This week in Virginia, a judge is considering the legality of posting of the Ten Commandments in a public school. The Roanoke Times reports that Judge Michael Urbanski has indicated that he will order the case into mediation between the ACLU and the local school board because of the financial cost to the school district.
He suggested a Solomon-like compromise whereby the two sides agree to censor the first four commandments, which are more explicitly religious, and leave the other six commandments.
I have a better idea. Forget posting the Ten Commandments on a display that no student will even look at, much less, read. Instead of treating it like some kind of patriotic wallpaper, make sure teachers in the ENTIRE state of Virginia teach about the Ten Commandments AS EXPECTED in the state’s academic standards.
The 2008 Virginia academic standards for World History expect students to “demonstrate knowledge of ancient river valley civilizations, including those of Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indus River Valley, and China and the civilizations of the Hebrews, Phoenicians, and Nubians, by… [among other things] explaining the development of religious traditions, [and] describing the origins, beliefs, traditions, customs, and spread of Judaism.
That would pretty much cover the Ten Commandments (and a whole lot more).
In addition to this, the Virginia Department of Education lists as “Essential Knowledge” that students are expected to know “the essential beliefs of Judaism” (WHI.3d.Q1) and how Judaism influenced Western civilization (WHI.3d.Q2). Additionally, students are to learn about “beliefs, traditions, and customs of Judaism” (WHI.3d.B) as well as the “Ten Commandments, which state moral and religious conduct” (WHI.3d.B.3).
Virginia has 1,245,340 students. In the course of their education, ALL OF THEM are expected to learn the Ten Commandments! Symbolism can be wonderful. But, given the choice between symbolism and substance, I’ll take substance any day.
Here’s my call to action: Every church in Virginia should make sure its local schools are actually teaching what is already expected regarding the Ten Commandments. In my experience, too many teachers are afraid to do it even though their academic standards expect it.
Gateways to Better Education offers a three-hour professional development seminar that equips public school teachers, in every state, how to legally and appropriately teach about the Bible and Christianity across the curriculum. Click on the link for more information on bringing Faith, Freedom & Public Schools to your community.
Eric Buehrer is the president of Gateways to Better Education and an occasional blogger at the BreakPoint Blog.