Bible Literacy Project News
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
High School Bible Class: Learning its impact
Elective sparks students' interest
Neil Nisperos, Staff Writer
Posted: 03/26/2011 11:25:20 PM PDT
- As the debate continues over the propriety of Bible
literacy classes at public school districts, local
students say their experience in the class has been
useful to their English and history lessons.
The senior elective class was added to Chino Valley
district offerings at the beginning of the school year
at the behest of a number of congregates from the
Calvary Chapel Chino Hills church, which also pledged to
provide textbook funding.
"I took this class because it sounded interesting to
learn about the Bible as a book and story rather than
for religious purposes," said Chino High School senior
"It's a very fun class, and it's important for kids to
be informed of the knowledge and stories
Jaclyn Hyslop teaches the Bible literacy class at Chino
High, showing the Bible's influence on literature and
history. (Neil Nisperos/Staff)of the Bible, just to help
understand other pieces of literature. The Bible and its
stories actually have a big impact on every piece of
literature because most stories and lessons learned are
influenced by the Bible."
Class supporters, district officials and the curriculum
producers contend the class is objective, nondevotional,
and does not promote any particular religious view,
while critics have voiced concerns over a devotional
motivation behind adding the class to the public school
first chapter of the class textbook, "The Bible and Its
Influence," outlines the approach that the nondevotional
curriculum will not press students into accepting
religion, religious beliefs or engage in the practice of
religion. Differing religious views encountered in the
course will "neither be encouraged nor discouraged."
The executive director of the Bible
Literacy Project company, which publishes the textbook -
said the purpose of the course is not to ask anyone to
convert to any particular religious belief or lack of
"The key distinction is that you're not requiring any
particular devotional or nondevotional response on the
part of the students," Jenislawski said.
"What is relevant, and in some ways it's like a cultural
literacy course, is to make sure when students are
reading a newspaper, and they see a `David and Goliath'
battle in the Legislature, they're not scanning the
article to find the names Senator David or
Representative Goliath. They know what that means, and
they're aware of some of these key terms."
At a recent Bible literacy class session at Chino High,
where nearly 20 students are enrolled, students read
passages from the book of Philemon. The focus was a
letter from an early church leader named Paul who
requests good treatment for a fellow Christian slave
named Onesimus who is returning to his former master
Philemon, the head of a house church in the ancient town
The class textbook relates use of the book in American
author Harriet Beecher Stowe's 19th century anti-slavery
novel, "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
The lesson is designed to get the students to think
about Paul's acceptance of slavery as a normal condition
of his society and also his message that masters and
slaves should recognize that despite the social
relationship of Christian slaves and slave masters, they
are all "spiritual brothers and sisters," according to
the teacher's guide.
The biblical Paul's views have been used in the American
past to both defend and attack the institution of
slavery, according to curriculum guide.
Other lessons examine the cultural connections between
characters and stories in the Bible with music,
politics, social issues and major historical events.
Jaclyn Hyslop teaches the senior-level Bible as
literature and history elective at Chino Valley Unified.
"We really have tied it into literature and history,"
"The students have learned so much as far as the history
of the Bible and how it has impacted Western
civilization and society. It's even impacted the
development of our own government, and we talked about
that in the beginning and just throughout, it's been
great to see them connect it to stories they've been
reading in their English class and other classes."
The school district will expand its senior-level Bible
as literature and history elective to high school
juniors next year, after a number of students petitioned
the district to do so last year.
Petition signatures included 32 juniors, who would be
able to take the class next year, in addition to five
sophomores and two freshmen.
The class enrolls 11 students at Chino Hills High, 11
students at Don Lugo High and 17 students at Chino High.