A tenth-grader in Newton, Massachusetts figured in another dismal story about a parent and school administrators who don’t seem to understand the purpose of public education.
Jack Summers balked at a literature assignment that required him to read a passage from the Bible. His mother backed him up.
Jack is a 15-year-old atheist whose remarks on the matter reflect a large fund of ignorance. According to the article in the Daily News Tribune, Jack declared that he would also refuse to take a class in comparative religion if required:
He said he isn’t opposed to learning about religion, but would rather get his information on religions from media sources such as the BBC and NPR, plus a friend who practices Islam.
Jack allows that he would “read summaries of religious stories,” but he puts his foot down at the original text:
“You can learn about a religion without reading its holy text,” said Summers.
For one thing, the purpose of the school assignment was not to learn about a religion. The context was a literature course that included works written by William Shakespeare, a writer whose work absolutely bristles with Biblical allusions.
An English-speaking student ignorant of the stories and language of the King James translation of the Bible approaches the study of English literature in a semi-blind condition.
I suppose that Jack has a Constitutional right to remain ignorant, but it is not the place of the school to treat his reluctance to become educated as some kind of religious or moral right.
Teenagers think they know everything. They like to butt heads with adults, especially school authorities. That’s what teenagers do.
Parents, teachers, and school administrators, on the other hand, are supposed to behave as adults.
If the boy doesn’t want to read the assignment, then let him fail the related quizzes.
If his mother doesn’t like the school English curriculum, let her teach him at home, or put him in a private school that shares her view of the world.
Although politicians and special interest groups pretend otherwise, the public schools cannot cater to the individual wants and needs of every child who comes to them.
The job of the school is to set an English curriculum that includes the most significant works in the language. The King James Bible is one of them.
Meanwhile, here’s a DailyWritingTips article I wrote about the value of the Bible for writers: Novelist, Read the Bible.
You can read more about the Summers incident in this article in the Daily News Tribune.