American students, from both K-12 and college levels, are in dire need of the Bible, a statement that might seem controversial considering the prevalent hostility towards it in our intellectual culture. Unfortunately, our education system has largely discarded the Bible from curricula, resulting in an alarming lack of biblical knowledge among Americans. This lack of understanding has led to distorted perceptions of ourselves, our national history, our Judeo-Christian heritage, and our experiment in self-government.
The Bible holds immense significance, being the best-selling book of all time, yet an entire generation is growing up oblivious to its contents. Moreover, the Bible acts as the primary document in Western history, shaping the very foundation of our civilization. Understanding the Bible is crucial for comprehending Western culture, as it has influenced various aspects such as art, literature, philosophy, education, justice systems, government, family, humanitarianism, and philanthropy. Unlocking countless vocabulary, symbols, images, and metaphors throughout Western culture, the Bible is a cultural key.
In terms of education, surveys conducted among U.S. high school English teachers have revealed that knowledge of the Bible confers a distinct advantage to students. Recognizing this, more than 300 public schools nationwide have chosen to incorporate the Bible into their curriculum this year.
Apart from cultural enrichment, the Bible provides essential insights into American history. Christianity, as the early public religion of America, shaped the framework of society in its early stages. The nation’s founders extensively read and quoted the Bible, considering it the ultimate book. Both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution draw heavily from biblical principles, with John Adams deeming it the “best book in the world.” John Quincy Adams similarly advocated for universal attention towards the Bible, while Benjamin Rush acknowledged its role in awakening moral sensibility among the youth, preparing them for self-governance.
Not too long ago, the Bible held a prominent place in our public education system. Personal nostalgia recalls the opening exercises of a public school in northern New Jersey, where reciting the Pledge of Allegiance was coupled with the Lord’s Prayer and a Bible reading. This was a diluted version compared to past practices that involved thorough engagement with religious texts like The New England Primer and the McGuffey Readers.
The Bible not only shaped our understanding of law and freedom but also introduced us to various transformative narratives, from the creation story to the accounts of Moses and Jesus. It offered a theistic perspective, emphasizing the existence of a sovereign God and providing a reason to live. It grounded human nature in a mixture of inherent good and evil, contrasting with the prevalent belief in the malleability of human nature. It highlighted the perils of a freedom where everyone does what is right in their own eyes, stressing the importance of loving and respecting our neighbors. Moreover, it fostered the compatibility between faith and reason.
In conclusion, American students should emphasize the significance of the Bible in their education. By studying its teachings, they can gain a better understanding of Western culture, American history, and foundational principles that have shaped our society. Incorporating the Bible into our curriculum will not only enrich our students’ education but also contribute to developing well-rounded individuals who possess a deeper comprehension of themselves, their heritage, and their responsibilities within a democratic society.