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November 03, 2005 - Image 39

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-11-03

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


Editorials are posted and archived on JNOnline.com


Fighting Cultural Starvation

t can reasonably be said that
someone who is unfamiliar
with the language and
imagery of the Bible and
Shakespeare cannot fully under-
stand the literary, musical and
artistic heritage of Western civi-
lization. These works should be
vital parts of the educational
process. But they aren't.
Teaching Shakespeare is no
problem, except for those who
refuse to grapple with
Elizabethan English. But the
Bible ... well, that's a whole differ-
ent story. Attempts to bring the
Bible into a public classroom run
into First Amendment trouble as
sure "as sparks fly upward" (Job
There are always objections
that any course or textbook deal-
ing with biblical subjects will
impose a particular religious
view on students. Jewish,
Protestant and Catholic transla-
tions into English also can vary
But even the First Amendment
Center, a watchdog over church-
state issues, is applauding The
Bible and Its Influence. This new
textbook, published last month,
was described as "the closest
educators can get to a constitu-


tional and academic safe harbor
for teaching about the Bible;' by
the center's senior scholar,
Charles C. Haynes.
Marc Stern, general counsel of
the American Jewish Congress,
says, "Without question, it can
serve as the basis for a constitu-
tional course." Evangelical
Christian educators, quoted in
the Christian Science Monitor, call
it an "undisputed triumph of
scholarship and presentation."
The book is the product of the
Bible Literacy Project, a Virginia-
based nonprofit group that spent
five years developing it with
input by reviewers from the
major Jewish and Christian tra-
ditions. "It does not promote reli-
gion," says the project's founder,
Chuck Stetson.
The U.S. Supreme Court has
never told public schools that
teaching about the Bible was
unconstitutional. In 1963, in
Abington School District v.
Schempp, it did strike down
devotional readings in the class-
room. But most school districts
were hesitant about introducing
any material relating to the Bible
because the boundaries were
unclear and they didn't want the
expense of defending lawsuits.

But awareness has developed
that students fail to understand
major points in history and the
arts because they lack knowledge
of the Bible: from the composi-
tions of Handel and Leonard
Bernstein, to the rhetoric of
Abraham Lincoln, to the plotline
of major novels by William
Faulkner (Absalom, Absalom)
and John Steinbeck (East of
Eden). On a practical level, bibli-
cal allusions permeate the litera-
ture section of the advanced
placement test given to high
school seniors.
One teacher pointed out that
even the introduction to the TV
hit Desperate Housewives con-
tains a visual allusion to Eve tak-
ing the forbidden apple.
There is still a need for admin-
istrators and parents to be vigi-
lant over possible abuse of this
teaching tool. But that seems a
reasonable price for a textbook
that can fill an important gap in
the teaching of humanities and
history to culturally starved stu-

Dry Bones








E-mail your opinion in a letter to the
editor of no more than 150 words
to: letters@thejewishnews.com .


Reality Check

Moments To Remember

Japanese writer once sug-
gested that heaven con-
sisted of simply this. At
the time of death your mind
flashes back to the happiest
moment of your life, and you
then inhabit that moment for
I've thought about that for
many years. I once believed that
moment may have occurred for
me on a family trip to the
Rockies, when my daughters
were about 11 and 8. We had
lunch in Taos, on the back patio
of what was once a ranch house.
A field of wildflowers stretched
endlessly before us to the base of
the mountains, and I remember
feeling such a sense of perfec-
tion, of happiness, of everything
being in its place, that I could



November 3 2005

easily have spent eternity in that
Then I saw the face of Caryn
Rachel, and I had to reconsider
the matter.
I had been told to expect an
incredible rush of love when
looking at my first grandchild for
the first time. Friends who pre-
ceded me into this realm of life
said there was nothing like it.
Still, no words can prepare you
for the moment when it arrives.
It wipes away much of what you
once thought of as important
and makes it seem inconsequen-
My son-in-law, Mike, took pic-
tures of Sherry and me, and of
his parents, Allan and Barbara
Ben, as we kneeled beside the
newborn. We all had the same

had haunted her
daffy smile on our face, a
throughout school. No
look of stunned bliss.
one ever got it right. A
For weeks before her
few times she had been
birth we had discussed,
mistaken for an
almost seriously, what
Hispanic male, and
we would want to be
when that happened I
called. Grandma. Zayde.
encouraged her to
Nana. Poppa.
Georg e Cantor apply for a minority
But at that moment
scholarship and then
Colu mnist
my feeling was that
try to fake it later on.
"Hey, you" would be
So she turned around and did
perfectly fine if she so desired.
the same thing to her daughter.
My computer program insists
Oh, well. A little unconventionali-
upon underlining Caryn's name
ty never hurt anybody.
in red, telling me it doesn't agree
Caryn was in something of a
with the spelling. Just another
rush, arriving two weeks early.
reason to be annoyed with com-
All that morning at the hospital, I
puters. Like I needed another
found myself humming a tune
my subconscious had dredged up
Our daughter, Jaime, always
from somewhere.
complained that the unconven-
Mike, knowing my fondness
tional spelling we gave her name

for show tunes, and deploring it,
asked me what its name was.
That was the first time I was
even aware that I had been hum-
ming, and when I realized what
the song was I refused to answer
him for fear of being mocked.
It was called Hurry, It's Lovely
Up Here.
A lovely place, indeed, this
world, filled with moments of
ineradicable joy.
I can close my eyes and still
see the field of flowers in the
New Mexico meadow. But when I
open them and see my grand-
daughter's face, I find an even
better moment to go through
time with. ❑

George Canto's e-mail address is
gcantor614@aol.com .


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