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New public school textbook, The Bible and Its Influence, gains support and use.

The book seeks to dramatically increase current 8% of public schools offering Bible electives

For immediate release

New public school textbook, The Bible and Its Influence, gains support and useCreators of the landmark student textbook, The Bible and Its Influence - lauded by the media, faith leaders, and scholars since its release in late September, 2005 - say that this new textbook and its accompanying teacher training program will help vastly expand the number of public schools that offer Bible electives.

"We've been stuck at a very low level of Bible literacy for a generation: only 8 percent of public schools now offer any academic study of the Bible. Our goal with this new textbook is to lead the way in increasing that from 8 to 80 percent," said Chuck Stetson, co-author of the new student textbook, and chairman of the Bible Literacy Project (http://www.bibleliteracy.org) which produced it.

"In our course, the Bible itself is required reading," said Sheila Weber, vice president of communications for the Bible Literacy Project. "But the student textbook, along with teacher training, is an important new resource for public schools seeking a Bible course that respects the Bible's role as sacred scripture to millions of Americans, and yet meets court-defined First Amendment standards. This course will give both believing and unbelieving students a better grasp of what the Bible actually says, while at the same time showing them how its words have significantly influenced our culture - with visually engaging features about the impact on literature, music, art, speeches, history and the English language itself."

Weber is available for interviews. You may contact her at sheila@bibleliteracy.org
or 646-322-6853.

The Bible and Its Influence was reviewed by 41 scholars representing a broad range of Biblically-based faith traditions. The Associated Press cites The Bible and Its Influence as one of the top "notable books on religion in 2005 ... for its distinctiveness and potential importance."

Since the textbook's release last September, educators representing more than 360 Schools in 43 states are using the textbook and schools in all 50 states are reviewing The Bible and Its Influence for potential use next fall. High schools in 10 states have already adopted the textbook for use in September 2006. "But this is a well-tested curriculum," explains Weber. "Beginning with a pilot program that began in 2004, the course is currently being used in Oregon, California, Washington, and Texas schools."

The Bible and Its Influence has statements of support from Chuck Colson (founder of Prison Fellowship), Vonette Bright (co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ), and Joe Stowell (former president of Moody Bible College), in addition to support from the general counsel of the American Jewish Congress, the senior scholar at The First Amendment Center, and the chair of the Catholic Biblical Association. (See "What Leaders are Saying" at http://www.bibleliteracy.org).

"Our goal was a Bible curriculum that respects the religious views of parents and students, is of high academic quality, and meets court-defined standards," notes Weber. “Our textbook teaches students not only what is in the Bible, but how influential the Bible has been in our history, art, literature, law, and civilization. This is invaluable information students ought to know and must know to do well college entrance exams.” (More than 90 percent of leading high school English teachers say that Bible knowledge is critical to a good education – see other attached facts from the Bible Literacy Report).

Scholars on the accuracy and fidelity of The Bible and Its Influence

Rev. Peter Lillback, Ph.D., president of Westminster Theological Seminary, is one of the 41 scholars who reviewed The Bible and Its Influence. He writes that “The informational content, accuracy, exposition, illustrations, and tone are all extremely well done, and I congratulate you on a highly accurate and readable presentation.”

Dr. Leland Ryken of Wheaton College (IL), who has written more than 20 books on the Bible, said in his review: “I learned something new on every page ... The Bible and Its Influence is an undisputed triumph of scholarship and presentation. The achievement is breathtaking ... If virtue is its own reward, so is excellence. The material is excellent.”

Contrary to several reports in the media, The Bible and Its Influence has neither sought nor received an endorsement from the ACLU or other similar organizations. The textbooks was conceived and written solely by the Bible Literacy Project.

The Bible itself is key to our course

The Bible Literacy Project course uses two books - the Bible (a version of the student’s choice) and the student textbook, The Bible and Its Influence. Students cannot understand the Bible without reading it directly for themselves. Two great advantages of our student textbook are 1) it helps a teacher stick to what the Bible actually says and avoid either promoting or disparaging any faith or lack of faith; and 2) it educates students on the vast influence of the Bible on American and Western art, literature, law, history, culture and music. Teachers who have used the textbook have been most appreciative of the guidance, which models respect for the Bible’s status as sacred scripture to millions of Americans while using a high-quality academic approach, explained Weber.

Regarding history

“Although the courts have said that a public school Bible course cannot promote a faith perspective, our course affirms that for people of faith, the Bible is history,” notes Weber. “The Bible and Its Influence curriculum is intended to teach students what is in the Bible: the people, the accounts, the themes, as well as to give them some understanding of the Bible’s extensive influence on our shared American culture.” Chuck Stetson, the textbook co-author, says that “to be well-educated, students need to know about the Bible, and our goal with this new curriculum is to remove obstacles that have kept the academic study of the Bible out of public schools."

Teachers’ edition and national teacher training

“We want to make sure people know there is a teachers’ edition of the textbook in the review process right now, with early review copies available upon request by school boards and the final version due out this spring. In addition, we offer the only university-based training on how to teach about the Bible,” says Weber. "Our teacher training is available online (http://www.bibleliteracy.org/Training) and offers valuable continuing education credits or graduate level credits. It features eminent scholars and textbook reviewers, such as Dr. Leland Ryken of Wheaton College, (IL), Dr. Tremper Longman of Westmont College, Dr. Paul Borgman of Gordon College, and Dr. Robert Alter, professor of Hebrew at University of California-Berkeley, among others.” The next class starts May 22nd.

BLP is a nonpartisan supporter of Bible literacy

Legislators in several states (including Alabama and Georgia) have indicated new interest in legislation supporting the Bible in public schools. However, the Bible Literacy Project - a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization - has not initiated any such legislation but does not oppose it.

"We'd like to emphasize that local school boards can already choose to adopt our course, as we are seeing right now all across the country,” said Weber. “But for too long school boards and state boards of education have not focused on this need, so legislation may assist and encourage the cause of Bible literacy by giving schools greater confidence to move ahead more quickly with scholarly Bible electives that use a court-approved approach. We believe good legislation should assist all legal Bible curricula for public schools.”

Weber is available for interviews. You may contact her at sheila@bibleliteracy.org or 646-322-6853.

Fact sheet from the
Bible Literacy Report:  What do American teens need to know and what do they know?

More than 98 percent of leading high school English teachers say that Bible knowledge gives a distinct academic advantage.

More than 90 percent of leading high school English teachers say that Bible knowledge is critical to a good education.

Teachers surveyed said students are "clueless, stumped, and confused," and that loss of Bible knowledge is harming students' ability to properly understand literature, art, music, history and culture.

Only 8 percent of teens from public schools said their school offered a Bible elective course.

There are more than 1300 Biblical references in all the works of Shakespeare.

More than 60 percent of allusions in one AP literature prep course are Biblical phrases.

* Released at the National Press Club in April 2005 with George Gallup, Jr, and funded by the John Templeton Foundation.

Additional Press Information at http://www.bibleliteracy.org/press

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