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
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
Silverman, a Winthrop University history professor, said he was
intrigued by it as a historian because of the Bible's legal
"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 www.bibleliteracyproject.org and offer feedback either by writing
him at the school district office or contacting him in Winthrop's
"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
Copyright © 2005 The Herald, Rock Hill, South Carolina