Proposed Cape High Bible class draws comment

Strong reaction from both sides on potential elective class
May 21, 2013
A proposed Bible literacy class at Cape Henlopen High School has drawn strong reaction from both sides. SOURCE METRO

A proposed Bible study class for Cape Henlopen High School is causing quite a stir within the Cape community.

Some Cape school board members who recently attended a school board convention in San Diego came back with the idea after listening to a seminar there on the Bible Literacy Project.

"It's basically a textbook for the academic study of the Bible," said board member Jen Burton. "I think this would be great to have … It provides students with important history."

Vice President Spencer Brittingham and board member Sandi Minard also supported adding an elective class for high school students. The curriculum includes a textbook; Cape was offered a discount on the cost if the district makes a decision soon.

"I think the majority of kids may want this course," Brittingham said. "I'm in favor of this and am looking for further discussion and debate."

Others weren't so supportive.

Board member Roni Posner, who practices Jewish Renewal, said she is concerned with how the course would be taught and from what perspective.

"To me, attempting to teach 'bible literacy,' whatever that actually means, in public school classrooms, outside of houses of worship, is outlandish as … well, a talking snake – out of context," she said reading from a prepared statement that she presented to the board.

Audience members who spoke at the meeting were split.

Betty Deacon said the district is setting itself up for a lawsuit if it proceeds with the Bible class.

"I don't want my tax dollars paying to defend the separation of church and state," she said.

Resident Judith Nicholas agreed that she does not want taxpayer money to pay for the new Bible curriculum.

"I'm all for Bible literacy but just not in the classroom," she said. "Don't ask the taxpayer to pick up the tab."

Those who supported the Bible class said the course teaches history and shows how major biblical characters such as Noah, Adam and Eve and Moses have been referenced in major literary and art throughout the ages.

"Since so much of our history and world history is entwined in the Bible it's something that students need to know," said Kit Kennedy of Lewes.

Lewes resident Scott Daily agreed that literature is ripe with biblical references that well-learned students should know.

"If my kid can go to a school and learn about the '60s, and that's not controversial to whitewash the '60s, then I don't see why Bible literacy is an issue," he said.

Superintendent Robert Fulton was visibly irate that board members brought up a curriculum change for discussion in a board meeting bypassing normal district channels for curriculum approval.

"We won't be implementing this next year," he said. "I'm a little concerned with the approach … We don't rush to make decisions for money reasons."

Fulton said Director of Curriculum and Instruction Michael Kelley would review the Bible Literacy Project and determine if it would be an appropriate addition to the high school's social studies electives.

Board President Andy Lewis said a World Religion class could be another option to include most major religions.

"I would like our curriculum committee to look at it and study it," he said.

Common Core under fire

Another hot button topic at the meeting involved the Common Core Standards – a national program adopted by most states including Delaware to align curriculum standards. In 2010, Delaware signed on as part of the Race to the Top initiative that included a $119 million grant over a four-year period.

Minard presented the board with a resolution questioning the state's involvement in the common core standards and the lack of local representation in developing the plan. The resolution calls on Gov. Jack Markell, the state legislature and the Delaware State Board of Education to withdraw from the Common Core State Standards Initiative.