I hadn't been planning to blog here this week, but courtesy forces me to....
Sarah Jenislawski, Executive Director of the Bible Literacy Project, left some comments on my blog about my earlier post on the Bible Literacy Project:
"Thank you for posting about the Bible Literacy Report. We don't advocate only knowing the catch phrases of the Bible, but are attempting to illustrate some of the basic concepts with which students should be familiar. For more information on our pedagogical approach, please see The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide, a set of guidelines we co-published on how to teach about the Bible legally and fairly in the public schools.First, I'd like to thank Ms. Jenislawski for her very kind response. I can only say that "familiarizing students with the basic concepts and themes of the Bible" cannot take place without the larger context of history and basic scholarship. It would be like trying to teach To Kill a Mockingbird without ever mentioning racism in the South, or without any discussion of its underlying mythical and literary allusions. Your list does not even contain foundational information, such as "the New Testament was originally written in Greek" although such low level information about original languages would certainly be part of any presentation of Flaubert or Hugo in a high school class.
We advocate an elective course on the Bible as literature and in literature for high school students. Regarding your comments about Markan priority, JDEP, chiasms, dating of books, Palestinian history and archaeology, these are all subjects worthy of study, but may be a bit advanced for students who may never have read the text of the Bible before. We are not attempting to provide religious education or a complete scholarly overview of the Bible - which could take a lifetime - but only to familiarize students with the basic concepts and themes of the Bible."
Consider the famous pericope which you have labeled "CAST THE FIRST STONE". The context on that one is crystal clear: that doesn't even belong in the Bible (so why is it being taught?). Will students be made aware that the presence of the concept of "HELL" in the Bible is debatable? Further, what do I get to teach as a "theme?" Can I teach that one of the themes of the Bible is a movement from early polytheism to later monotheism? If I am a Jewish student, can I object to inclusion of the New Testament in the course ("it's not in MY Bible"). And which translation do you plan to use -- are students going to made aware that the translations vary, and that in many cases the text is difficult or impossible to pin down? It seems like you are opening a huge can of worms, and you are entirely without any worm catching gear.
BTW, ya'll might take note that you have listed the Golden Rule three times there. Not only that, but AFAIK the phrase "THE GOLDEN RULE" is not found in the Bible, and did not even come into use in that context until a few centuries ago. Your scholarship fills me with confidence. Another thing ya'll might ponder is the almost complete lack of females on the list. None of the great Jewish females is there, but Mary is. This smacks of a double bias, first against women, and second, in favor of Christianity. The latter suspicion is strengthened by the fact that all of the selections involving Jesus present him in a favorable light; the allegations of demon possession, the blasting of the fig tree, the rejection by his family -- none of these are there.
Finally, the project is funded by the Templeton Foundation, which is not exactly a religiously nuetral organization, nor is it a scholarly or literary organization, but instead promotes religion and free-market causes. This doesn't look like education to me; instead, it stinks of religion-pushing. Fundamentally, an educator provides context for the information presented to enable students to make informed judgments about the material and their relationship to it. By not demanding that Bible literacy be real literacy about the Bible, you in essence indicate that you have other interests than education.
Once again, I thank you for your time.
UPDATE Friday, May 20
A disturbing comment about their connections. Here is the skinny from their home page:
Our primary task now is to move beyond words, to action: To produce and musterThe Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty is a "conservative" advocacy group that supports school prayer, vouchers and other right-wing religious causes. The link to this group is quite suggestive.
support for a Bible literacy curriculum for public schools that is fair,
balanced, rigorous and constitutional; a textbook which will harm no child's
faith, while leaving every teen knowledgeable about the Bible. Our Bible course
has been reviewed by leading Bible literature scholars, faith leaders, and
educators to ensure its fairness and accuracy. In addition, lawyers from the
Becket Fund for Religious Liberty are reviewing the course to ensure it is legally appropriate for the public schools. The Becket Fund has also agreed to defend, free of charge, any school district sued for using our Bible curriculum in a manner consistent with The Bible & Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide.