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Unformatted text preview: The Bible in State Academic Standards A report on all 50 States A summary of each state’s academic standards indicating where educators can and, in some cases, are expected to teach about the influence of the Bible and Christianity. Gateways to Better Education Gateways to Better Education The Bible in State Academic Standards A report on all 50 States A summary of each state’s academic standards indicating where educators can and, in some cases, are expected to teach about the influence of the Bible and Christianity. © 2016, Gateways to Better Education. All rights reserved. No part this publication may be reproduced in any form without written permission from Gateways to Better Education, P.O. Box 514, Lake Forest, CA 92609 (800) 929-1163 1 Table of Contents Click on a topic to Jump to that Page Executive Summary Introduction Summaries of States’ Academic Standards (and the District of Columbia) Alabama Kentucky North Dakota Alaska Louisiana Ohio Arizona Maine Oklahoma Arkansas Maryland Oregon California Massachusetts Pennsylvania Colorado Michigan Rhode Island Connecticut Minnesota South Carolina Delaware Mississippi South Dakota District of Columbia Missouri Tennessee Florida Montana Texas Georgia Nebraska Utah Hawaii Nevada Vermont Idaho New Hampshire Virginia Illinois New Jersey Washington Indiana New Mexico West Virginia Iowa New York Wisconsin Kansas North Carolina Wyoming 2 Executive Summary here is a common misconception that, while teaching about various world religions may be acceptable for cultural awareness, teaching about the Bible and Christianity is not allowed in public school classrooms because of concerns over the establishment of religion. However, as The Bible in State Academic Standards shows, state academic standards across the nation provide ample opportunity for educators to teach about the Bible, Christian beliefs, and Christians who were influential in history. We have compiled this report to help educators and the public understand that teaching about the Bible and Christianity has not been banned from public education. In fact, teaching about these topics is expected in more instances than most people might believe. By bringing these standards to light, we hope that educators will gain confidence to exercise their academic freedom to teach to the full extent of their state’s standards. Some states have very detailed standards that include Bible stories as well as Jewish and Christian beliefs. All states have generalized standards with references such as “religion,” “culture,” or “beliefs.” Academic standards also include patriotic and civics lessons that allow for appropriate references to America’s Judeo-Christian heritage. The Common Core English/Language Arts standards reference the Bible four times, and we have included those references in the states that have adopted them. We have also included the preambles to state constitutions that reference God because most states have an expectation that students will learn about their constitutions. Where applicable, we have included state laws that involve religious expression. For example, thirty-four states have laws that either mandate or allow for the school day to begin with a moment of silence that can be used for prayer. Gateways to Better Education is a nonprofit organization working to help public schools become places where students feel the freedom to express their faith and where they gain an academic appreciation for the Bible and Christianity across the whole curriculum as it relates to history, culture, and values. We equip teachers and school administrators with ways to do this legally and appropriately, and we help parents navigate the public schools so their children graduate with their faith and values intact. It is our desire that this report will prompt a discussion among educators, parents, and school officials about the need to overcome self-censorship and timidity in teaching about the Bible and Christianity as related to history, culture, and values. Eric Buehrer Founder & President Gateways to Better Education * This report was published in July 2016. The completion date of the research for each state is indicated at the bottom of each state’s summary. Because states routinely revise or adopt new standards, visit the department of education for your state to verify your states’ academic standards. 3 By Eric Buehrer here is a common misconception that, while teaching about various world religions may be acceptable for cultural awareness, teaching about the Bible and Christianity is not allowed in public school classrooms because of concerns over the establishment of religion. As The Bible in State Academic Standards shows, quite to the contrary, state academic standards across the nation provide ample opportunity for educators to teach about the Bible, Christian beliefs, and Christians who were influential in history. We have compiled this report to help educators and the public understand that teaching about the Bible and Christianity has not been banned from public education. In fact, teaching about these topics is expected in more instances than most people might believe. By bringing these standards to light, we hope that educators will gain confidence to exercise their academic freedom to teach to the full extent of their state’s standards. Detailed Standards Some states provide educators with detailed standards for what students should learn about the Bible and Christianity. For example, in California, sixth grade students are expected to: “Note the origins of Christianity in the Jewish Messianic prophecies, the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as described in the New Testament, and the contribution of St. Paul the Apostle to the definition and spread of Christian beliefs (e.g., belief in the Trinity, resurrection, salvation).” In Massachusetts, seventh grade students are expected to: “Describe the origins of Christianity and its central features. A. Monotheism; B. the belief in Jesus as the Messiah and God’s son who redeemed humans from sin; C. the concept of salvation; D. belief in the Old and New Testament; E. the lives and teachings of Jesus and Saint Paul.” In Virginia, high school students are expected to: “[A]pply social science skills to understand the ancient river valley civilizations, including ...the Hebrews and [by]...describing the origins, beliefs, traditions, customs, and spread of Judaism. Essential Knowledge: Beliefs, traditions, and customs of Judaism: ▪ Belief in one God (monotheism) ▪ Torah, which contains the written records and beliefs of the Jews ▪ Ten Commandments, which state moral and religious conduct ▪ Covenant." However, even though a state’s academic standard provides educators with specific guidelines for teaching these topics, educators are too often uninformed about the specific standard (opting to teach only what is in the textbook) or are afraid to give the topic much time or attention for fear of being accused of endorsing a particular religious belief. Some states include Christianity and Judaism in a list of major world religions students should study. For example, Maryland expects students to: 4 “Describe the social, political and economic impacts of various world religions on a global society, such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism.” Unfortunately, due to a mixture of multicultural fervor and fear of mixing church and state, some educators only feel comfortable teaching about religions other than Christianity. Consequently, in the multicultural mix, the Bible and Christianity are given a disproportionately small amount of class time. Generalized References Some states include generalized references such “beliefs,” “culture,” or “social institutions.” In these cases it would be very appropriate to teach about specific beliefs of Christianity in order to fulfill the standards adequately. For example, in New Jersey, eighth grade students are expected to: “Determine the impact of religious and social movements on the development of American culture, literature, and art” [and] “Evaluate the role of religion on cultural and social mores, public opinion, and political decisions.” Certainly understanding the beliefs that motivated Christians in American history and culture is important to adequately fulfilling these standards. A New Hampshire standard for high school students adds examples of the influence of religion on American history and culture: “Analyze how religious ideas of morality have impacted social change, e. g., the Abolitionist Movement or the debate over legalized abortion.” “Religious ideas” in the context of this standard means Christian ideas and educators need not be hesitant to teach about them. To fulfill a standard like this, educators should teach — as the standard requires — the religious ideas of Christians involved in these social movements. Christians in History State academic standards across the country also expect students to learn about people in history who were motivated by their Christian faith. For example, Georgia expects high school students to: “[I]dentify dimensions of the Civil Rights movement 1945-1970...describe the significance of Martin Luther King, Jr’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail and his I have a dream speech. King quoted Isaiah 40 when he declared: “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain will be made low. The rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, he defended himself by recalling the civil disobedience of the three Hebrew youth in defying Nebuchadnezzar’s order to bow to him. He also referred to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as his inspiration. And, he stated that “a just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.” 5 To properly understand King’s motivation and reasoning, students need to understand how his Christian faith shaped his ideas and actions. In another example of learning about Christians who were motivated by their faith, California high school students studying American history are expected to “analyze the similarities and difference between the ideologies of Social Darwinism and Social Gospel (e.g., using biographies of William Graham Sumner, Bill Sunday, Dwight L. Moody).” Pennsylvania’s academic standard for sixth grade expects students to: “Identify and explain how individuals and groups made significant political and cultural contributions to world history.” And includes as examples: “Pope Leo X, John Calvin, John Wesley, Martin Luther, Ignatius of Loyola” Holidays State standards also include an understanding of holidays that have religious significance. For example, Arizona kindergarteners are to “recognize the significance of national holidays: [for example] Thanksgiving…” This should include the President’s annual request that the nation use the day to thank God for his blessings. Texas expects elementary students to: “[E]xplain the significance of religious holidays and observances such as Christmas, Easter, Ramadan, annual hajj, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Diwali, and Vaisakhi in various contemporary societies.” Reading the Bible to learn about Christmas, Easter, Yom Kippur, and Rosh Hashanah is a legitimate academic approach to teaching students about these holidays. As we explain under “State Laws” (p. 8) and “Legal Concerns” (p.9), reading religious texts to fulfill an academic goal is perfectly legal. In Minnesota, second graders are expected to “describe how the culture of a community reflects the history, daily life or beliefs of its people. For example: Elements of culture—foods, folk stories, legends, art, music, dance, holidays…” One way for students to learn about the culture of their community is for teachers to ask parents to share with the class how their family celebrates religious holidays. Filling in Gaps Left by Political Correctness Vermont offers what could be called a “politically correct” academic standard for high school students that is odd because of its obvious exclusion of Christianity. It expects students to “show understanding of past, present, and future time” by: “Understanding a variety of calendars (e.g., Islamic, Jewish, Chinese) and reasons for their organizational structures (e.g., political, historic, religious); [and] Identifying why certain events are considered pivotal and how they cause us to reorder time (e.g., Muhammad’s call to prophecy, the collapse of the Soviet Union).” Clearly absent from the examples that Vermont teachers are given is the Christian (Western) calendar that is ordered around a “pivotal” event — the birth of Jesus — that led the West to “reorder time.” While it is unfortunate that Vermont failed to include Jesus in its example, there is no legitimate academic reason for educators to censor this from their curriculum. It is worth noting that Vermont doesn’t prohibit teaching about the significance of the birth of Jesus on the Western calendar, it merely failed to mention it in the examples provided. 6 Sadly, when a state reveals a bias like this, many educators neglect teaching about the Bible and Christianity because they mistakenly think that they cannot or should not teach about them. They “get” the unspoken message. Patriotic and Civics Lessons State standards commonly include expectations that students will learn what the Pledge of Allegiance means. Many educators do not do this. However, doing so would provide students with a solid civics lesson on key aspects of American culture and values. Teachers can easily help students understand the phrase “one nation under God” as a reflection of one of America’s core values, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, that our rights ultimately come from God and not the government . Other aspects of American culture include patriotic songs that reference God. For example, the District of Columbia expects students to: “Recite the Pledge of Allegiance and national songs (e.g., “America the Beautiful,” “My Country, ’tis of Thee,” “God Bless America,” “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and “The Star-Spangled Banner”) and explain the general ideas expressed in the lyrics.” States also expect students to learn civics lessons that include references to America’s Judeo-Christian roots. For example, Florida expects fifth grade students to: “Explain the definition and origin of rights. Examples are John Locke's ‘state of nature’ philosophy, natural rights: rights to life, liberty, property…” As an example of John Locke’s biblical thinking, in the late 17th century he wrote: “The state of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it, which obliges every one, and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions; for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise Maker; all the servants of one sovereign Master, sent into the world by His order and about His business; they are His property, whose workmanship they are made to last during His, not one another's pleasure.” Learning about State Constitution Preambles Academic standards also include civics lessons about their state’s constitution. The majority of state constitutions reference God. For example, Pennsylvania third graders are expected to: “Explain the meaning of a preamble. Constitution of the United States, Pennsylvania Constitution.” The preamble to Pennsylvania’s Constitution reads as follows: “WE, the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance, do ordain and establish this Constitution.” As a civics lesson, students should compare their state constitution's preamble referencing God with the Declaration of Independence’s assertion that our rights come from the Creator. We have included the preambles of state constitutions that make reference to God. 7 State Laws In this report we have also included laws that address religious references in the classroom. For example, California has an education code that protects teachers who use the Bible or other religious texts to teach about something appropriate to the curriculum: “ED Code 51511 — Nothing in this code shall be construed to prevent, or exclude from the public schools, references to religion or references to or the use of religious literature, art, or music or other things having a religious significance when such references or uses do not constitute instruction in religious principles or aid to any religious sect, church, creed, or sectarian purpose and when such references or uses are incidental to or illustrative of matters properly included in the course of study.” In Ohio, educators have the freedom to post statements and documents that have religious references: “3313.801 Content-based Censorship — Any teacher, administrator, or member of a board of education of any school district may read from or post in any classroom, auditorium, cafeteria, or at any school event the official motto of the United States, ‘In God We Trust,’ or Ohio, ‘With God All Things Are Possible,’ notwithstanding the fact that such materials may include religious references. There shall be no content-based censorship of American or Ohio history, heritage, or culture in any school district based on any religious references contained in such materials.” Texas law requires schools to teach both the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and New Testament: “28.002. Required Curriculum — (a) Each school district that offers kindergarten through grade 12 shall offer, as a required curriculum... (2) an enrichment curriculum that includes... (H) religious literature, including the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and New Testament, and its impact on history and literature.” Common Core Standards The Common Core English/Language Arts standards recognize the importance of Bible literacy. The standards reference the Bible four times and we have indicated those for each state. It is referenced in writing standards and reading standards for eighth, ninth, and tenth grades: “Analyze how a modern work of fiction draws on themes, patterns of events, or character types from myths, traditional stories, or religious works such as the Bible, including describing how the material is rendered new.” “Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work (e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare).” 8 To date, Common Core has not addressed Social Studies standards. It is yet to be seen how much the Bible, Christianity, and the Judeo-Christian heritage will be included in Common Core Social Studies standards. Preparing Students for College The Bible Literacy Project ( ) surveyed thirty-nine English professors at top universities to learn their assessment of how important Bible literacy is to college-level study of English and American literature. Almost without exception, the English professors saw knowledge of the Bible as a deeply important part of a good education. Besides collegereadiness, these professors saw the Bible as culturally vital. In its report, the Bible Literacy Project quotes professors such as Robert Kiely of Harvard University: “The Bible has continued to be philosophically, ethically, religiously, politically influential in Western, Eastern, now African cultures, and so not to know it— whether one is a Jew or a Christian—seems to me not to understand world culture. It’s not just Western culture. And in terms of my own field, English and American literature is simply steeped in Biblical legends, morality, Biblical figures, Biblical metaphors, Biblical symbols, and so it would be like not lear...
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