Here’s my slightly delayed response to the Values Voter Summit, hosted by the Family Research Council, in DC over the weekend, which I attended. I thought I’d skip over reactions to the candidate statements and the straw poll at this point, as a lot was already said on those topics. I’d like to concentrate on the more mundane aspects of the conference, which are somewhat significant in their own right.
The conference had large exhibition put on by ‘pro-family’ grassroots organizations, which promote “traditional marriage, the protection of our religious freedoms, defending the sanctity of life, protecting our borders and defending our homeland.” There were over 50 organizations that set up booths and distributed materials, which ranged from 10 Commandments bumper stickers, to fake tattoos proclaiming abstinence, to pamphlets on the psychological neuroses of people with “same sex attractions.” The conversations I’ve had with these Christian activists provided great insight into the deeply held religious beliefs that these individuals hold (and are trying to spread).
The Bible Literacy Project had a rather impressive booth. The organization is aimed at promoting the teaching of the Bible in public schools, the main qualifier being that it be taught as history and literature. The organization publishes a textbook (which from what I skimmed of it, seems neutral on the point of religion), which it sell to schools wishing to adopt a new curriculum. I support the teaching of the Bible as a work of literature and history. My high school (a very liberal girls school) offered a unit on the ‘Bible as Literature’ as a part of mandatory 10th grade English curriculum. I found it to be of tremendous educational value. Like it or not, the Bible is a foundational piece of writing for Western culture and civilization. One cannot claim to be educated if they are lacking basic Biblical literacy.
I spoke with a woman who apparently taught the the Bible at Yale, Vanderbilt and Choate. She beamed about how 163 public high school districts had adopted their curriculum over the past two years, and how just this past week, the Alabama State School Board became the first state school board to approve it for its state-wide curriculum. We chatted for a bit over how important it was for students to know the historical and literary aspects of the Bible, then I asked her if the program had ever gotten into trouble for teaching the Bible as revealed religion. She admitted, “people who do enact the programs are generally biased.”
Herein lies the problem with teaching the Bible in public high schools. Christianists like those at the conference are not concerned with better educating children. Rather, they see tax-payer funded schools as a mere tool for pushing their religious worldview and policies.
More to come later on the Summit; I’m juggling lots of school work at the moment.