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Education leaders from around the country recognize the importance of students learning about the Bible. For example, California’s sixth grade academic standards expect that students will learn about "the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as described in the New Testament" (Standard 6.7.6 - 2005)
In Massachusetts, seventh graders are to "describe the origins of Christianity and its central features: A. monotheism; B. the belief in Jesus as the Messiah and God’s son who redeemed humans from sin; C. the concept of salvation; D. belief in the Old and New Testament; E. the lives and teachings of Jesus and Saint Paul." (Standard 7.41 - 2003)
In Florida, high school students are to know "the significant ideas and texts" of various religions, including Christianity; and in Texas, sixth-graders are expected to explain "the significance of religious holidays and observances" including Easter.
It is important when teaching students about a religion, that you remain objective. The best way to achieve this is by attribution. For example, when introducing this lesson on Easter, explain to students that it is from Luke’s account of the life of Jesus. Use phrases such as, "Luke wrote that...," or "The Bible says...".
When referring to beliefs about the story, use phrases such as "Christians believe...," or John Newton believed..."
Your goal should be to introduce students to the story and help them understand the influence it has had on history, literature, art, and music. The lesson is not designed to prove the story is true, nor question whether the story is accurate.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s guidelines on students’ religious liberties (www.ed.gov), your students have the right to freely express themselves regarding their personal beliefs. However, as moderator of a class discussion on this topic, you should emphasize that every student be respectful regarding their classmates’ comments. No student should be made to feel excluded for expressing belief or disbelief in the story.
As a teacher, you can be confident in addressing this topic. This story has had significant influence in world history and should be understood as such. You are not teaching Sunday school; you are teaching history, literature, art, music, and language arts.