of 39 professors at 34 of the top colleges in the United States agreed that, "Regardless of a person's faith, an educated person needs to know about the Bible."

However, the lack of training in particular for teachers to guide them on how to teach such a controversial topic is worrisome for many. The bill requires teacher training, state-approved materials and other standards to be approved by the attorney general.

That training did not happen in time for this school year because the Texas Education Agency did not request funding.

Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, said their lack of funding was the source of the confusion. The TEA says it already allotted funding for English and social studies classes which covered Biblical material.

Holly LaFon has written for various local publications including D Magazine and Examiner.

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