Schools May Offer 2 Courses on Bible; Humanities Electives Legal, State-Approved

Article excerpt

Byline: Laura Diamond, Times-Union staff writer

Plays by William Shakespeare, paintings by Leonardo daVinci and present-day newspaper articles are among the many works containing references to the Bible.

But Jacksonville teacher Gracelyn Donesky found her students were so unfamiliar with the Bible they missed the references and misunderstood what they were reading.

To help students become Bible literate, Donesky sent Superintendent John Fryer a letter in March asking the school system to offer two state-approved courses on the subject.

In Introduction to the Bible I and II, students conduct a literary analysis on the Bible by studying characters, plots, themes and structure. Students also learn about the Bible's impact on Western culture and society. The courses abide by U.S. Supreme Court rulings in that they don't promote religion but rather teach about the Bible in a secular manner.

After reviewing the course descriptions, Fryer asked the Duval County School Board to adopt the classes. In the spring, the board voted to add the two humanities electives, but it was too late to be taught this school year.

Some high schools have expressed interest in adding the class next school year, but decisions likely won't be made until students are polled on their interest, said Michelle Green, supervisor of social studies for Duval County schools.

The courses have been in Clay County for several years. The number of schools with the program varies annually depending on the how many students register for each course. This school year, Clay and Middleburg high schools offer the class.

The system decides which courses to offer by listening to requests from teachers, students and parents, said Steve Moranda, executive director for instructional services. The system also looks at which courses can be offered in conjunction with local colleges and what classes students may need to prepare for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, he said.

It's too soon to know which schools in Duval County will have the course, but Donesky said she would be willing to leave her classroom at Arlington Middle School to lead the class. …