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15 Chapter 2 Bible History Courses, I Partnership between School and Community Bible History courses are offered as electives by history or social-­studies departments alongside of American History and World History. These courses are especially popular in rural areas in the South, but there is an effort by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS) to introduce these courses in public schools nationwide.1 When taught in conservative Christian communities, Bible History can add to the standing of the public schools among committed Christians (and non-­ Christians who sympathize with the conservative moral program), serving as a counter to the growing homeschool movement and checking the expansion of Christian fundamentalist schools. By offering Bible History, the school acknowledges the importance of religion and signals its responsiveness to the values of the religious segment of the community and its partnership with the community in raising the young. This role of a Bible course is one we can describe as the“recognition” function of humanities courses. By this label, we mean that humanities courses can enable students to recognize themselves as members of the community in which they grow up, and at the same time, help schools signal that they recognize the core values of the community they inhabit. This recognition function, although basic, can serve a legitimate purpose in both the introduction and conduct of a religion course, as long as one constituency’s recognition is not obtained at the nonrecognition or misrecognition of another. This chapter describes how a Bible History course can be integral to a partnership between a community and a school, while the next chapter explores the constraints on pedagogy in a Bible History course. 16 / FOR THE CIVIC GOOD The Tearville Bible Association and the Bible History Program Tearville, a racially diverse, predominantly Protestant community, is the largest city and seat of rural Tapscott County, located in a South Atlantic state. Until the last two decades, the county had relied on agriculture, textile, and furniture industries for its economic stability. The textile and furniture companies have moved away, but the proximity of Tearville to a major urban financial center has been, in the words of Benjamin Jenkins, a senior administrator for the school district, a“business engine” that has brought new manufacturing entities to the county. The administrators at the consolidated school system of Tearville-­ Tapscott believe that its robust Bible History program has helped to maintain support for public education in the area. One of the notable features of its program is the Tearville Bible Association (TBA), ­ an educational auxiliary comprised of around seventy churches in the community integrated across racial lines and drawing together a wide diversity of Protestant denominations, ­ to support the public schools. This support has come at a time when both religious private schools and homeschooling have been outpacing the growth of the public-­ school population. Some district administrators credit the cooperation of the TBA for dampening a surge of interest in the county for these educational alternatives . The district’s five high schools offer four “fact-­ based” semester-­ long electives on the Bible (covering the entire span of biblical literature), taught by three full-­ time teachers, whose salaries are covered by the TBA. Through this reciprocal arrangement between the school district and local religious communities , any interested student can select a course focused on the“Old Testament” (as the instructors and administrators invariably refer to the course) or the New Testament for every one of his or her four years of high-­ school study. Lester Robbins, principal of Tearville High, estimated that about 10 percent of his student body was enrolled in a Bible course every semester and that close to half of the students took at least one Bible course over a four-­ year period. It would be difficult to find a more dedicated Bible program in any other public school district in the country or to find a purer example of the use of a school program to reinforce communal values. Pamela Hastings, principal of West Tapscott High School, identified the Bible course as a direct response to Bible History Courses, I / 17 the community’s values:“we live in the Bible Belt . . . There is a strong desire in the community for young people to have a good working knowledge of what’s in the Bible.” The program began in the early 1990s in response to an initiative by the TBA.According to Daniel Harding, who had served both as an administrator in the...


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