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University Professors in New National Report agree: An educated person needs to know about the Bible.

BAYLOR UNIVERSITY, Waco, TX, June 1, 2006
EMBARGOED until 12 pm. June 1, 2006

University Professors in New National Report agree: An educated person needs to know about the Bible.A new national report, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, entitled Bible Literacy Report II: What University Professors Say Incoming Students Need to Know, revealed that English professors surveyed at leading universities--including Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Stanford--agreed that “regardless of a person’s faith, an educated person needs to know about the Bible.” Released June 1, 2006, by the Bible Literacy Project (www.bibleliteracy.org) at an academic symposium on the Bible at Baylor University, the report surveyed 39 English professors at 34 top U.S. colleges and universities, who said that knowledge of the Bible is a deeply important part of a good education.

“The virtual unanimity and depth of their responses on this question were striking,” said Dr. Marie Wachlin, researcher and author of the Bible Literacy Report II. “The Bible is not only a sacred scripture to millions of Americans,” Wachlin explained, “it is also arguably, as one professor put it, the most influential text in all of Western culture.”

“Overwhelmingly, professors in this survey indicated that a lack of basic Bible literacy hampers students’ ability to understand both classics and contemporary work,” said Wachlin. “Arduously ‘decoding’ scripture references detracts from absorbing and responding to great works of art, both ancient and modern,” she explained.

“The new national survey of university professors concludes that high schools should make Bible knowledge part of their curriculum, especially for college preparatory students. English professors surveyed said students need Bible literacy to understand the many Biblical references in English literature,” said Wachlin. “Doing so requires curricula that simultaneously (a) acknowledge the Bible’s status as sacred scripture to millions of Americans, (b) are fair to students of all faith traditions, and (c) are of high academic quality,” explained Wachlin.

“Loss of recognition [of the Bible] in the last three or four decades has put much of Western literature beyond the reach of many readers,” said Dr. David Lyle Jeffrey, Distinguished Professor of Literature and the Humanities at Baylor University, who led the team that produced the Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature.

Dr. Ulrich Knoefplmacher, Professor of Ancient and Modern Literature, Princeton University, said, “Not to have a knowledge of the Bible is almost crippling in students’ ability to be sophisticated readers.”

The conclusions of the new Bible Literacy Report II: What University Professors Say Incoming Students Need to Know match findings in the April 2005 Bible Literacy Report I: What do American teens need to know and what do they know?, in which 98% of leading high school English teachers surveyed said that Bible knowledge gives a distinct academic advantage. Ninety percent of the high school teachers in the 2005 study said Bible knowledge is critical to a good education. Teachers said teens are “clueless,” “stumped,” and “confused” and that a lack of Bible knowledge is harming their ability to understand British and American literature, as well as art, music, history and culture.

Just 8 months ago, the Bible Literacy Project released the first student textbook for academic study of the Bible in public high schools, The Bible and Its Influence. The new student text, used alongside the Bible, has received wide acclaim by the media, scholars and national faith leaders. Nearly 900 high schools across the country have requested review copies for potential use next fall. Only 8% of public high schools have an academic course on the Bible, although these courses are legal if the course presents knowledge, but neither promotes nor denigrates belief.

The Bible and Its Influence student textbook has a broad base of support, with endorsements ranging from the president of the National Association of Evangelicals to the general counsel of the American Jewish Congress to the chair of the Catholic Biblical Association. It was written to satisfy the consensus standards in The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide, endorsed in 1999 by 21 national organizations, including the National School Boards Association. The student text keeps teachers from veering from court-defined standards. With its university-based online teacher training and teacher’s guide, the curriculum resolves teachers’ fears about tackling the subject of the Bible in public school, said Bible Literacy Project chairman Chuck Stetson.

Addendum

What Leading English Professors* Said When Asked: What do you think about the following statement? “Regardless of a person’s faith, an educated person needs to know about the Bible.”

  • “Absolutely. [Without the Bible] it’s like using a dictionary with one-third of the words removed.” Dr. George P. Landow, Brown University
  • “True. You’re simply ignorant of yourself if you don’t know the Bible.” Dr. Ina Lipkowitz, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • “Definitely. Agree.” Dr. Robert Kiely, Harvard University
  • “Not to have that is almost crippling in students’ ability to be sophisticated readers.” Dr. Ulrich Knoefplmacher, Princeton University
  • “Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.” Dr. Thomas P. Roche, Princeton University
  • “Incontestable statement.” Dr. Ralph Williams, University of Michigan
  • “Absolutely necessary. [Bible allusions are] more concentrated and more specific and profound and revisited over and over again; more necessary than classics.” Dr. Stuart K. Culver, University of Utah
  • “Yes. A no-brainer.” Dr. Gordon M. Braden, University of Virginia
  • “Every educated person deserves to know the Bible.” Dr. Leland Ryken, Wheaton College, IL

*Full academic titles are on page vi and vii of the Bible Literacy Report II: What University Professors Say Incoming Students Need to Know

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