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

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.