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<< Return to SBL Forum Archive Small but Significant Steps: Teaching the Bible in Public Education

 Kent Richards

Many of you already know that the SBL is involved in meeting the great need for academically-sound teacher training and resources at the high school level for Bible elective courses.

This summer SBL and several partners offered four-day teacher training courses that introduced public school teachers and curriculum directors to the Bible. These were intense days of lectures, discussions, questions and problem solving, and each included a field trip—one to a museum collection, another to a synagogue and an orthodox church—to break up the classroom schedule and to help participants see how the Bible is understood in diverse communities, both past and present.

The Summer Institute at the University of Texas (UT) was organized by Steve Friesen. He is a UT faculty member and SBL member on the task force dealing with the Bible and public education. The UT summer institute was developed and taught by Steve, Mike White (UT faculty member), and SBL executive director, Kent Richards. See the following URLs for additional information about the course. 

Austin Statesman 

http://www.statesman.com/search/content/region/legislature/stories/2009/08/08/0808bible.html

http://www.statesman.com/search/mediahub/mediahub/slideshow/index.jsp?tId=173507

The Daily Texan (UT newspaper)

http://www.dailytexanonline.com/top-stories/ut-prepares-teachers-for-bible-classes-1.1814803

http://www.dailytexanonline.com/opinion/viewpoint-bible-in-public-schools-1.1814821

Earlier in the summer Joel LeMon and Brent Strawn, Emory University Candler School of Theology faculty, offered a similar course for teachers in partnership with the Carlos Museum, on the Emory campus. The teachers enrolled at Emory included those from private religious schools as well as public school teachers and administrators, who represented such diverse fields as music, art, theology, social studies, language arts, and civics. There was widespread enthusiasm for the course.

In these ‘crash courses’ the instructors conveyed some of the common knowledge we have all learned from teaching introductory courses. We sought to help them anticipate questions that 11th and 12th graders might ask, suggested strategies that would direct the course to the interests of the young learner, and helped them understand the culture out of which the Bible in its various forms emerged. Most importantly, we discussed the opportunities and appropriate constraints on their teaching in light of the First Amendment. By letting them know that countries throughout the world have adopted similar standards, in the Toledo (after the city in Spain) Guiding Principles (http://www.osce.org/item/28314.html), gives them a sense that the issues of developing fair and intellectually honest content is not just a concern in America’s bible belt.

Take a look at the SBL resources that we continue to offer to teachers at the secondary level.

http://www.sbl-site.org/educational/thebibleinpublicschools.aspx

 If you have interest in this initiative please be in touch with Moira Bucciarelli .        

 
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