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

BIBLICAL LITERACY IN SECONDARY EDUCATION
(An Academic Approach)
(an excerpt)

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(Bible as Literature Secondary Elective Course)
Written and Published by Wilma J. Brown (2002)
(Updated January 18, 2020)

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, however, because of possible intimidations from “watchdog separation of church and state” interest groups, public schools are still graduating biblically illiterate students who enter society with a high school education that can largely be classified as “void and without form.”

As a teacher of literature in a public school setting for twenty-five years, I have found myself constantly struggling with how to teach a particular literary work with many religious or biblical allusions without breaking any “separation of church and state” laws. At the same time, I have 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. Along with the Ten Commandments, the Bible’s most famous document, no piece of legislation ever enacted has influenced human behavior as much as the biblical injunction, “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” establishing the imperative for treating people with justice and compassion. This law of neighborly love introduced the Golden Rule to the world. Moreover, no political tract has motivated human beings in so many diverse societies to fight for political freedom as the Exodus story of God’s liberation of the Israelite slaves from their Egyptian masters. In literature classes, however, many times teachers find class discussions have little literary substance or intellectual meaning because the reading experiences of students are so limited in biblical studies. 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 classes continue to be empty and pointless.

Because of my own limited understanding of “separation of church and state” laws three years ago, I was often torn between having to decide whether to treat any mention of religion in literary discussions “safely and superficially” to please administrators who might question the fact that God, the Bible, or religion was being discussed in the classroom, or to be ready to explain that such teaching was vital to the students’ understanding of the full meaning of the piece of literature being analyzed. After realizing that I was confronting these same fears repeatedly, simply because Western literature is so full of biblical symbols, quotations, names, and allusions, I decided that in trying to project an image of a perfectly safe “separation of church and state” learning environment, as I understood the expression to mean, I was creating a false picture of what should take place in a real literature class.

Students should be taught about the elements and concepts of literature, especially the significant contributions that are derived from the Hebrew Bible as a literary work. Leaving out the significant influences of the Bible’s contributions to Western literature frequently leaves the entire literary learning process meaningless. I then began to question why I needed to be so afraid to teach something that was obviously a vital part of students’ educational experiences? Why was it that I could not be free to teach the course that I was educated to teach without fears of intimidation that were so stifling to my professionalism and creativity? After all, if we really live in “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” how is it that we can be free to discuss practically anything else in the classroom, except religion, God, or the Bible when all are so much a part of Western culture? Were not we, as teachers, as well as the students, losing some of our First Amendment rights in the public school classroom- the same classroom that should prize itself on teaching students to exercise their Constitutional liberties? Since I fully understood the difference between indoctrination of students and academic instruction, I could not comprehend why these voids in the minds of the students were not being filled.

Teaching literature without fully explaining biblical references seems artificial and far removed from a reality that students deal with daily outside the public school arena, whether or not they have formed any religious beliefs. To ignore or reduce the religious aspects of life causes students to feel that this part of Western culture is insignificant, if not downright shameful. In spite of the obvious lack of intellectual development in biblical studies, however, many administrators, parents and teachers continue to ignore or simply fail to gather enough courage to address the rampant problem of biblical illiteracy among the majority of public school students. Gallup was right when he said, “We revere the Bible, but we don’t read it.” In public classrooms across America, this is certainly evident when it comes to discussions related to the biblical literature. The shallow responses that the majority of students in public schools give to literary questions pertaining to biblical literature are not at all reflective of the depth of thought associated with advanced interchanges expected of students on a secondary level of instruction. For example, I have taught seniors in high school who did not recognize the biblical names, Adam and Eve. How can any high school student in a senior English class understand and fully appreciate Milton’s Paradise Lost without biblical background knowledge of the characters, Adam and Eve? Some students had never heard of Jacob and Esau, or Samson and Delilah. Three years ago, in fact, one of my students in an accelerated English 9 class stated that she had never heard of the biblical David and Goliath when a reference to these characters was made about persons who face challenges in life.

After recognizing the obvious biblical literacy gap in the minds of the majority of my students, I became very concerned about how any educator can remain silent about graduating biblically illiterate students from high school year after year? Does the definition of literacy change when it relates to the Bible? Can students be classified as functionally literate with so many voids in their comprehension of biblical literature, since Western literature is so inclusive of the Bible? Does not a complete education entail literacy in general, whether the materials taught are religious or not? Most importantly, why should any public system of education discriminate against the Bible as a major work of literature and history when such knowledge is so entwined in students’ daily lives? Does not the Bible deserve the same treatment given to any other major literary or historic work?

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 memorizing facts, punctuating sentences, writing definitions, or dividing syllables. Fully educated persons should be able to engage in meaningful cultural exchanges. A literate person knows how to demonstrate his competencies in ways that earn respect and recognition.

Obviously, our society still values knowledge and understanding of the 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. While it is true that Americans revere the Bible, it is not enough merely to esteem such a great literary and historic work without actually reading it. To help close the illiteracy gap, Biblical literature needs to be read, analyzed and discussed in public school settings. Biblically literate students should be given opportunities to participate in 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 should be to promote cultural and social participation, regardless to whether students endorse a particular religious belief or not.

To help correct this obvious void in the public education, a little over three years ago, I began my reading odyssey in search of a solution to the problem of rampant biblical illiteracy. After years of hearing innuendos, rumors, myths and outright lies about the legalities of teaching about the Bible, God, and religion in the public classroom, I was shocked to discover that in 1963 the Supreme Court did not eliminate student- initiated prayer or Bible reading in public schools. It barred teacher-led or state -sponsored religious practices, including daily devotional Bible readings and teacher-led prayers. Teachers, who are employed as agents of the state, cannot require students to engage in devotional activities. This does not make schools religious-free zones for public school children. While the state cannot impose any particular religious belief on students, students are free to express their own religious beliefs. Most importantly, I learned that it is not illegal for public schools to include academic studies about religion in the classroom. Students can learn about religion, including the Bible, wherever such teaching is presented “objectively as part of a secular program of education.”

In guidelines sent to every school district in America in 1995 and again in 1998, the U.S. Department of Education reiterated that public schools “may not provide religious instruction, but they may teach about religion, including the Bible or other sacred scripture.” In keeping with the First Amendment’s mandate of governmental neutrality toward religion, the study of religion in a public school must be educational, not devotional. This same principle holds true whether teaching about the Bible occurs in literature, history, art, music, or any other class, and whether the class is required or is an elective course. Along with the former U.S. Secretary’s guidelines on teaching religion in the public schools, much of the additional information I read was in the publication, The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide, written by the National Bible Association and Freedom Forum: First Amendment Center. Seventeen organizations have endorsed this publication, including National Education Association, National School Boards Association, People for the American Way Foundation, and Christian Educators Association International.

In May of 2000, after understanding exactly where the Supreme Court stands on teaching about the Bible in public schools, and after reading other clarification guidelines, I lost some of my apprehensions and approached my school principal with the information. I proposed that a Bible literature elective course be taught on the high school level in Surry County, Virginia, where I have taught for more than twenty years. The principal agreed to consider the proposal and later shared the legal findings with the Division Superintendent. The Superintendent agreed to recommend the elective course to the Surry County School Board for implementation during the 2000-2001 school year, along with several other elective courses. The School Board approved the “Bible as Literature and History” elective course to be taught on the secondary level as proposed. Since an elective Bible course is constitutionally permissible in a public school, we expected minimum controversy.

A month later, however, special interest groups, “watchdogs” for separation of church and state issues, began to send letters to the members of the School Board pertaining to the teaching of the course, even before a curriculum had been fully developed. One group, in particular, was especially intimidating, citing court cases of the past in which school districts had failed, and urged the Surry County district not to pursue offering such a course because of the “impossibility” of teaching such a course in a public school. The problem with the content of the letter was that the focus was not on the fact that an elective Bible course in a public school is constitutionally safe, as long as the school district follows the legal guidelines. The irrelevant court cases cited in the letter sent to the School Board pertained to a teacher in one school district who had engaged students in transcendental meditation, to another school district that had offered the Bible course separate from a program of academic studies, and to a third district that had discriminated against a teacher because of a particular religious persuasion. None of the court cases cited in the letter had resulted from legal challenges pertaining to whether teaching Bible course electives in public schools is constitutionally permissible or not. Rather, the legal problems that the “watchdog” group used to intimidate the Board had resulted from school districts’ lack of understanding about how to teach such biblical courses in public school settings constitutionally.

Because of these letters, however, the Superintendent decided to withdraw the recommendation to teach the Bible elective during the 2000-2001 school year. The School Board accepted the decision from the Superintendent, and asked me to spend the upcoming year developing a Bible literature curriculum, under the legal guidance of attorneys from The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty from Washington, DC. (These attorneys had graciously volunteered their expertise from the beginning.) Now, three years later, after many nights, weekends, and holidays spent researching, writing, and compiling a legally and academically sound curriculum, the culmination of such an arduous effort is a 300+-page biblical literacy elective course curriculum that I have decided to make available to the public school teachers of literature and history.

The purpose of this arduous, but worthy endeavor is to fill a literacy gap in public education that has been left unattended for over thirty years because of misinformation, scare tactics, and ignorance about “separation of church and state” laws. Today’s youth deserve as many opportunities as possible in the public classroom to become fully educated, functionally literate citizens of America. This includes biblical literacy. Yes, biblical literacy in America, a country founded and formed on biblical principles. Why not educate our children about the Book that volumes of other books are written about? Why can some of the voids in the minds of our youth not be filled by “searching the Scriptures?” Remember what John Quincy Adams said, “The first and almost the only Book deserving of universal attention is the Bible. I speak as a man of the world...and I say to you, “Search the Scriptures.” In helping to shape the minds of our future leaders of this great land we call America, we also need to remember these words from William McKinley: “ The more profoundly we study this Book and the more closely we observe its divine precepts, the better citizens we will become and the higher will be our destiny as a nation.”

Introduction to the Bible as Literature Elective Course (Grades 9-12)

Why include biblical studies in public high schools’ curricula? Any teacher of secondary English literature classes realizes, first of all, that as a great work of literature, the Hebrew Bible explores common questions of human experience. Found in the Bible are many of the common subjects of everyday literature: individuals in nature, in society, and in relation to their God and other humans; the process of growth and imitation; the changes resulting from time and death; the problems associated with facing failure and managing success; the struggles of maintaining hope and dealing with despair; the complexities of handling isolation and alienation. Perhaps the most pervasive theme in the Bible is that of relationship, which also helps explain what it means to be human and to behave with human strengths and weaknesses.

Analyzing the literature of the Bible helps the reader gain new insights about other literary works, including their overall structures, themes and background history. An example of the Bible’s overall structure can be seen in the three-twelve paradigm: three major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel)-twelve minor; three patriarchs-twelve sons; repeated in the twelve apostles and the three tribes at Qumran. Given the span of time covered, the number of writers and the various conditions under which they wrote, along with the languages involved, the Bible certainly merits appreciation for its unity-one of the main ways of studying the artistic value of any work of literature.

Literary unity consists of various things: the structure of a work or passage, a dominant theme, an image pattern, or a progressive development of a motif. The Bible is filled with patterns and literary wholes. The characterization of God is the central literary concern of the Bible. Hardly anything or anyone is viewed apart from its relation to the deity. Literary archetypes (master images that recur throughout literature) also tie together the various Books of the Bible. They are either images of nature (light, water, fire, hill), character types (hero, villain, king), or plot motifs (journey, rescue, temptation). The Bible is filled with such archetypes, or master images.

“Good” literature also consists of a system of meaningfully created symbols, relating what is hidden or to be discovered to the already known. The Bible contains a symbol system that connects the temporal and the eternal, and so challenges the mind to a higher level of the understanding of human experience. The Bible certainly deserves the attention we give to any major work of literature.

The general approach to teaching this course will be:

  • To build an understanding of what kinds of literary forms/genres that are present in the Hebrew Bible, including short stories, epics, apocalypses, battle odes, epigrams, biographies, sermons, parables, epistles, gospels, love lyrics, laws, laments, tragedies, and proverbs, oracles, acrostics, orations, pastoral elegies, psalms, poetry, satire, encomium, liturgy, hymns, laws, and puns.
  • To understand biblical idioms and quotations common to Western culture.
  • To expand students’ reading comprehension and vocabulary skills by referring to additional academic resources/references, such as online Bible dictionaries, thesauruses and other relevant materials/programs related to particular assignments (e.g., STEP Bible to help students understand scriptural text by reading and comparing different versions of the Hebrew Bible and by tracking biblical themes as they unfold in a particular narrative).
  • To understand biblical figures of speech, such as symbolism, simile, oxymoron, metonymy, personification, hyperbole, metaphors, apostrophe, alliteration, ellipsis, anaphora, parallelism, hyperbole, and irony.
  • To study, where appropriate, historical periods represented in certain biblical selections.
  • To develop an understanding of biblical manners and customs as reflected in literary selections.
  • To analyze different themes and sub-themes that provide unity to the Bible as a whole literary work.
  • To study biblical characterization that connects to literary themes and human experiences.
  • To become generally familiar with the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths, including their similarities and differences, as reflected in biblical literature.
  • To understand how the Hebrew Bible has helped shape Western culture and literature.
  • To improve students’ writing and speaking skills through oral and written deliveries that follow standard conventions of the English language.
  • To align all lessons and assignments with the Virginia Standards of Learning and Objectives (SOLs).

Reference: The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide



Some Considerations for Teaching the Bible as Literature Elective Course in Public Schools

Constitutionally, the study of the literary components of the Hebrew Bible is a valid and valuable part of the secondary education experience. It is impossible, however, to teach the Bible exactly as one teaches the works of Shakespeare, Chaucer, Homer or other classical writers. Teaching about this religious text requires careful legal considerations that are not usually present in the teaching of other literature classes. For teachers of The Bible as Literature classes, following are important considerations:



  1. The teacher must be open to various opinions or beliefs of students without promoting or disparaging any particular religious belief.
  2. The approach to teaching the course must be academic, not devotional.
  3. The teacher should strive for student awareness of various religious points of view, but must not impose, discourage, or encourage the acceptance of any particular religion (The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide, page 6). This involves recognizing when a potentially divisive issue is raised, providing alternative interpretations and viewpoints (without endorsing any particular point of view), and protecting minority points of view from scorn. It may also involve referring students to alternative translations, to Bible commentaries, dictionaries, and other reference works, or to clergy or other experts of a student’s own faith.
  4. Teachers should expose students to a variety of biblical interpretations. Students should be allowed to encounter the Hebrew text directly (like any primary source), and then draw on the resources of different religious and secular interpretative traditions for understanding it. To do this effectively requires the use of secondary sources that provide a discussion of the various religious and secular approaches to the Bible (The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide, page 7).
  5. Teachers should be aware of terminology that may be offensive to some students and parents. For instance, the use of the terms, “myths” or “legend” may be construed by the majority of students, or by their parents, as a denial of the historicity of biblical events. The teacher is advised to use the terms, “story” or “narrative.”
  6. The teacher needs to be aware that the terms, “Hebrews,” “Israelites,” and “Jews” are terms usually associated with specific periods of history. In general, “Hebrew” is used from the time of Abraham through the time of Moses; “Israelites” is used from the time of the judges to the exile; “Jews” is used from the exile onward. In classroom discourse, contemporary Jews should not be referred to as either Hebrews or Israelites. Israelis are citizens of the modern state of Israel.
  7. Class discussions of the social and ethical practices of any culture ought to proceed from an informed awareness of the context with an attitude of respect. This is particularly important when discussing practices portrayed in the Bible. For some students, these practices are divinely ordained. To discuss the role of women in the Bible only in terms of the contemporary feminist movement may ignore biblical contexts and risk offending certain religious sensibilities. Such discussions should stem from an informed awareness of the cultures reflected in biblical text, and with an attitude of respect for the cultural practices of biblical times.
  8. It is advisable for teachers to use the specific terms that are employed in the Bible passage under discussion. For example, in the story of Eden, “serpent” should be used exclusively. If students invoke the terms, “Satan” or “devil,” it should be noted that these terms represent a distinctly Christian viewpoint, based on traditional New Testament interpretation. Similarly, in the story of Job, the term, “Satan” or “Adversary” should be used. If students raise the question about the nature or role of Satan, they should be referred to Bible commentaries and Bible dictionaries, or to the clergy of their own faith.
  9. Teachers should not feel that they have to avoid discussing accounts of miraculous events recorded in the biblical narrative in attempt to make study about the Bible more “acceptable.” To do so radically distorts the meaning of the Bible. For those who accept the Bible as Scripture, God is at work in history, and there is a religious meaning in the patterns of history. A Bible elective in a public school may examine all parts of the Bible, as long as the teacher understands how to teach about the religious content of the Bible from a variety of perspectives (The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide, page 9).
  10. Teachers should avoid the “rationalization” of biblical miracles in class for several reasons: it is a digression from the literary focus; it may involve distortion of the biblical text; and it is certain to offend some religious sensibilities. Should students insist on pursuing questions about a particular topic, however, teachers may well elicit interpretations of the text-providing that the range is broadly inclusive and no bias is expressed.
  11. Just as readers take at face value the world represented in a piece of secular literature, they should similarly take at face value the miracles and mores expressed in biblical literature. If the character or narrator is a believer or skeptic, Christian or Jew, expressing or implying views concerning the Bible that are offensive to certain readers, that does not constitute sufficient reason to condemn the entire work of art. Readers are accustomed to the “willing suspension of disbelief for the moment.” In a multi-cultural classroom setting, a temporary suspension of belief is at times useful in order to understand the writer’s meaning.
  12. Every state mandates that its public school teachers shall foster moral values among their students. The United States Supreme Court says that public agencies may not promote one religion over others, or religion over non-religion. When teaching a Bible literature class, teachers should be aware of their own assumptions that they bring to the classroom, as well as those of their students concerning morals and values, and be committed to the fairness required by American pluralism. As far as possible, what students learn about the Bible in a literature class should not be affected by the teacher’s personal beliefs about the Bible. A teacher of any faith who cannot use the Bible in the classroom without proselytizing or indoctrinating students should not teach the Bible elective in public schools. A teacher, however, is free to exercise his/her own religious beliefs after regular school hours and contractual assignments.
  13. The U.S. Supreme Court has permitted explanations of religious holidays in public schools, but not celebratory practices. Teachers should think carefully about scheduling Bible passages to coincide with related religious holidays.
  14. Teachers should allow students to encounter the text directly (like a primary source), and then draw on the resources of different religious and secular interpretative translations for understanding. To do this effectively requires the use of secondary sources that provide a discussion of the various religious and secular approaches to the Bible.
  15. Teachers selected to teach the course should have some background in the academic study of the Bible or substantive in-service training from qualified scholars before being permitted to teach such a course; however, no teacher should be excluded from teaching a Bible class because of his or her personal religious beliefs.
  16. Academic study of the Bible in a public secondary school may appropriately take place in literature courses. Students might study the Bible as literature. In this case, they would examine the Bible as they would other literature in terms of aesthetic categories, as an anthology of narratives and poetry, exploring its language, symbolism, and motifs. Students might also study the Bible in literature by examining the ways in which later writers have used Bible literature, language, and symbols. Much drama, poetry, and fiction contain material from the Bible. Teaching about the Bible, either in literature and history courses, or in Bible electives, requires considerable preparation. School districts and universities should offer in-service workshops and summer institutes for teachers who are teaching about the Bible in literature and history courses.
  17. A literature elective about the Bible focuses on the Bible as a literary text. A primary goal for such a course is basic biblical literacy- a grasp of the language, major narrative, symbols, and characters of the Bible. This course might also explore the influence of the Bible in classic and contemporary poems, plays, and novels. Since the Bible is not simply literature- for a number of traditions it is Scripture- a “Bible Literature” course could include some discussion of how various traditions understand the text. This would require the literature teacher to be adequately prepared to address in an academic and objective manner the relevant, major religious readings of the text (The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide, pages 5-8).

Reference: The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide

Answering a Call to Graduate Fully Literate Students
Written by Wilma J. Brown, Foreman, Ed. S. (2014)
(Published in Teachers of Vision Magazine)

"Any American who does not possess the knowledge assumed in a piece he or she reads will in fact be illiterate." -Hirsch, E. D. (1987, Cultural Literacy: What Every American Should Know)

Before I recently retired as a secondary English teacher after nearly thirty-seven years in secondary public education, I was successful in imparting much information 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 Biblical history, allusions, symbols, names, and themes. Oftentimes, however, I found myself filled with dismay as I encountered rampant Biblical illiteracy among the students. This lack of biblical knowledge left a void in their overall understanding in many other literary works that “educated” citizens in our society are expected to know. For the last twelve years, this deficiency in students' reading comprehension has prompted me to work to urge school administrators and educators to include Biblical literacy initiatives in secondary academic curricula. Such lessons and classes may be taught legally on public school campuses as long as the studies of the Bible are academic-not devotional.

I believe that a quality education for all students is foundational to personal and societal progress. In the attempt to evaluate ideas and assumptions, high school students should seek, find, examine, and understand truth, especially the timeless truths found in the Hebrew Bible. English Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once stated, "For more than a thousand years, the Bible, collectively taken, has gone hand in hand with civilization, science, law--, in short, with the moral and intellectual cultivation of the species, always supporting and often leading the way.” A well-structured high school curriculum with a meaningful content that is designed to promote rational and purposeful thought should include the academic study of the Hebrew Bible- whether students have formed personal religious beliefs or not.

E.D. Hirsch (1987) in his Cultural Literacy: What Every American Should Know wrote: "Any American who does not possess the knowledge assumed in a piece he or she reads will in fact be illiterate." During my many years of teaching English literature, I have often wondered how educators and stakeholders can place so much emphasis on “literacy,” but ignore the fact that we are still graduating biblically illiterate students. Does literacy have a different definition when it pertains to the Hebrew Bible? In Western culture, literacy can be defined on a number of levels. It is that which defines names, phrases, events, or other items that are familiar to the majority of fully educated 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 memorizing facts, punctuating sentences, writing definitions, or dividing syllables. Fully educated persons should be able to engage in meaningful cultural exchanges. In other words, a literate person knows how to demonstrate his competencies in ways that earn respect and recognition. Academic competencies among high school students in Western civilization, therefore, should include knowledge of the Hebrew Bible.

Across America, the consensus is that more religious studies, including the Hebrew Bible, 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 devotional 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.”

The lack of Biblical literacy skills among high school students has prompted me to devote my present and future years of retirement to providing academic initiatives and resources for Biblical literacy that will help close this educational breach on many public school campuses. I plan to provide academic resources for teachers and students (grades seven through twelve) in the forms of lesson plans, after-school Bible literacy activities, vocabulary worksheets, “life skills” writing prompts from the Book of Proverbs, along with preliminary outlines, Bible Bowl tournaments study guides, and professional development academic workshops/seminars. For more information, please e-mail: wilmaforeman@yahoo.com.