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Bibles in the Classroom
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By Kelly O'Connell
February, 2008

The Bible has been around for thousands of years. It's one of the most famous books in the world.  This school year was the first that the Bible as literature program was brought into schools in Georgia.

Muscogee County was one of the first districts in the state to teach the program. After almost a year in the classroom, is the program working? Is it being taught the way the law says itís supposed to? News Three went to find answers.

When you walk into Mrs. Brinkerís Bible as Literature class at Northside High School in Columbus, you hear things you normally donít in public schools. "What kind of animal did Noah not take on the ark with him?" asks one student. This isn't a Bible study class but it is a class that uses the Bible. In fact, it's the main text.

Mrs. Brinker's Bible as literature class is one of a handful of classes taught in the Muscogee County school district.
"What better place than in the bible belt of the south to try something out like this and see if it can be kept objective and academic and not turn it into something prayer and faith based," says Lisa Brinker.

The new project is in its second semester, with students using the Bible not as a religious book, but as an English book. "Focus on the Bible, regardless of what somebody's beliefs may be, is one of the most influential texts in the western world," says Brinker. So the district decided to try it out. The key is to keep it academic.

"She wasn't teaching it as history, she was just teaching it as a story that we had to analyze," says student Lauren Ninke.

Analyze the Bible like any other book.

The same way they're taught Catcher and the Rye or To Kill a Mocking Bird. "A liberal arts education, a well rounded student, needs to know about the bible, the same way they need to know about Greek mythologies, because it shows up everywhere and all the time," says Brinker. So Mrs. Brinker's class is soaking it all in and having fun with it.
From board games to Bible bios. Even using computer games to make stories more understandable.

"I'm not religious myself, and I haven't exactly read through the bible but I actually learned a lot about the allusions and the stuff I didn't understand before, but now that I've had this class, it makes so much more sense," says Stewart Donovan, who took the course last semester. That's exactly the idea behind the program.

Thereís no way Mrs. Brinker can get through all 66 books of the Bible, so she picks the ones that are most popular and then teaches the literary elements in those stories. The school district says they'll continue to offer the course as long as the interest is there. ďIts an offering, its an elective we want to offer a choice to students, we feel that in MC, choice is a good thing a this is just another choice students have the opportunity to take,Ē says secondary education director of Muscogee County, Keith Siefert.

Students in Mrs. Brinkerís class seem to like the choice. "Even if you're not religious or anything, you can still benefit from it in further English classes," says Ninke. A benefit the district hopes keeping around. The class is offered in seven different high schools throughout the county and so far 130 students have signed up. Along with the Bible as literature course, the district also provides a course of the history of the old and New Testament.The first nine weeks of the courses focus on the Old Testament, the New Testament is the focus for the last part of the course.
All of the teachers had to go through a week long training session this summer.

Because of that, Muscogee County feels confident that its teachers are teaching the material in a non religious way.
Some districts throughout the state are deciding not to provide the class because either they donít have the funding or they canít ensure that the class will truly be non-devotional. This program is used in schools in 37 other states across the country.

For more information about the Bible Curriculum, check out these links.

Bible Literacy Program has a website, click this link to connect.

To check out the state standards for the Bible Course, click this link to connect to the Georgia Department of Education website.

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