Bible Review 11:3, June 1995
Should the Bible Be Taught in Public Schools?


By John M. Swomley

Charles R. Kniker is not only a fine scholar, but a recognized authority on Bible education. He states well the case for the objective teaching of the Bible in the public schools. But that case fits the period 1960 to 1980 better than it does the current and future decades, since the United States has become less of a homogeneous Christian society.

The country is far more diverse than Kniker acknowledges. For example, there are more than five million Muslims in the U.S., a larger number than Episcopalians and Presbyterians, and a growing Asian immigration has brought us more Buddhists and other followers of Asian religions. Kniker also assumes that the lack of biblical knowledge among students is unfortunate for everyone, whereas many parents, while not consciously atheist or humanist, may have deliberately rejected biblical education in the home and church.

The problem of biblical illiteracy coupled with religious diversity is not new of course. About 30 years ago the Pennsylvania General Assembly authorized “courses in the literature of the Bible and other religious writings.” The state, with the cooperation of the University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania State University, prepared a teacher’s guide and a student manual with sections on the Hebrew Bible, Rabbinic writings, the New Testament and the Koran. That was and is a more realistic way of dealing with our religious diversity than simply a “back to the Bible” emphasis.

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