Bible Literacy Project News
Landmark National Report Reveals 98% of High-School English Teachers
Surveyed Believe Bible Literacy Gives Distinct Academic Advantage
Accompanying Gallup Survey of Teens Reveals What They
Know And Don’t Know About The Bible
For immediate release: Tuesday, April 26, 2005, 11:30 AM Eastern
Washington, D.C.– American high school students are deficient in
their academic knowledge of the Bible, and it is limiting their ability
to study literature and understand art, music, history, and culture,
according to a new landmark national study of high school English
teachers—funded by the John Templeton Foundation (www.templeton.org)
and published by the Bible Literacy Project (www.bibleliteracy.org).
“Leading English teachers reported students without Bible knowledge
take more time to teach, appearing ‘confused,’ ‘stumped,’ ‘clueless,’”
said report author and principal investigator Marie Wachlin, Ph.D.
“Teachers told us that Bible knowledge gives a distinct educational
advantage to students.”
The research report, entitled Bible Literacy Report: What do
American teens need to know and what do they know? was released
at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. with panel participants
George Gallup, Jr., Dr. John M. Templeton, Jr., and Charles C. Haynes,
senior scholar at the First Amendment Center. The report also includes
new, nationally representative findings from a Gallup survey about the
knowledge of the Bible among American teens.
Teachers in Dr. Wachlin’s study cited multiple reasons of why Bible
knowledge is so important to education:
- “It is difficult to pick up a work of literature that doesn’t
have some reference to the Bible.”
- “I think all of the more complex works of literature reference
- “I wouldn’t say [literature] is steeped with it. It’s saturated
- “When they don’t have Biblical knowledge, they’re really missing
part of what the author has to say. And typically, I don’t have time
to go back and explain all the Biblical allusions.”
The qualitative study of leading high school English teachers
from 10 states- recommended as “best” by their peers—shows that 40
out of 41 teachers, more than 98% surveyed, believe Bible literacy
gives a distinct educational advantage. It also reveals that 90% of
English teachers interviewed believe that Biblical knowledge is
crucial for a good education, according to panel moderator, Chuck
Stetson, Founding Chairman of the Bible Literacy Project (www.bibleliteracy.org),
which published the report.
Renowned national pollster George Gallup, Jr. reported on new Gallup
poll results of what teenagers actually know or do not know about
the content of the Bible. The Gallup survey of a nationally
representative sample of 1002 teenagers between the ages of 13 and
18 years old indicated that only 8 percent of teens in public
schools reported that their school offered an elective course on the
Bible. By contrast, more than half of students in private schools
said they were offered such a course. The survey reported that two
out of three students thought the sentence “David tried to kill King
Saul” was a true statement.
“We must not leave the next generation ignorant about one
of the world’s most important books, especially when it is so
crucial to understanding American art, literature, history,
language and culture,” said Gallup.
“The Bible Literacy Project concludes that while teens knew some
basic facts, most teens lack enough understanding of the Bible
to be able to receive a high-quality education,” added Stetson.
John Templeton, Jr., president of the John Templeton Foundation,
addressed the importance of this study to the Foundation and public
“The Bible has long been acknowledged to be one of the
most influential texts in the English language,” said Templeton.
“We believe this research will show the need to include more
study of the Bible as literature and the Bible as referenced in
literature, and that this will open the door to more freedom to
discuss all kinds of ideas in the classroom,” Templeton said.
Charles C. Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center,
addressed the constitutional standards for academic study of the
Bible in public secondary schools. He noted there continues to be
confusion and false thinking among educators and the public-at-large
that somehow academic study of the Bible is not permissible in
public schools, when, in fact, it is.
Haynes quoted from The Bible and Public Schools: A First
Amendment Guide, co-published by the First Amendment Center and
The Bible Literacy Project, which says:
“Knowledge of Biblical stories and concepts contributes to
our understanding of literature, history, law, art and
contemporary society…The Supreme Court has held that public
schools may teach about the Bible as long as such teaching is
‘presented objectively as part of a secular program of
The First Amendment Guide is a consensus statement about
how to teach the Bible in public schools, and has been endorsed by
19 national organizations, including the National Education
Association, National School Boards
Association, as well as religious and civil rights organizations.
The Bible Literacy Project, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit
organization dedicated to research and public education on the
academic study of the Bible in public and private schools. In
the Fall of 2005, it will launch a unique, new textbook for academic
study of the Bible in public schools--the first of its kind in
nearly 30 years. The textbook is reviewed, critically acclaimed, and
respects the views of major faith groups, while endorsing none. For
more information and the national report, go to at
Available in the Press
Room at www.bibleliteracy.org
is the 5-page Executive Summary of the Bible Literacy Report. Full
55-page report is also available for free with on line registration.