“There are a lot of different references to the Bible in books and movies and music that I never realized,” she said. “It’s all over the place.”
Pervasive it is. That’s why Harriet Kisilinsky, a veteran English teacher at the 2,300-student school on Florida’s northeast coast, lobbied school officials to offer an introductory course on the Bible and its influence on literature, history, and popular culture...
...“When they started the countywide push for getting more kids into AP, it struck me that these kids don’t have the background they need to succeed,” said Ms. Kisilinsky of the effort to make the rigorous Advanced Placement courses accessible and achievable for a greater proportion of students in the 125,000-student Duval County public school district. “How can you expect them to read Dante’s Inferno and write about it if they don’t understand his nine circles of hell” and other religious themes the text draws on, she wondered...
...A series of reports and books in recent years have contended that it is essential for students to understand biblical content, particularly as it relates to historical documents and events, literature and the arts, and even current events, if they are to be fully educated.
In 1999, the First Amendment Center convened a group of education, religious, and free-speech groups to draft guidelines for teaching about religion in schools. The report by the Arlington, Va.-based think tank tried to dispel the misconception that court decisions of the 1960s—which banned the promotion of religion and religious rituals—prohibited teaching about religion in public schools.
A 2005 survey conducted by the Bible Literacy Project found that while educators reported that students with knowledge of the Bible had a “distinct educational advantage” over their other peers, fewer than one in 10 had access to such courses...
This from Education Week. (Subscription)
Colonial era to 19th century: The primary purpose of schooling, in addition to learning the three R’s, is to teach the lessons of the Bible. By the latter decades of the 1800s, Bible “wars” erupt between Protestants and Catholics over which version of the Scriptures will be used for the recitations that mark the school day. State supreme courts in Ohio (1872) and Wisconsin (1890) strike down mandatory Bible reading
1963: On the heels of several court cases on religion in schools, the U.S. Supreme Court rules in Abington Township School District v. Schempp that a Pennsylvania law requiring daily recitations of Bible verses and the Lord’s Prayer in public school classrooms is unconstitutional. In an 8-1 decision, the court says the Bible may be studied for its literary and historical merits, but may not be used for daily religious exercises in public schools.
1989: A coalition of religious and educational organizations issues guidelines for teaching about religion in public schools, recommending an approach that is academic, not devotional; emphasizes the study of religion, not its practice; exposes students to a diversity of religious views, but does not impose or encourage particular beliefs; and intends to inform students about different beliefs, not have them conform.
1999: The Bible Literacy Project and the First Amendment Center issue a guide to teaching about the Bible in public schools. The guide is endorsed by prominent religious and educational organizations, as well as free-speech groups. Supporters recommend finding middle ground between a traditional “sacred text” approach still evident in some school lessons and a view of public schools as “religion-free zones.”
SOURCES: Bible Literacy Project Inc.; First Amendment Center; Education Week