Two important issues before Cape school board

May 23, 2013

Two issues raised at the Cape Henlopen school board meeting May 9, namely the insertion of a “Bible literacy” class into the curriculum, and the proposal to adopt a resolution asking that the state withdraw from the Common Core State Standards Initiative should be of serious concern to all residents of the Cape Henlopen School District.

The Bible may be considered as a subject in a public school curriculum in a class in comparative religions, or possibly a literature class. The suggestion that the Bible is a history book is only partially true. Not everything in the Bible is history, and there are non-sectarian sources that would provide the same historical information.  References to biblical persons, etc. in literature and art can be more properly addressed in literature and art classes.

A class in comparative religions, in which Christianity, Judaism, Islam and others such as Hinduism and Buddhism are presented for comparison, might pass the test of constitutionality depending on the syllabus. In any case, there can be no favoritism shown to any one religion. If parents wish their children to benefit from any sectarian Bible instruction, it must be done at home, at church sponsored classes, and/or by regular attendance at their preferred place of worship.

As Don Flood wrote in his column May 21, “The idea behind Common Core was partly in response to employers and business leaders who said too many students across the country were graduating unprepared for the world of work. National standards would help ensure that students from Maine to New Mexico would graduate with similar skills and knowledge.” Given the mobility of today’s American families due to job moves or other factors, children are frequently required to attend school, not just in another district, but in another state.

This requires a commonality in curriculum to ensure that these children’s education is not short-changed in such moves. All children who wish to attend college will be competing for admission with children from many other states. Those who will enter the job market immediately after high school will  be competing with children from different school districts within Delaware, and potentially also with students from other states.

If the school board is genuinely concerned with the education of the children entrusted to their care, they will favor raising standards to meet the educational needs of those children. If the proposed Bible literacy class does not meet established criteria for non-sectarianism, a lawsuit is almost certain to be filed. Wasting precious resources on such a lawsuit benefits no one.

The Cape district can also accomplish this by adhering to the Common Core State Standards Initiative which will provide a level playing field for these students as they leave school and face the world outside of their home district.

Mary Beth Crafts

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