March 2007. There’s a lot we should teach

I published this rebuttal to an article by Stephen Prothero in the Keene Sentinel on March 28, 2007.


There’s a lot we should teach

Mar 28, 2007

To The Sentinel:

I could not agree more, or disagree more, with the article “Reading, Writing and Revelation,” by Stephen Prothero that appeared in the March 17 edition of The Sentinel.

Professor Prothero makes a strong argument that the Christian Bible is central to the history of western civilization and that as such should be studied by all secondary students in our country.

That this is the case is self-evident and can be doubted by no rational person.

Professor Prothero, on the other hand, goes astray is in his suggestion that the only way to gain an appreciation for the importance of the Christian Bible in western culture is by offering Bible classes in public schools.

He dismisses including the Christian Bible in the context of a course on world religions because that would be “treating it no differently from, say, the Zend-Avesta of the Zoroastrians or Scientology’s Dianetics.”

This is a spurious argument as no such course (and I teach one) would give equal weight to these texts; one might give equal weight to other seminal religious texts such as the Koran, the teachings of Buddha, or the Upanishads, but not to the rantings of Scientology.

Professor Prothero’s further argument, that “an entire generation of Americans is growing up almost entirely ignorant of the most influential book in world history” is the result of the dearth of Bible classes in public schools, is equally spurious; any decent literature or history course in a public high school would certainly touch upon our Biblical tradition, and private religious education is certainly available in every community in our country.

And having such an elective course does not at all guarantee that the next generation could distinguish, for instance, Joseph of Nazareth from Joseph of Arimathea; as it is, all public school students have access to many elective courses on subjects about which our nation as a whole is dismally ignorant.

There would appear to be a hidden, and pro-Christian, agenda to Professor Prothero’s suggestion, his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.

He claims that the lack of Biblical literacy is a “civic problem with political consequences.”

Surely our nation’s appalling ignorance of world history, geography, and culture is an even more serious civic problem than people missing the Biblical references in the movie “Pulp Fiction.”

Rather than calling for the further privileging of the western tradition as it is taught in our public schools, we should be more concerned that the vast majority of Americans know nothing about, say, the historical and cultural differences between Iraq and Iran.

MURRAY C. McCLELLAN

23 Pleasant St.

Keene