Bible in schools not a topic for the Legislature

Our view: Lawmakers should concentrate on the real-life problems facing our state
2012-01-18T00:00:00Z Bible in schools not a topic for the Legislature Arizona Daily Star
January 18, 2012 12:00 am

Teaching the Bible in public high schools - the goal of bills pushed by Tucson Republican state Rep. Terri Proud, will not put Arizona on an upward trajectory, it won't help the roughly one in five Arizonans who live in poverty and it won't bring jobs to our state. It won't stop foreclosures or boost the tanking real estate market. It won't help the working people the Legislature kicked off the public health-care system.

And for these reasons, among others, this push should be abandoned. The Bible is already incorporated into many high school literature, art and social-studies classes, and that's appropriate to give students the context of what they're exploring.

But Proud tipped her hand when she said there is no need to make sure the Quran also can be freely taught in Arizona schools. "The Quran hasn't influenced Western culture the way the Bible has," she said.

If the intent of the legislation is to ensure that educators can openly and accurately discuss the Bible's influence - Proud said she was prompted by teachers who told her they were hesitant to even mention God or the Bible in their lectures - then the protection should encompass all religious texts.

The Christian Bible should not be considered superior, or inferior, to any other religious text if it is in fact being taught in the context of world events, policy, art, historical events.

While Western culture is replete with biblical references, it is incorrect to say that the Quran plays no role. Founding Father Thomas Jefferson owned a Quran, and a translation of the text, because it was relevant to his study of law and the events of his world.

If students are learning about the Crusades, say, in history class, then it is impossible to explain the context of this monumental clash between Christianity and Islam - not to mention the geopolitical implications - without freely discussing the motivating influences of the Bible and the Quran.

But the point remains: the Arizona Legislature is not the place to decide what, specifically, should be taught or removed from public school classrooms. Philosophically, Proud's effort intersects with the state's recent overreach into the Tucson Unified School District's Mexican American Studies.

The Legislature was wrong to violate TUSD voters' right to elect local school boards to decide what should be included in their schools, and it would be similarly out of bounds to interfere by, in essence, setting curriculum for an elective course.

If a school district wants to teach the Bible as an elective, that is a matter voters should decide within the bounds of separation of church and state. We have no doubt there is a divide between the secular teaching of the Bible as a historical text and what some legislators might understand to be Bible studies. Parents who want a religious education for their children can send them to a parochial school.

Arizona students do not need Bible studies as an elective. A world religions class would be appropriate, of course, but Proud's singular focus on the Bible does not accomplish what a good education should - a broad understanding of not just the what and how of the humanities and history, but also the why.

Sidetrack issues, like Bible studies in public high school, have no place in this legislative session. Arizona confronts real-life problems, like unemployment and kids without medical care, and those are the issues lawmakers should spend their time addressing.

Arizona Daily Star

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