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New Stephen Prothero book, 'Religious Literacy,' Supports Approach of New Student Textbook for Public Schools, 'The Bible and Its Influence'

Prothero recommends a course on the Bible for all high school students

Contact: Sheila Weber, VP Communications, Bible Literacy Project, 646-322-6853, sheila@bibleliteracy.org


FRONT ROYAL, Virginia, Mar. 9 /Christian Newswire/ -- Stephen Prothero’s well publicized new book, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know—and Doesn’t, recommends that “public schools should include a required course on the Bible for all high school students,” and cites the Bible Literacy Project’s student textbook, The Bible and Its Influence, as a good approach.

“The Bible courses envisioned here would include but would not be limited to teaching about the Bible as literature,” writes Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University. “Many advocates for religious studies in the public schools--including the people at the Virginia-based Bible Literacy Project behind a textbook called The Bible and Its Influence (2005)--have stressed the Bible-as-literature approach, in part because it is relatively uncontroversial…But neither should teachers and students approach it as literature alone, as if its words have resonated over the centuries solely in the imaginations of poets and playwrights. Students must understand the historical force of the Bible….This appears to be the approach of a bill signed into law in 2006 in Georgia requiring elective Bible courses statewide, and of the Bible Literacy Project’s new textbook. (Religious Literacy: pages 133-134)

“We have a major civic problem on our hands," says religion scholar Stephen Prothero. He makes the provocative case that to remedy this problem, “public schools should include one required course on the Bible for all high school students. The Bible should be taught in other courses wherever it is relevant, but "natural inclusion" of biblical topics in history and literature courses is not enough.  Public school students should not learn about this classic only in passing. They need at least one course dedicated entirely to the Bible.”
But Prothero cautions: “The Bible courses school children need are not Sunday school fare, “ citing a curriculum in Rhea County, Tennessee which was outlawed in 2002 because it was judged to endorse and advance religion. “Curricular materials offered by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS) probably will not pass constitutional muster either.....In 1998 a federal judge granted an injunction against a New Testament course in Fort Myers, Florida, based on these materials,” Prothero writes.

Chuck Stetson, chairman of the Bible Literacy Project said “The Bible Literacy Project’s student textbook The Bible and Its Influence—used alongside the Bible and in its first year used in 29 states-- has received wide acclaim from evangelicals, scholars, the media, educators, and leaders from a wide range of backgrounds, such as the general counsel of the American Jewish Congress and the chair of the Catholic Biblical Association. The Bible and Its Influence is the only public school curriculum that has been produced to satisfy the 1999 consensus standards published in The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide, published by The First Amendment Center and endorsed by the National School Boards Association, National Education Association, the National Association of Evangelicals, American Jewish Congress, and the Christian Legal Society, among 21 national organizations.”