Students in The Bible and its Influence class at West Orange – Stark High School are quick to tell you that the class isn’t a religious one.
      “In church you focus on the religious aspect of the Bible. In here, we look at the people who wrote the Bible and the broad ideas associated with it,” Brittany Villadsen, a senior, said.
      The students then take those ideas and look at how they influence and impact the world today.
      The students have found that Bible references are everywhere and are very much a part of the current American culture, as well as others. References abound in the music world, including, but not limited to, children’s music, opera, pop and heavy metal music; as well as in art, literature, movies, and even current election and military campaigns. 
      The Bible and its Influence instructor Gerald Brignac said the class aims to examine the whole picture and incorporates literature of the time and of today; biographies of the authors of the Bible as well as the study of the individuals written about; the history of the Biblical time and current issue’s histories; as well as the geography of the past and present. Students also are required to keep a journal of creative writing assignments.
      Later this year, students will also be required to complete a book study of Losing Moses on the Freeway, a book that examines the 10 commandments and how they affect our world today.
      “We try to keep everything in here very academic. We don’t really talk about individual beliefs. We do reference culture. If the students do not understand the culture of the Biblical times it is difficult to apply to the movements in our country and current times,” Brignac said.
      Additionally, the class looks at various Bible translations and how and why they differ.
      The year long class, which started in the fall, presents information to students in a chronological manner. However, before the study of Genesis ever began, students spent their first week of school discussing the United States Constitution and how the class could and would be addressed in the public education system.
      The students say they have enjoyed all of the elements the class has incorporated: the library and internet research, listening to various types of music which have included a performance of Placido Domingo in the opera Samson and Delilah, as well as Gregorian chants performed by Spanish monks; and having discussions regarding literary allusions, traditions, and even human nature.
      Students also research elements or themes of the Bible and then are required to present the information to the class.
      Brignac says teaching this new course has been exciting and challenging.  
      “The state has TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) for the class and the criterion for completion is very real,” he said.
      The students enrolled in the class say that their friends who are not enrolled are very curious about it.
      “This class is like a mystery,” Abbie Brooks, senior, said.
      In turn, she and other students in the class are encouraging friends to sign up.
      “The reason I took this class is because I wanted to learn about the Bible. I mean I go to church and Sunday School, but I wanted to learn more. The Bible has had a big effect on us today,” Brooks, senior, said.
      The Bible and its Influence is utilized in public schools in California, Oregon and the state of Washington. The West Orange – Cove Board of Trustees approved the addition of the course for West Orange – Stark High School students in the spring of 2007.
      Currently only seniors are enrolled in the class. However, the class is offered as a Social Studies Special Topics elective to juniors and seniors.
      “As more and more students learn about the class, we expect that enrollment in the course will increase,” WO-S High School Principal Mike Mason said.