"Asking a biblical scholar if the Bible should be taught is like asking a chef if he likes to cook. I think students are well served to have familiarity with the Bible, and I think it's important to our cultural literacy. I also wish students got more exposure to the diversity of religions - in America and around the world. Now, more than ever, we need that."
Doctor Mark Chancey, biblical studies professor at Southern Methodist University's stance on Bible literacy courses in public schools.
Whether the Bible should be taught mightn't be the inflammatory issue it can be viewed to be. At the simplistic, it's simply an historical text, full of accounts, history, legend, and life lessons. As far as historical accuracy goes, it's a little off. Jericho didn't fall at the time listed in the Bible, but my history books have all been updated due to inaccuracies in the past. Why carp? It's not textually factual. Well, that's a matter of interpretation, don't you think? Is the Garden of Eden really being blocked by a flaming sword? Or is that flowery license to indicate that we're going to have to toil for our lives? Did Elijah really get swept to heaven in a flaming chariot? Did Jesus really miraculously get 5 loaves and 2 fishes to feed 5,000, or is it more like Stone Soup, where people started sharing what they had been hoarding? Who knows? As far as books go in Western Civilization, the Bible has had more impact than any other. Look at other significant documents used in schools, the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, Homer's Odyssey (also a history book) - They are all documents that shaped western culture, to include American culture, over the last umpteen years. As far as that goes, logic would dictate that it's an important document as well, and thus should be included in curriculum.
The problem, as I see it, doesn't come from using the Bible as an historical document. that would be easily justifiable. The problem stems from the fact that it's not considered historical to contemporaries, rather, it's considered religious, something that the Odyssey is not. That's the difference. Were it possible in this country to include the Bible as a text, it would probably be OK. However, you can't bring the Bible into classrooms without the appearance or actuality of people preaching one religion over another. You bring the problem of different interpretation. You bring the problem of alienating non-Christian children. Like it or not, in this country, incorporating the Bible in school presents the image of favoritism of one religion over others. Our country has more or less adopted the doctrine of separation between Church and State. You can argue until you're blue in the face whether that should or should not be based on the writings of the founding fathers; I don't care. The fact remains that that is how we have run things.
Since that is the case, the possible solutions, as I see it are:
Teach the Bible in an elective class
Don't teach the Bible at all
Teach a world religion class that gives equal face time to (at least) the major religions, including, but not limited to Christianity, Judiasm, Muslim, Buddhism, Confuscianism, and Hinduism
I still think religion is a personal thing, and that it's ultimately up to the family to choose how and to what extent a child should be exposed to it. Religion isn't like Vitamin D, where you need to have the government provide milk at school to ensure there's enough. As such, I believe that it behooves us in this society at this time to refrain from providing Biblical studies in public schools.