School Board adopts Bible class text

The School Board last week unanimously adopted a text book for a high school elective course on the Bible.

The panel approved the course as an elective on Nov. 10, 2009, said Donna M. Dalton, chief academic officer. “Although several high schools did make this course offering available to students during the scheduling process for [school year] 10-11, the course is not being taught in 2010-2011 due to insufficient student requests,” according to a staff memo on the textbook adoption.

After the course was approved, a committee was formed to review and recommend a textbook for it, Dalton said. The panel, which includes teachers, administrators and a parent, did a broad review of all potential curricula and textbooks using online resources, professional organizations and other school divisions, the memo says.

The group reviewed the two nationally recognized curricula and textbooks currently in use at meetings in March. The books, The Bible in History and Literature, from the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, and The Bible and Its Influence, from BLP Publishing, were made available to the public during three evenings in April, Dalton said.

On April 21, the panel resumed for further discussion, and reviewed all feedback, including the community comments; at that session, the panel recommended that the School Board adopt The Bible and Its Influence. In its rationale, the committee said The Bible and Its Influence was the better of the two textbooks for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it is “clearly aligned” to the approved course, offers “superior resources to the teacher” and is “well-organized and structured.”

Two men addressed the board on the matter. Don Fuval said the book’s editor seemed to have no credentials to support his role in its creation.

As to the text of the book, “The Bible, though, is … promoted as having only a positive impact,” he said. There is little acknowledgment, he said, that the Bible has also been used to support slavery, segregation and the subjugation of women.

“Where is the analysis of the Bible’s role in the Inquisition and Salem Witch Trials?” he asked. This book is the wrong book for the public schools at this time, he said.

Kent Weston said the committee tasked with choosing a book declined to hear a presentation from representatives of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools. To be fair, the board should postpone its decision on a textbook until it hears from both sides at a coming panel discussion, he said.

Dale District Member David Wyman said the board recognized the importance of religion in people’s daily lives, “not just here, but globally.”

“I think, quite frankly, that Christians and non-Christians alike would get something out of this course,” he said. Students will look at the course “through different goggles.”

“It’s an elective, no one has to take it,” Matoaca District Member Omarh Rajah said of the class. “This is an opportunity for young ones to see a different perspective on how God has affected others. … The Bible is truly, in my heart of hearts, the greatest book of all time.”

At one time, people had to fight to teach women’s history and black history, he said, and the fact that the board was even considering such an issue was “a great step.”

Bermuda District Member Marshall Trammell said religion was a very personal thing, “and what we’re doing tonight is not about religion.” The school system has to be very careful that it’s not promoting religion, he said.

“I just want to be real clear that what we’re doing tonight is not trying to impose a religion on someone,” he said.

Chairwoman Dianne Pettitt said the school system had tried to approach the issue from a “very methodical, academic perspective.”

“I think it’s a courageous step forward,” she said. “We do appreciate everyone’s comments here tonight.”


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