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Teaching Goliath without tears: Treading carefully as a Scripture teacher

OBADIAH SLOPE

Saturday 23 April 2016 

Off with his head: All the Scripture teachers who use the Connect books to teach Scripture (SRE or SRI in various states) found themselves in the news this week when Goliath hit the headlines. Actually, he was in the headlines because according to the lesson plan he lost his head – and the idea was that kids would act out the story.

That included the bit where David grabs Goliath’s sword and cuts off the giant’s head. After a column on Fairfax websites by a board member of the Rationalist Society of Australia hit the headlines, Youthworks, the publishers of Connect, announced they would “update our teaching guide for this lesson”.

What to teach: Obadiah hopes this is a storm in a teacup, but it raises an interesting debate. Obadiah heard two responses in favour of telling the whole story. “It is in the Bible so why not teach it?” and “Surely years five and six are old enough to act this out.” Obadiah needs to declare an interest here – when he taught the lesson a few weeks ago he left the beheading out, and used the Jesus Storybook Bible video instead – a series that tends to tell Bible stories really well.

What not to teach: People using the “It’s in the Bible so why not teach it?” argument are expressing a concern about the Bible being censored rather than saying the Goliath beheading MUST be taught to eleven and twelve-year-olds, I think. Let’s accept that this concern about censorship is valid, but it is more than likely that they have been careful in selecting which bits of the Bible to teach children of various ages if they have been doing it for very long.

And teaching Scripture (SRI, SRE) in schools is very different from Sunday school. There are some kids who might be used to the beheading story, and have heard it before, but others may react to it – there will be a wide range of children in the class and being there for one lesson a week does not mean you know them.

The lesson from the lesson: For those with the privilege of teaching about Jesus in public schools, let’s do it as well as we can. We can’t presume the community supports us; we have to do our best to earn their respect.


Paper wars: John Dickson of the Centre for Public Christianity subscribed to The Australian a couple of weeks ago. The very next week he was on the front page (for a story about Facebook deleting a post of his about, sigh, same-sex marriage). Guess he won’t be going back to the Sydney Morning Herald, now.

Quote of the week: “I have been — and remain — very grateful to you for your prayers and to God for his steadfast love. I have indeed seen his faithfulness.” Queen Elizabeth II in the foreword of the book, The Servant Queen and the King She Serves, distributed across Britain this week for her (real) birthday. It was published by Hope Together, Bible Society and the London institute for Contemporary Christianity.

 

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