Students need to know Bible's 'great stories'
Date Published: Tuesday, 17 February 2009
Students need to know Bible's 'great stories', poet laureate says
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."
Motion, who is professor of creative writing at Royal Holloway, University of London, said that all humanities undergraduates at university level should be given crash courses in the great stories. "I would start with Christian stories, Qur'anic stories, Greek and Roman stories, but it could be refined depending on what the subject is: a little history for people doing English, a bit of English for people doing history, for example."
Keith Porteous Wood, executive director and former general secretary of the National Secular Society, said: "It's a bit excessive - children already get 45 minutes of religious education a week for 10 years. They also attend compulsory acts of worship which includes reading the Bible. Isn't that enough?"
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