Newsletter #66 – Freedom Forum Part IV

What would happen if public schools stopped trying to teach morality and social justice?  What would happen if our public school classrooms became depoliticized?

The Pew Forum and the First Amendment Center ask – “Teaching About Religion in Public Schools: Where do we go from here?”

A conference in 2003 was convened by The Pew Forum and the First Amendment Center to continue the discussion of teaching about religion in public schools.  Haynes co-authored the forward of the conference report. Both “Finding Common Ground” and this report use 9-11 to discuss why religion needs to be taught in public schools:

“In the days following the terrorist-inspired tragedies, students everywhere came to school with questions about what they had seen and heard and read in the news media.  How could a U.S. public school teacher respond to those questions without mentioning religion?  Or without putting in context religious extremism by a small group of fanatics? Or without explaining that the Islamic faith of all but a few extremist Muslims would reject the taking of innocent life – any innocent life anywhere?…” (Finding Common Ground”)

“Educators struggle to teach students about Islam in the wake of the attacks. Schools do not present accurate lessons on Islam, said Warren Nord, a professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. (He, along with Charles C. Haynes, is the author of Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum.) Nord said Islam is virtually ignored by most history books from its inception up to the late 1970s, when the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to power in Iran and American citizens were held hostage there. “Religion still shapes much of the world’s thinking, yet it is left out of the curriculum,”

Nord said. “We don’t understand Judaism if we filter it through Christianity. The same is true of Islam. It’s a moral notion to take people equally on their own terms. This isn’t easy. We should use primary sources: literature and art.” (“Teaching About Religion in Public Schools: Where Do We Go From Here?”)

As to Nord’s suggestion about using primary sources, why not use the Quran? Or use the Hadith which contains examples from Muhammad’s life which is what Sharia law is based on.

Thanks to the diligence of the Council on Islamic Education (CIE), social studies textbooks no longer ignore Islam although two in-depth studies have exposed the bias and inaccuracy in material that is included.  Anecdotally we hear about more instances where teachers have brought in speakers to provide unvetted and imbalanced information about Islam.  Or as recently happened in Florida, where a CAIR representative spoke to a history class.

In  2010, the Texas State Board of Education raised the issue of how Christianity and Islam are portrayed in public school textbooks.  The Board passed a non-binding resolution stating its intent to send “a strong message” to textbook publishers that the Board would reject future textbooks that were pro-Islamic and biased against Christianity. (www.tea.state.tx.us/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&ItemID=2147487008&libID=214748700)

The resolution details concerns related to the influence “increased investment” by Middle Easterners might have with regard to textbook publishers, which in turn, “could encourage biased treatment of religion in the texts used in Texas schools.”  Appendix III of the resolution includes information about a past investment by the Dubai royal family in the Education Media Group, which controls two of the largest U.S. textbook publishing companies.  Appendix I A-C cites specific excerpts from textbooks to support the resolution and Appendix II cites to more comprehensive textbook reviews in this regard.

Citizens for National Security (CAN), a Florida based 501(c)(3), recently issued an extensive report titled “Islam in Florida’s K-12 Textbooks” prepared by their Task Force on Islamic Influence in Florida K-12 Public Schools.  The 29 – page report lists the “flawed” History and Geography textbooks currently in use in Florida public schools and explains in detail the nature of the flaws.  The report can be accessed at https://cfns.us/CFNS-Textbook-Report-Signin.php

Additionally, ACT for America has prepared a comprehensive review of U.S. textbooks detailing the bias with which they discuss religions, in particular, Islam.  ACT has mailed copies of the executive summary to school boards across the country. http://www.actforamericaeducation.com/textbook-project

Tennessee will adopt new social studies textbooks in 2014.

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When asked recently about how he defines “liberty of conscience”, Haynes replied: “It is the right of each individual to follow his or her conscience, to live according to principles that shape one’s life. For people of faith, liberty of conscience is the freedom to do what they believe God requires.”

Isn’t that what the 9-11 terrorists claimed?  How communitarian of them.

 

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