Lee Jefferson, who teachers religion at Centre College in Kentucky and blogs for Huffington Post, alerts me to his post on the Arkansas legislation to encourage teaching of the Bible in Arkansas high schools as an "academic" subject. Jefferson has a lot to say about the idea, little of it good, though apparently the Arkansas proposal isn't as bad as Kentucky legislation, which allows students to choose their preferred version of the Bible for study. Of Arkansas's idea, Jefferson writes:
.. nowhere in the bill's language does it state any requirement for a teacher of this course to be trained and prepared to truly instruct a class in the "academic" study of the Bible. The bill merely states what the teachers will not be, and nothing of what they should be: actually steeped in the discipline of biblical literature. Even in a private, religiously affiliated school, it was expected that a religion teacher would have a degree demonstrating their knowledge base in the discipline before setting foot in the classroom. With this legislation, it is unlikely any such instructor would be hired to teach an elective course. Instead, it will devolve as Rita Sklar of ACLU Arkansas fears, into classroom proselytizing. Sadly, many of us can recall moments in our secondary education where the teacher was woefully unprepared and unqualified to teach the material (where the instructor prefers to be addressed as "Coach"). The same standard must be applied for such an elective course or it will only be Sunday School in a weekday setting, and far from any "academic study of the Bible."