Now Available: Lesson Plans and Course Curricula

Worthy of Study

In 1963, the Supreme Court of the United States expressly ruled: "The Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities.” The Court affirmed that when a Bible class is presented objectively as part of a “secular program of education,” in public education, such a class is constitutional under the First Amendment (School District of Abington Township v. Schempp (1963).

Learn More

Worthy of Study

"The Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities.”

U.S. Supreme Court
School District of Abington Township v. Schempp (1963)

Introduction (New)

Introduction

Before I recently retired as a secondary English teacher with more than forty (40+) years of experience in teaching students in both public and private schools, I was successful in imparting much information contained in daily and weekly lessons that challenged my students' abilities to think. Like the majority of secondary English teachers in America, I was afforded many opportunities to strengthen students’ literacy skills by connecting the literary and historical elements in Western literature to the history, allusions, symbols, names, themes, and wisdom found in the Hebrew Bible. Oftentimes, however, I found myself filled with shock and dismay as I encountered rampant Biblical illiteracy among high school students, especially in public schools. I recognized that this lack of Biblical knowledge that is so ingrained in Western culture left a void in their overall understanding of many other literary works that “educated” citizens in our society are expected to know. For the past eighteen years, I have agonized over this obvious deficiency in students' reading comprehension which, in turn, has prompted me to work to urge school administrators and educators to include Biblical literacy initiatives in secondary academic curricula. Constitutionally, such lessons and classes may be taught on public school campuses, as long as the studies of the Bible are academic-not devotional (Reference).

I found myself constantly struggling with the legal ramifications of teaching a particular literary work with any religious or biblical allusions, themes, symbols, and quotations without breaking “separation of church and state” laws. At the same time, I pondered over the logic of having to downplay the significance of one of the most, if not the most influential books in history, the Hebrew Bible. Unquestionably, the Bible explores all the common questions of human experience. Any teacher of literature understands that biblical literature gives more insight about other literary works, including their overall structures, themes, and background history. Without the academic background needed to fully understand Biblical references in other literary works, written and oral contributions from the majority of students in literature and social studies classes continue to be empty and pointless. Fear of intimidation from “watchdog” groups continues to stifle the full learning process in public education, and ignorance of the law empowers such groups to prevent our teachers and students from experiencing the invaluable contributions that the Hebrew Bible can make in educating our youth.

Biblical Literacy in Secondary Education (An Academic Approach)

Academic Initiatives for Biblical Literacy
AIBL

“I believe that a quality education for all students is foundational to personal and organizational success on all levels.”

–Dr. Wilma J. Brown, Education Specialist (Ed. S.)

Definition & Purpose

A Definition of Literacy

Literacy can be defined on a number of levels. It is that which defines names, phrases, events, or other items that are familiar to most literate Americans. Literacy is obviously concerned with the ability to read and write, but a fuller definition might be: “the capacity to recognize, reproduce, and manipulate the conventions of text shared by a given community.” Acquiring knowledge is more than just passing the SOLs by memorizing facts, punctuating sentences, or defining general and technical terms absent of any reference to the Bible or religion. Fully educated persons should be able to engage in meaningful cultural exchanges that will demonstrate their competencies in ways that earn respect and recognition. Obviously, American society still values knowledge and understanding of the Hebrew Bible. In fact, a Gallup poll taken in October 2000 found that 65% of Americans agree that the Bible “answers all or most of the basic questions of life.” Interestingly, however, 28% of those who agree with this statement admitted that they rarely or never read the Bible. To help close the illiteracy gap, Biblical literature needs to be read, analyzed and discussed in public school settings so that education will be more relevant in real life experiences. Biblically literate students should be given opportunities to participate in personal reflections shared through oral and written interactions that express knowledge and understanding of the Bible as a literary work esteemed so highly in Western culture. The aim of literacy in public education, then, should be to promote cultural and social participation, regardless to whether students endorse a particular religious belief or not, as long as such instruction is academic instead of devotional

(https://www.aarweb.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/Publications/epublications/AARK-12CurriculumGuidelines.pdf).

Purpose

Across America, the consensus is that more religious studies are needed in public school curricula. To help erase the confusion about the constitutionality of teaching about the Bible or religion in a public school setting, educators need to take the time to revisit the U.S. Supreme Court 1963 ruling in Abington v. Schempp. After explaining its decision for ruling against devotionally teacher-led prayers and daily Bible readings that are not a part of a secular program of academic studies, the Court expressly stated, “It might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization. It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.”

In spite of the Supreme Court’s clear ruling in support of the academic study about religion, including the literary and historic qualities of the Bible, public schools are still graduating Biblically illiterate students. These students enter society with a high school education that can largely be classified as “void and without form.” Because of possible intimidation from “watchdog separation of church and state” interest groups, misinformation, myths, and intimidation, public school systems are failing to offer opportunities for students and teachers to exercise their 1st Amendment rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. This academic endeavor is meant to help correct this problem in public education, and to strengthen cultural literacy in general.

Philosophy

“I believe that an effective teacher does not merely share a systematic set of lessons that are cataloged by facts, events, or rules; instead, the best educators seek to attain, understand, and diligently plant into the minds of students the timeless universal principles and wisdom that govern human existence and experiences.”

–Dr. Wilma J. Brown, Education Specialist (Ed. S.)

“I believe that a sound education (knowledge) is the key to building and sustaining a healthy society and that educators are vital agents that help shape future generations.”

–Dr. Wilma J. Brown, Education Specialist (Ed. S.)

Favorite Scriptures

"For I know the plans I have for you, 'declares the LORD,' plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Jeremiah 29:11

"If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?"

Psalm 11:3-7 King James Version (KJV)

Words of the Wise

“The gospel is not a book; it is a living being, with an action, a power, which invades every thing that opposes its extension, behold! It is upon this table: This book, surpassing all others. I never omit to read it, and every day with some pleasure.”

–Napoleon

“Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people…so great is my veneration of the Bible that the earlier my children begin to read, the more confident will be my hope that they will prove useful citizens in their country and respectful members of society.

–John Adams

“We account the scriptures of God to be the most sublime philosophy. I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatsoever.”

–Isaac Newton

“Of the many influences that have shaped the United States into a distinctive nation and people, none may be said to be more fundamental and enduring than the Bible.”

–President Ronald Reagan

Genres of the Bible

Hebrew Bible as Literature Elective Course for Secondary Education in Virginia's Public Schools (HB 1122)

Read Full Proposal

The Bible