Compared to most other Western nations, America is both more religious and more religiously diverse. It may come as a surprise, then, to learn that Americans are relatively ignorant about the core doctrines and practices of the religions commonly practiced in their country.
This lack of understanding is even more concerning when we realize that certain public goods—thriving democratic processes, for example—require that American citizens have at least a minimal understanding of the basic elements of the major world religions. The idea, in a nutshell, is that religious literacy is an important part of what it means to be an informed citizen, and thus widespread illiteracy of this sort is a major problem.
The American Academy of Religion (AAR) has recently taken some steps to address this problem, by focusing on how colleges and universities can boost religious literacy among students. With support from AVDF, the AAR developed and published a report outlining what every undergraduate student should know about religion, along with some suggested strategies for faculty to achieve these goals. The report, which was profiled in both Inside Higher Ed and The Religion News Service, contains a set of broad curricular recommendations. Because stand-alone religion courses are not always an option for students, the report contains suggestions as to how professors in other fields can integrate content about religion into their courses. The AAR will follow this work by creating and promoting teaching resources that will help to satisfy their recommended guidelines.