addressalign-toparrow-leftarrow-rightbackbellblockcalendarcameraccwcheckchevron-downchevron-leftchevron-rightchevron-small-downchevron-small-leftchevron-small-rightchevron-small-upchevron-upcircle-with-checkcircle-with-crosscircle-with-pluscrossdots-three-verticaleditemptyheartexporteye-with-lineeyefacebookfolderfullheartglobegmailgooglegroupsimageimagesinstagramlinklocation-pinm-swarmSearchmailmessagesminusmoremuplabelShape 3 + Rectangle 1outlookpersonStartprice-ribbonImported LayersImported LayersImported Layersshieldstartickettrashtriangle-downtriangle-uptwitteruseryahoo

Arkansas Society of Freethinkers Message Board Local Breaking News › Arkansas News - Sunday school on weekdays?

Arkansas News - Sunday school on weekdays?

Dave B.
user 13155367
Sherwood, AR
Post #: 29
Arkansas News - Sunday school on weekdays?

Sunday school on weekdays?
Posted on 09 December 2010

By John Brummett

I would express outrage over Denny Altes’ bill to require the state Education Department to develop a curriculum for teaching the Bible in public schools except that public schools in Arkansas already may teach the Bible.

I would be outraged about that except that Nancy Rousseau, principal of Central High in Little Rock, says the Bible has been taught — in the past, though not this year — as an elective literature course by her school’s English department, and that no one ever raised any objection to her.

More to the recent point: Cabot High School began offering a Bible-as-literature course this semester, a purely elective one attracting 32 students that centers on biblical stories such as those of Joseph’s coat and Jacob’s dream. One of 90 such electives, the course requires students to analyze these narratives for plot, theme, conflict and character and compare them to modern literary works.

Rousseau at Central didn’t think this was any big deal. Dr. Tony Thurman, the Cabot superintendent, brought in his curriculum director to participate in our conversation via speaker phone and help make clear the vigilant caution the district had taken in designing the course to emphasize comparative literature while dutifully avoiding religion.

The big key, Thurman said, was the right teacher.

Thurman said a few kids dropped out when they realized the class wasn’t an easy grade based on what they already knew from Sunday school.

Why do such a class at all? Thurman said it was because college-entrance exams often contain references to biblical characters or stories.

Still, the design and execution of such a class is an artful dance, and, as you know, dancing is against some people’s religion.

So I am left to express concern that this is a slippery slope.

These non-controversial experiences at Central and Cabot aside, we cannot easily trust that Bible courses in the limited context of secular literature or history instruction could possibly steer ever-clear of any overlap with religious doctrine if practiced on a widespread basis on this the very buckle of the Bible Belt.

That key cited by Thurman — the right teacher — is the very variable most out of our control.

I simply am not crazy about hundreds of high school English or history teachers across Arkansas standing in front of students to hold forth on the Bible without dipping the occasional toe into some subtle or not-subtle religious indoctrination.

Even the best teacher conceivably could be at peril. What about the one who cites a biblical reference as metaphor and then finds that one of the kids went home and told his daddy the fundamentalist preacher that the teacher had declared that something in God’s inspired word was not actually so?

How about the story of the garden of Eden? Is it a literary example of common mythology and of how such lore gets adapted and passed down from culture to culture?

Actually, though, this horse is out of the barn.

Altes’ bill, which calls on the Education Department to establish a Bible curriculum for the local school districts to avail themselves of only if they choose, is unnecessary.

Already in these two cases, at Central and Cabot, the school districts submitted extensive proposed framework for teaching the Bible as literature as an elective course counting toward graduation. Both received the formal go-ahead after the state Education Department reviewed the framework and assured itself that religious doctrine would not be broached.

So what the Fort Smith representative wants to accomplish is, in fact, already effectively done.

I am just hoping it does not catch on.

John Brummett is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. His e-mail address is; his telephone number is (501) 374-0699.
Montgomery, AL
Post #: 1
Even if they call it Mythology, Is the faculty really going to treat it as such? I doubt it but I'm not surprised; judging by the enrollment, it doesn't seem to popular. There should be better options out of the 90 electives for kids to take, but passing a bill to make this curriculum mandatory is the first step in adopting a state religion. Not so good.
George S
user 13502116
Little Rock, AR
Post #: 17
I would feel better if this class included other mythologies/religions in the curriculum.
Why only focus on the Bible? Well, I think we know why.
What about the Qur'an, Gita, or Ancient Greek and Roman religions?
I see it as TOO focused not to raise red flags.
user 4295978
Grand Rapids, MN
Post #: 136
The dubious “basis” for offering such a class in publicly-funded high schools seems limited to two arguments. The one stated by the Cabot School Superintendent Thurman is the most alarming---and ought to be checked out thoroughly (!) by those with a stake in these issues.

Brummett writes: “Why do such a class at all? Thurman said it was because college-entrance exams often contain references to biblical characters or stories
Is this true…or a lie? Which colleges have “entrance exams” that include questions about biblical characters? Is he referring to private Christian colleges (in which case, Thurman’s excuse doesn’t fly in regard to the “need” (?) for such classes in public schools), or do some publicly-funded colleges actually include such questions on their entrance exams? If the latter is true, why? (and shouldn’t such questions, irrelevant to a public education, be fought by responsible citizens to be removed from the entrance exams of tax-funded colleges?!?!...)
The argument against such classes in public high schools starts THERE! Expose Thurman’s justification on that point…and his only other justifications must rest solely on an old, worn-out, extremely debatable argument.

The other argument for defending such an enigmatic addition to high school curriculum---the argument that the way the justifications and “frameworks” are stated points to ---says that “the Bible”, quite aside from its admittedly major influence as a religious text, is obviously (?) also “great literature”. Again, this is an extremely debatable idea!
(Proponents of this idea typically point to the prose of the comparatively tiny book “Song of Solomon”---a book whose prose is, in my opinion, both hyperbolically over-rated by some Christians as well as being, ironically, often disparaged or ignored by many fundamentalist Christians themselves because of its “sensuality”!)

Thurman says that the purpose of the class is “to analyze these narratives for plot, theme, conflict and character and compare them to modern literary works… to emphasize comparative literature”. But any objective and truly COMPETENT teacher of “comparative literature” would likely agree that (compared to, say, Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”, Jean Auel’s “Clan of the Cave Bear”, John Irving’s “World According To Garp” or Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code”, to name a few "modern literary works") the overwhelming majority of the writing found in the 66 books of the Bible is profoundly (monotonously) lacking in literary stylishness, aesthetic detail, effective plot or character development and/or dramatic finesse! Try to compare the weird, abruptly presented, completely disjointed and esoteric imagery of the book of Revelations or the book of Daniel with the sublime plot and character development and aesthetic detail that underlies the fantasy imagery of Tolkein’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy…..or compare the almost complete lack of detail regarding the formative adolescent, teen and twenties years of supposedly the most important "character" in the Bible, "Jesus of Nazareth", with what is meticulously written about the early life and inner thoughts and psychology of the character Stephen Daedalus in James Joyce's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man"....and, in most cases, the bible pretty much falls apart as being taken seriously as deserving the label of “great classic literature” (no more so than the Koran or Joseph Smith's writings).

Like Thurman states, the “BIG KEY” would be having the “right teachers” lecturing on the course. But as Brummett said, that is also the aspect of the issue least able to be controlled/monitored by the tax-payer!! The hiring and assigning of courses to specific teachers is typically in the hands of school Principals and Board Superintendents, like Thurman---and Dr. Thurman’s idea of the “right” teacher would likely differ from yours and mine….DRAMATICALLY!

On one hand, I dare say that a few of us might jump at the chance to present a comparison of the Bible to genuinely classic literature in front of large groups of Arkansas high school teens! The truly objective, informed, “RIGHT” teacher could do a lot of good to dispel some of the myths about the literary quality (and historicity!) of the Bible itself for the next generations of Arkansans!
But---like Brummett, Jesse and George all stated or implied---the “slippery slope” toward potentially teaching religious mythology as viable “history” and doctrinal assumptions in tax-funded public schools is not worth the risk of allowing this new, innately dishonest approach to getting Bible teaching introduced into the curriculum. The way to regain “control” of the issue should be clear. It’s at local school board meetings that these arguments need to be addressed and shown to be deficient by concerned and reasonable parents and tax-payers. Like the “Incompetent..i mean, ‘Intelligent’ Design”-issue, it’s at the grassroots level, at local school board meetings and elections (and local political caucuses), that the battles seem to be most effectively fought these days.

Waiting for such an issue to reach the state or national supreme courts might be less labor-intensive, but getting directly involved on a local level can help more students TODAY. Brummett closes with his "hope" that this trend of adding bible classes to high school curriculums doesn't continue.......but merely "hoping" is rarely enough to stop christian activists. It seems to be up to local parents and concerned tax-payers to work toward seeing that it doesn't continue, by challenging their foundational, nonsensical and disingenuous justifications publicly and directly at school board meetings---and, of course, in the media whenever possible. (Freethinkers DO seem to have a valuable public advocate in Mr. Brummett, at least in regard to some of these issues. Thanks John!)
LeeWood T.
Little Rock, AR
Post #: 5
I, too agree that, "Why do such a class at all? Thurman said it was because college-entrance exams often contain references to biblical characters or stories." seems to be a key question here.

In addition to the points mentioned already, which were great points too, one might ask "what the hell are they doing in church anyways if these kids aren't learning enough for an entrance exam?
user 4295978
Grand Rapids, MN
Post #: 150
Thanks LeeWood.
Your last point reminds me of the Conservative Christian Senator who was passionately involved in supporting the existence of the marble statue of the Ten Commandments on his State's Courthouse lawn who was asked suddenly by a reporter if he could name the Ten Commandments----->and, off the top of his head he could only come up with TWO of them!!?!...(in a video-taped interview....---"awkward"! :)

...evidently, even ADULT church education is somewhat lacking in the teaching of their own moral tenets!
Roger H.
user 13158720
Little Rock, AR
Post #: 3
I'm going to land on the other side here: it is an historical document, and the mere suggestion of it as such is a freethinker win. By all means, consider it academically as stories with motivations laid bare.

In my berg-o-youth, it was *never* less than the inspired word.


PS - Pre-pay your property taxes. ;}
user 4295978
Grand Rapids, MN
Post #: 157
I would have to re-affirm my opinion that this misses the most important point here.

Anyone who thinks that the School Board members and educators who are pushing for this addition to public school curriculum are ever going to hire teachers for the courses who would allow the content of the class and its presentation to come even remotely close to disclosing the antisocial and morally deficient motivations behind the "stories" would seem to be fooling themselves.
The teachers who men like Thurman and other superintendents and school Principals would see to it are appointed to teach such classes would likely be far more like propagandists than objective inspirers of critical thinking about the "literary merits" of the Books----and would be likely to be blowing factually-inaccurate, historically-revisionist, rationally-twisted and literary disingenuous "smoke" up the arses of impressionable young people, most of whom have been already and persistently indoctrinated with the nonsense from earliest childhood.

For the bible to be dishonestly taught to those kinds of kids and teens in publicly-funded classrooms, when it would almost certainly be taught by certain kinds of christian ideologues, would almost certainly result in an overwhelming majority of young people thinking something like: "Hey, they're even teaching the bible that we've learned about all our lives in sunday school as 'great literature' in my school now!!! It really MUST be true!". To assume otherwise (to assume that the bible's literary, historical and moral weaknesses and absurdities would be objectively exposed in such classrooms) would seem completely unrealistic more than merely "risky".

To sit back without protest and allow this trend in tax-funded Arkansas schools to gain ANY momentum would, in my opinion, seem unwise and irresponsible.
A former member
Post #: 19
As a teacher and parent, I too find this idea of teaching the bible repulsive. I actually attended high school in Arkansas before we moved back to Indiana. I had to read some excerpts from the bible for my literature class. I found it to be the most smut-filled piece of disjointed jibberish I had ever read (of course I was still young and niave). I remember that I was one person who thought that way, and no one else spoke up.

Teachers, of young and old, are entrusted with our most precious gift...our future leaders. We can't have The Bible taught in school because it opens up a pandora's box of blurry boundaries. Each religion had their own literal and figurative intrepretation of the stories in the bible. I do not feel that it is my job to change my student's thinking, but not everyone is like me. I feel an obligation to present things to my students to get them thinking and to question things, but my spiritual beliefs have no place in my classroom. I am not there to recruit members for agnosticism or atheism, I am there to be impartial and non-judgemental, and supportive. Most of all, I am there to encourage them. If my beliefs even trickle into the room, even one student can become alienated and feel unwelcome. It is too important to me that I teach them to be accepting and open to allow any thing that might alienate them to permeate the atmosphere.

But Christians are NOTORIOUS for thinking that everyone they meet believes the same way that they do. You never see the Jewish people trying to bring the torah into the public schools, do ya? If someone wants their children to study the bible they need to send them to seminary school or private school. Teachers have no business trying to influence the religious beliefs of the students in a classroom. I seriously doubt that the lawmakers have thought this through. No, they are just sitting up there thinking everyone in Arkansas MUST be a Christian, or OUGHT to be! They haven't thought about what would happen if a student told their teacher that they didn't believe that Mary had an immaculate conception. They haven't thought about what will happen when a student proclaims that Jesus was a man, and maybe he was married.

As far as a historical document, the bible doesn't qualify. I understand that there is a great amount of influence from the bible over modern culture, but I wouldn't call it a historical document. My grandfather was an intelligent, well-educated, worldly man. He went to seminary school (because that's what Irish-Catholic families did with their sons), was editor of a newspaper, and a war correspondant. He always said that we need to remember that the bible has been altered by MAN. He would explain that the different translations were biased toward the political and religious beliefs of whomever commissioned the translation. As a historical document, I think that it is like contaminated evidence. You wouldn't present tampered evidence at a trial, and so a contaminated work with writing of suspicious nature shouldn't be presented as historical record.

I agree that we need to do some vocalization about this ridiculous law. Either that or we will have to start a "Freethinkers Academy" for my boys when they are in high school. wink
user 4295978
Grand Rapids, MN
Post #: 162
Good points Eileen!

It's relevant to hear the perspective of a parent---but especially of a teacher on this particular issue! It's especially refreshing for me to hear of a school faculty member who still works and teaches from the first principle of true objectivity-----the heart and soul of all critical thinking! And, again, for anyone to assume that those who would be assigned to teach the bible merely as classic literature in high school classrooms would present the material with even the remotest respect for objectivity themselves would be an unwise assumption.

I'm glad you'd come to the same conclusion about the need for meaningful protest----and i would emphasize again....hopefully it would involve ("pre-emptive") protest that can actually help PREVENT such school board decisions at the local levels before they gain momentum....instead of being left someday with mere after-the-fact "complaining" about a widespread phenomenon!!

Best wishes to the classroom...and in developing meaningful supportive friendships----as well as in making your relevant voice heard---within a group of freethinkers like this one!
Powered by mvnForum

Our Sponsors

People in this
Meetup are also in:

Sign up

Meetup members, Log in

By clicking "Sign up" or "Sign up using Facebook", you confirm that you accept our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy