Little interest shown for Bible classes

By BRENDA PEDRAZA-VIDAMOUR Few students have shown interest in taking Bible classes in Georgia two years after Georgia became the first state to allow the classes to be taught as an elective, and none have expressed an interest in the classes in Coweta County. "Since this came up, we have not had anyone ask to explore the class, and we haven't had a large number of students to express an interest in the class," said Dean Jackson, spokesman for the Coweta County School System.
"History and Literature of the Old Testament Era" and "History and Literature of the New Testament Era" were among the English elective courses approved by the state school board in 2006, but since the 2007-08 school year -- the first year the classes were allowed -- just 37 of 440 high schools offered the classes, according to Associated Press. The classes are strictly academic explorations of the Bible and are expected to offer students an understanding on how the Bible has influenced literature, history and society. The state board adopted standards for the Bible classes, including the stipulation that the Bible itself had to be used as the textbook, but which version of the Bible or what supplemental materials would be used were left up to the local school boards. Specific lessons, teaching and training for the classes were also left to the local school boards. The U.S. Supreme Court prohibited public school teachers from teaching students what to believe about the Bible in 1963 but allowed academic study of the Bible to continue. A state lawmaker who sponsored the bill authorizing the classes told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that more districts would offer the courses if they were promoted. "You've got to convince these school boards to do it, but they're reluctant because they're so afraid of lawsuits," said state Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams, R-Lyons. "This has nothing to do with proselytizing. My intention is for people to become literate of the Bible and its influences on society." Jackson said the Coweta school system would be open to offering the class if there was student interest from at least 14-16 students, the minimum number needed to create a class. "Ultimately, what really determines it is whether or not we have the interest to open those classes," he said. Students in Coweta appear to be more interested in the arts this year instead. Last spring, the Coweta County Board of Education approved 17 course additions. Most were related to the arts, and were included in the high school courses offered at the Central Educational Center this year. They ranged from drawing and painting to music in film and video. Several other course additions pertained to CEC's workforce development mission and they included classes in air conditioning, game development, robotics, health care science and electrical apprenticeship.

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