Texas aims to incorporate Bible stories into elementary school reading

Texas Plans to Incorporate Bible Stories into Elementary School Reading Program

The initiative could impact more than 2 million students and has sparked concerns about the introduction of ‘religious and ideological elements’.

By Jenna Smith
May 29, 2024

Elementary school students in Texas may soon include Bible teachings as part of their reading curriculum, as revealed in the newly introduced curriculum redesign.

The curriculum redesign will integrate stories from the Bible, such as Queen Esther’s tale of convincing the Persian king to spare the Jews and the depiction of Christ’s last supper, to establish connections between classroom subjects and religious texts.

“When students engage with classic American literature, they often encounter religious references within those works,” noted state education Commissioner Mike Morath. “Our intention is to build a solid foundation of knowledge surrounding these pivotal works of the American cultural heritage.”

Texas education Commissioner Mike Morath stated that Bible context assists students to grasp the concepts presented in significant literary works. (Melissa Phillip/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images)

This initiative has the potential to impact over 2 million K–5 students in Texas, highlighting a significant step in aligning education with conservative values. However, the move has also raised concerns about possible religious influence in educational settings, especially given past controversies within the state, such as the recent legislation allowing chaplains in schools.

Mark Chancey, a professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University, expressed concerns, stating, “The challenge arises when cultural literacy is used as a facade to conceal underlying religious and ideological motives.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick commended the curriculum changes during a Christian talk show, emphasizing the significance of teaching stories derived from the Bible, rather than the Bible itself. The recent endorsement aligns with the state Republican party’s platform urging Bible instruction in educational settings.

Following the party’s platform adoption, the Texas education department revealed a comprehensive reading curriculum that integrates material from various faiths, emphasizing diversity and inclusivity.

While modifications to the curriculum were underway, debates surfaced regarding the inclusion of biblical content. Notably, a prominent curriculum provider resisted including religious themes, prompting Texas authorities to seek alternative vendors, including Hillsdale College and the Texas Public Policy Foundation, known for advocating religious and moral values in education.

Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick endorsed the incorporation of Bible stories into Texas’ elementary school curriculum. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Empowering Students with Biblical Literacy

In addition to traditional literacy skills, the revamped curriculum delves into history, science, and the arts, embracing a classical education approach. This method aims to enhance students’ understanding of historical contexts and cultural references in literary works.

For example, a unit titled “Fighting for a Cause” includes the biblical story of Esther and her cousin Mordecai, highlighting their fight for justice and the enduring impact on the Jewish people. Such references aim to connect historical events with ethical and moral lessons for students.

The curated content covers a range of biblical and historical figures, such as Samuel Adams and Martin Luther King Jr., urging students to explore significant historical events through diverse perspectives.

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