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The Herald (Rock Hill, SC):
Schools consider teaching Bible

By Karen Bair The Herald (Rock Hill, SC)
September 27 2005

Can an academic approach to the Bible be taught in public schools without arousing a storm of controversy?  Rock Hill School Board member Jason Silverman on Monday asked for public comment on whether a new textbook, "The Bible and Its Influence," should be introduced into the district's schools. Meanwhile, he plans to research the textbook and prepare a report for the board next month.

"Students today have grown up in a world in which the Bible is controversial and prayer is outlawed," Silverman said. "They've seen the Bible used both pro and con on whatever issue. Religion and the Bible have become so politicized they shy away from it."

The text, released last week, is said to take an academic approach to Bible study without bias to any particular religion. It presents narratives, themes and characters of Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, covering their influence on art, literature, music and culture, but is said to preserve parents' right to teach their view of the Bible's religious significance.

It was created to fulfill the standards set by the Bible Literacy Project, a three-year study that concluded few teens are "Bible literate," and the First Amendment Center.

"I remember walking hallways in Ebinport Elementary to Bible class each week," said board chairman Bob Norwood. "It's hard to believe with the culture in our public schools today that ever happened. It sounds like something out of the 1800s."

Silverman said "anyone who is an educator knows knowledge of the Bible is important." He cited allusions to Biblical stories and excerpts that pervade our culture and literature.

Norwood and board members Walter Brown and Elizabeth "Ann" Reid supported Silverman's quest to study the textbook and pursue public comment.

The Bible Literacy Project concept was endorsed by 20 national educational and religious organizations, including the National Education Association, the National School Boards Association, the National Association of Evangelicals, the American Jewish Congress and the Baptist Joint Committee for Legislative and Public Affairs.

The text has been reviewed by educators and scholars from Roman Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Eastern Orthodox and Jewish traditions.

Silverman, a Winthrop University history professor, said he was intrigued by it as a historian because of the Bible's legal controversy.

"I was intrigued as a parent because I would like my child exposed to it in an approach that is broad and fair to everybody," he said. "As a school board member, I'm intrigued because it has been endorsed by school organizations and others."

Silverman has ordered a copy of the book and plans to discuss it with representatives of the Bible Literacy Project, the book's authors and with school districts that have tested it.

He is asking those who are interested to learn more about the text at and offer feedback either by writing him at the school district office or contacting him in Winthrop's history department.

"Apparently, this book has satisfied everybody across the board from academic and legal scholars to religious groups," Silverman said.

He plans to report his findings to the board at a work session in coming weeks.

Copyright 2005 The Herald, Rock Hill, South Carolina

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