Poet Laureate calls all Children to be taught the Bible

Date Published: Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Poet Laureate Andrew Motion calls for all children to be taught the Bible

Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate, has warned that every child should be taught the Bible at school or they will fail to properly understand culture and literature.

By John Bingham
Last Updated: 12:15PM GMT 17 Feb 2009

Mr Motion said that generations of teachers with less and less knowledge of the Bible had left even the brightest students with a "sketchy" understanding of once familiar stories.

The poet, who describes himself as an atheist, called for an overhaul of the school curriculum to reverse the "depressing" trend which threatened to leave future generations unable to fully understand the works of Milton and Shakespeare or even more recent writers such as TS Eliot.

The solution, he said, could be to include study of the Bible and other religious stories into a new wider general studies curriculum as well as working it into everyday lessons.

Mr Motion, who holds a chair in creative writing at Royal Holloway, University of London, said that he had struggled to teach Milton's Paradise Lost to undergraduates because they had no concept of the fall of man.

"These were all bright students, very hard-working, all with good A-levels, but their knowledge of the great ancient stories was very sketchy," he said in an interview.

"So when the time came to talk about Milton, I found very few knew there had been a civil war. As for the Bible, forget it, they just about knew who Adam and Eve were."

He insisted that while secularist ideas had put many people off studying the Bible, parents who do not believe in God should have nothing to fear from their children learning about the Bible.

"If people say this is about ramming religion down people's throats, they aren't thinking about it hard enough," he said.

"It is more about the power of these words to connect with deep, recurring human truths, and also the story of the influence of that language and those stories."

And he warned that growing ignorance of the great stories of the Bible as well as classical mythology was becoming an increasingly serious handicap for those studying literature.

"Many of my students stumble into vaguely mythological stories in their writing," he said.

"When I ask them anything about the Bible, they frankly, by and large, don't know.

"I don't particularly blame them for it but I do think there is a real problem with the education system that has allowed these great stories to disappear, to fade out of the diet everyone gets at school.

"It's an essential piece of cultural luggage."

He also called for university students to be given courses in the stories of the classical world and texts such as the Koran in order to have a more rounded cultural understanding.

"There is nothing elitist about this, I just find it really depressing that large parts of our heritage are going to become the preserve of only the academies and only parts of the academies," he said.

"It seems a great denial of the opportunities open to us as human beings."

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