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58 Chapter 5 The Bible and Its Influence Instilling Equal Recognition into the Curriculum While the Bible History programs we examined in the first chapters served the dominant local religious community, they failed to provide adequate recognition to other voices. The result was the totalization of a narrow Christian perspective and the submergence of all other points of view to this perspective. This did not seem to us to be a conscious lapse. Rather the teachers taught what they knew, seemingly uninformed about the views of other traditions and ignorant about their own ignorance. However, Bible History courses are not representative of all Bible courses, and in this chapter we look at a program that makes a conscious effort not just to follow the Constitution and avoid the wrath of the ACLU, but to provide a reasonably inclusive program, one that takes into account a variety of different standpoints. The course we looked at is called the Bible and Its Influence,a one semester or yearlong elective taught mostly to high school juniors and seniors. Courses that center on the influence of the Bible are a growing alternative to Bible History. These courses focus on the various uses of the Bible instead of attempting either to recover the original meaning of the biblical text or to reconstruct the events toward which that text might point.Because they bracket the question of the truth of the Bible they can avoid many of the constitutional concerns that can arise when the Bible is presented as a historical text. The growth of these courses can be attributed in no small part to the influence of the Bible Literacy Project (BLP), which is committed to promoting “academic courses” about the Bible in schools across the country. Our interest in this approach to classroom study of the Bible stems, in part, from the potential it affords to incorporate the goal of equal recognition into the The Bible and Its Influence / 59 curriculum. In this way, the Bible and Its Influence may facilitate the fulfillment of the“welcoming function” of the public school, as discussed in chapter 2. We turn in this chapter to Jordan Country High School as an example of a community that has adopted this course, including the textbook, The Bible and Its Influence, developed by the BLP. Jordan County is in some respects similar to Ridge and Tapscott counties. It is a rural school district, reliant on poultry farming and long-­ distance trucking for its economic well-­being.Demographically,the county is very homogenous—­ about 97 percent Caucasian and culturally Protestant. There are no synagogues or mosques within the school district and there is just one Catholic church. It is, however, substantially more prosperous than either of the two other counties explored. Both family income and house values are close to the national median. In measures of educational achievement, Jordan County also scores at or near state and national averages.1 Sam Watson is a social-­studies teacher with seventeen years of experience at the time of this study, and his primary teaching assignment is American government . He graduated from Jordan County High School and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science. He taught for a number of years in the district’s middle school before moving on to the high school. In addition to the Bible course, he also teaches an Advanced Placement course in American history and a course in American government. Watson believes that his background in American government and constitutional law is one reason that the school principal approached him to be the instructor for the newly proposed Bible class. He also speculates that his public involvement with Christian groups at the high school had identified him as possessing necessary familiarity with the subject matter. Watson is quick to add,“Not because he wanted a Christian to teach it from a Christian perspective,but that he expected,I think,that my background knowledge of the Bible would lend itself well to creating a course like this.” Watson, however, has some doubts and sees his reputation as a churchgoing Christian as a mixed blessing, because it places certain expectations on him that he feels may be inconsistent with his role as a public-­ school teacher. The Development of the Jordan County Course In contrast to Ridge and Tapscott counties, the impetus for the introduction of the course in Jordan County began with the school board, rather than citizens or 60 / FOR THE CIVIC GOOD community interest groups. As...


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