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Islam deserves a well written text and program - Congratulations TCI

Reader comment on item: Spreading Islam in American Public Schools
in response to reader comment: Islamic Indoctrination in Scottsdale, Arizona Public School

Submitted by Frank Champine (United States), Dec 4, 2007 at 12:21

The recent explosion of comments on the Indoctrination of American Schools by Islam bears scrutiny and level headed reasoning by educated people. Ms. White's commentary reflects the standard lack of information and intelligent questioning that one would expect if a taxpayer found a problem with the decision of a school district to change or enhance its curriculum.

Ms. White notes several inferred "plots" by the book publisher, Teacher Curriculum Institute TCI), the school district, and the teachers of the program. She states that the TCI new text History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond was being piloted by the district as a possible replacement for Houghton Mifflin's Across the Centuries.

Given the situation she described, no publisher in the U.S. would free give a school district a vast quantity of the text to use as a pilot. The standard procedure is to provide one or two class sets of the text and teacher materials to the district to provide an opportunity for Action Research. This ongoing approach of teacher/student use is to determine the quality of the materials in relations to the old materials presently used. Which is better? Should we recommend adoption?

At that point the school board would review the recommendations and decide to accept the findings of the book review committee or reject their recommendations. Hence, when Ms. White dropped the parenthetical "This book is not permitted to go home," she creates a red herring that something is being pulled over the eyes of the taxpayer. The book is being secretly used and no one is permitted to learn about it. Given the fact that the company supplies a reasonable number of copies of the text for review, teachers rarely send the book home because they need them for the next classes.

Had a parent wanted to see, or review the text, they could have contacted the curriculum and instruction department in their district. Another inferential statement was made indicating the bias of the historical information provided. Ms. White states, "In my opinion, this book is highly biased towards Islam, historically incorrect and also includes fake history along with Islamic religious proselytizing and indoctrination techniques." These are critical accusations about a scholarly work with no supportive evidence.

The only thing this reader can determine is that she objects to the text addressing the Golden Age of Islamic culture between its development and the last Crusade. It appears she is insulted by the amount of space the text offers to the high point of the growth of Islam. Ms. White argues that the text makes no references to Islamic Fundamentalism, Jiihadism, or the state of Islamist Extremism in the 20th and 21st Centuries. This poses a problem for any textbook company.

The intent of the scope and sequence of the text is to deal with the Medieval period of world history, not the realities of a fragment of the extremism found in Islam today. It would be inappropriate for the text to describe the cultural high points of the society and in the next paragraph negate the heights of the Islamic society in the past by distorting those accomplishments by using Hezbula as the "true example" of the practice of Islam. Another indicator of "bias" described by Ms. White is the fact that the text devotes several chapters to Islam and nothing to Christianity.

I can understand her position, but it represents a misunderstanding of the time sequence of history and the publishing choice of TCI. Judaism and Christianity are addressed in the company's sixth grade text, History Alive! The Ancient World. During the study of Greece and Rome, both religions are explored and chapters are devoted to the evolution and development of the religions and the creation of ethical monotheism. Since Islam does not enter the world scene until the 600s it would be inappropriate and chronologically inaccurate to juxtapose the three Abrahamic faiths for the students. The Medieval period extends into the Renaissance and Reformation where the impact of Christianity explodes in the TCI materials to provide ample support for the Judaic-Christian foundations of Western society.

Where i find agreement with Ms. White's concern is the decision the teacher/s made in having a team of guest speakers present Islam from a first hand basis. Don not get me wrong, that in itself was a reasonable and valid use of primary sources, but the degree the program went to with the inclusion of prayers in the public school demonstrated a lack of professional awareness to the attitudes of the community, the students, and the Constitution.

This poor judgement by the staff in no way diminishes the quality of the teaching materials created by this publishing house. My biggest concern about this attack on a fine publishing company is that some people who have their own bias against the third great monotheistic religion may prevent students from learning about the true Islam. The religion president Bush tried so earnestly to separate from the extremists responsible for the attack on the United States on 9/11. Before this tragedy, most students were presented the same materials as found in almost all the texts written in the country.

The same Golden Age, Growth of Empire, the Spreading of Islam by Sword, the linking of the Political, Economic, and Social aspects of society with religion, and the Christian attempts to wipe out the Islamic faith, all marched through our textbooks and our schools. I do not believe there is any "plot" to sugar coat Islam and its history by any textbook publisher, school district, or teacher. The reality of history is the story told, who tells the story controls history. All history is interpretive, buy only presenting students with the negative aspects of fundamentalism never provides them with the realities of the positive aspects of a fundamental interpretation of one's religion.

The child and his/her future society suffers. Having spent 35 years in the secondary social studies classroom and using TCI materials in teaching history, I have learned the critical lessons of piloting a text before I use it in the classroom, maintaining an objective approach to teaching history, and presenting my students with as many interpretations and perspectives on the past as I possibly could while encouraging them to make meaning for themselves to deepen their understanding. It is important for the voices of today's students to be heard in our classrooms so that their civic voices will be heard as adult citizens when it comes their turn to take the helm of leadership.


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