September 8, 2009
DALLAS — Some northern Texas school districts are scrambling to interpret a state law that requires public schools to incorporate Bible literacy into the curriculum.
The Legislature provided little guidance, no funding for materials or teacher training when it passed the law in 2007 requiring Bible literacy to be taught starting in the 2009-2010 school year.
Attorney General Greg Abbott has said the law doesn't require schools to offer a Bible course, although they can offer it as an elective. However, they must provide some sort of lessons, he said.
That has left some schools offering elective classes, while others are embedding Bible literacy into current courses.
Religious scholars and confused educators warn that the nebulous law may have thwarted its purpose — to examine the Bible's influence in history and literature.
"Asking a school district to teach a course or include material in a course without providing them any guidance or resources is like sending a teacher into a minefield without a map," said Mark Chancey, an associate professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University and author of the report "Teaching the Bible in Texas Public Schools."
"There's an irony in this as well," he said. "Teachers have to teach without the training the law requires."
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