The University of Texas at Austin Introduces New Bible Curriculum Instruction Courses for Public School Teachers

Aug. 4, 2009

Event: The University of Texas at Austin's Department of Religious Studies and Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins will host a "Teaching the Bible in Texas Public Schools" Summer Institute.

When: Aug. 4-7

The University of Texas at Austin, Waggener Hall. A campus map is available online.

Background: Twenty-one Texas public school teachers are participating in the "Teaching the Bible in Texas Public Schools" Summer Institute to learn strategies for teaching academic studies of the Bible.

Gov. Rick Perry signed legislation in June 2007 that added Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and New Testament to the enrichment curriculum for Texas high schools. To help teachers and districts fulfill these requirements, the university has created this teacher-training institute. Scholars in Hebrew Bible and in New Testament will lead sessions designed to prepare teachers for the special content and challenges of these topics.

Sessions will include courses on Bible studies and the First Amendment, as well the historical contexts and literary character of the Bible. The courses will also examine successful strategies for lesson planning, preparation and discussion of religious matters in the public arena.

"There's a fine line teachers will face in attempting to offer these kinds of courses," said L. Michael White, the Ronald Nelson Smith Chair in Classics and Christian Origins. "Our objective is to help teachers understand the different ways to read and study the Bible in their classes, through both historical and literary approaches, and to help them recognize that diversity is one key to avoid pitfalls in some of these First Amendment issues."

Participants will make field trips to a church, Saint Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church, and a synagogue, Congregation Agudas Achim, to learn how two different congregations study the Bible. They will also visit the university's Harry Ransom Center, where they will explore a collection of biblical manuscripts, including the Gutenberg Bible.

"These field trips are a way of broadening the teachers' horizons, and to help them see how the Bible is used in different religious traditions and the different shapes it has taken over time," White said.

Teachers from 13 urban, suburban and rural school districts from across the state will be attending. They come from areas as diverse as the Rio Grande Valley, West Texas and the San Antonio, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth areas. Participants will earn 26 Continuing Professional Education credit hours upon completion.

Established in 2007, the Department of Religious Studies provides a venue within the university and the community for the exploration of the historical, intellectual, social and cultural aspects of religions. It is the only religious studies department at a public university in Texas.

Note: Media representatives interested in attending may e-mail Jared Diener.

For more information, contact: Jessica Sinn, College of Liberal Arts, 512-471-2404; Jared Diener, program coordinator, Department of Religious Studies, 512-232-7737.

4 Comments to "The University of Texas at Austin Introduces New Bible Curriculum Instruction Courses for Public School Teachers"

1.  Kevin Templer said on Aug. 18, 2009

I am surprised by the tenor of these training materials. I would be interested to see them and would like the materials published so that I can better ascertain the scope and methods of teaching a Bible course in a high school.

For example, I would be very delighted if there were textual criticism of the New Testament presented, such as the one by Ehrman in "Misquoting Jesus" or another by him, "Jesus Interrupted." In addition, to study the Old Testament we could use a book like "The Bible Unearthed" by Silberman and Finkelstein.

The main thrust of these books is that we can realize through scientific, rational discussion that the Bible is a collection of stories, written by a variety of individuals with a variety of agendas.

What I am afraid of though is that it will be a "non-denominational" treatment of the Bible with the main goal in getting people to think the Bible is a "spiritual" book that should be followed or adopted for one's religious beliefs. If this turns out to be the case then The University of Texas at Austin will be the unwitting participant in the fraternity of organizations that support Hitchens' thesis: that religion poisons everything.

I suppose the real test would be if schools will hire teachers who proclaim they're atheists to teach the course.

2.  Claudia Q. Larios said on Sept. 9, 2009

When are you going to have another course like this?

3.  Becky Bader said on Oct. 26, 2009

When will you have more training? Thanks. Becky Bader

4.  Paul said on Feb. 14, 2012

Thank you for offering this Curriculum. The University of Texas has already produced Biblical Scholars like Dr. Raymond Edge who did his doctorate under Bar Adon on the Name of God in the Dead Sea Scrolls. In his dissertation he gave the History of the Kumran people, and text. National Geographical recently did a special featuring his conclusion from his Dissertation.