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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 it.”
  • “I wouldn’t say [literature] is steeped with it. It’s saturated with it.”
  • “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 education.

“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 education.’”

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 www.bibleliteracy.org.

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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.

 
 

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