Ask Chantilly HS to amend the mandatory reading of the Bible for AP Literature
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Part of the AP Literature summer assignment at Chantilly High School entails the reading of four passages from the Bible: “Genesis”, “Exodus”, “Job”, “The Gospel According to Matthew”. After asking around to see if other high schools are also reading the Bible as an assignment, it seems like Chantilly High School may be the only one. Even the Supreme Court case Abington v. Schempp (1963) ruled that the required reading, assessment on the Bible, and promotion of one religion in public schools is unconstitutional.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, schools cannot provide or promote the Bible. Yet by making the Bible a mandatory class assignment, students are forced to either purchase or borrow a copy of the Bible.
Parents often need to sign a consent form for students to read books with controversial messages or to watch movies in history class. So why doesn't reading the Bible, which likewise contains many controversial topics, require a signed form of consent?
Discussion of the Bible can place both students and teachers in an uncomfortable situation. There may be disagreements and misunderstandings between religions among students, placing the teacher in a tricky position of diffusing the problem as a teacher can neither endorse nor silence a remark.
Assessments and discussions in class would also favor students with a Christian background, while students who are not from this religious background are at a disadvantage and may be docked points for a lack of participation. This is further exemplified by the Biblical reading self-assessment at the end of Chantilly’s summer assignment. The questions are geared towards quizzing students on the Bible’s religious content rather than focusing on the literary aspects. Questions include:
- “Who was Adam and Eve’s third son?”
- “Who was the man of the wilderness that urged the people of Israel to repent?”
- “Who was chosen by God to lead his people out of captivity?”
- “Who was the tiller of the land; slew his brother?”
- “Who survived the lion’s den?”
- “What is the site of Jesus’ crucifixion?”
Fairfax County, Virginia is a very diverse place with people from all different backgrounds and religions. 46.38% of the people in Fairfax County, Virginia affiliate with a religion. 18.01% are Catholic; 1.59% are LDS; 4.98% are another Christian faith; 0.49% are Jewish; 1.58% are an eastern faith; 4.78% affiliates with Islam.
There are two rather simple solutions to honor and respect our diverse community.
1. Do not make passages from the Bible a required reading for the AP Literature class, but rather optional supplements. Furthermore, do not have any assessments on the Biblical portions of the summer assignment.
2. Require the reading of other religious texts such as the Qur’an, Tripitakas, The Vedas, The Upanishads, etc. This allows for the study and comparison across multiple religions, and does not solely promote one religion.
No one should have to feel that their faith is being suppressed or not recognized, or a particular faith is being forced upon them--especially in a public school setting. Be proud of yourself and respect others. Please sign today. Thank you.
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