That's the surprising message of an editorial titled Biblical Ignorance in today's Chicago Tribune. Citing a recent report by the Bible Literacy Project, the editorial notes that 90 percent of high school English teachers agree that students need a basic working knowledge of the Bible in order to understand the history, literature and culture of Western Civilization. Here are a few common phrases that every student should be able to identify:
"In the beginning."
"Let there be light."
"The promised land."
"Eye for an eye."
"A time to be born and a time to die."
"Let my people go."
"Root of all evil."
"The Lord is my shepherd"
"Cast the first stone."
"Love thy neighbor."
"Do unto others."
"Render unto Caesar."
The Tribune sums up the situation this way:
It's every person's decision whether to believe or practice what is taught in the Bible. But no one can deny its influence. Trying to understand American literature and history without some knowledge of the Bible is like trying to make sense of the ocean despite a complete ignorance of fish.
The recommended solution: Teach the Bible in public schools. If the teaching is confined to history, literature, and the Bible's impact on culture, it is perfectly legal. Many school districts shy away from such courses, fearing either a lawsuit or covert evangelizing (followed by a lawsuit). You don't need to be a Christian or a Jew to learn the basic outlines of the Bible story. Every student needs to know something about Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, Noah and the flood, the Tower of Babel, the names of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and the Exodus, Saul, David, Solomon, Job, the basic outline of the life of Christ, the story of Peter and Paul and the broad outline of the birth of Christianity and its spread across the Roman Empire. The editorial notes that "the Supreme Court has made it clear that public schools are free to teach about the Bible just as they would any other work of literature or history."
Here is the bottom line:
Public schools have no business using Bible instruction to advance a religious agenda. But when they decline to impart knowledge about such an important subject, they are not doing anything to preserve the separation of church and state. They are merely failing their students.
The Bible is one of
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