Bible study and English studies.

According to a report in yesterday’s edition of The Guardian, the poet laureate, Andrew Motion, wants children to be taught the Bible in school.

Children should be taught the Bible throughout their education because it is an “essential piece of cultural luggage” without which they will struggle to fully understand literature, according to the poet laureate, Andrew Motion.

Too many students arrive at university to study English literature barely knowing who Adam and Eve were because teaching of the Bible and its “great stories” is disappearing from the school system, he said. He was not arguing for religious indoctrination, but for people to learn historical stories which have influenced writers. “I am not for a moment suggesting that everybody be made to go to church during their childhood. But what I do think would be worth thinking about [is] how there could be some kind of general treatment of this all the way through a child’s schooling,” he told the Guardian.

People cannot expect to understand much of literature – from John Milton to TS Eliot – without learning the Bible first, he said. The sermon on the mount and the crucifixion are stories which have influenced story structures ever since, while the book of Ruth is essential because of “the beauty of the writing”. Children should read the Bible, he said, “simply because it is full of terrific stories. They speak to us about human nature and the recurring patterns of human behaviour.”

I can see the sense in what he is saying. What I cannot see too clearly at present is you would go about teaching a “religion free” Bible.

Having studied T.S.Eliot and Milton, I can say with some confidence that I’d not have quite the same understanding of them, had I not had spent some reading the Bible.

In a radio broadcast at Christmas Clive James remarked

  I notice that even my friend Christopher Hitchens, who has lately become famous all over again for declaring that religious belief is inimical to human reason and a threat to justice, would still rather like to maintain some of the traditions. Writing beautifully himself, he knows that much of the beauty of the English language has the Bible as its fountain, and that an education without a Bible education is no education.

Now, that’s a good reason for us not being deterred from seriously considering bringing Bible study back into the mainstream education.


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