Introduction & Overview
“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.)
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.