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Abstract

While it is true that following various Supreme Court decisions in the last century, religion is, in most cases, no longer explicitly taught in public school classrooms, we use this article to explore the ways in which implicit religious understandings regarding curriculum and pedagogy still remain prevalent in current public education. Building on previous work, we first aim to problematize the ways religion and particularly Judeo-Christian assumptions remain at the core of secular public education in the United States. To do so, we work to engage the Bible as the foundational Western text and its understanding of testing and of teaching as testament to illustrate particular assumptions about assessment, questioning, and the possibility for interrogating authoritative text. In the process we outline a historical precedent that twins passive reading of the Bible as always-already containing singular truths with a modern educational system underwritten by these same assumptions about knowledge and expertise lying in the teacher and the textbook. We suggest that the Bible is not only our “first” text—authoritative, literal, and fixed—but also our first postmodern text which explicitly allows for, indeed encourages, creative, even subversive, encounters with knowledge rather than being subject to passive submission in a system of transmissive education. Ultimately, and using existing work in hermeneutics, critical literacy, and constructivist education, we pursue a critical reengagement with the historical and ongoing role of the Bible and religion in modern public, secular schooling as a way of revisiting fundamental epistemologies and ways of reading text and particularly the curricular implications of revising how we read education-as-text.