Saturday, October 24, 2015

Maybe the Social Studies standards that make an Islamic textbook necessary is the real problem.

I recently posted about the uproar by parents in White County about what has been called "Islamic indoctrination" of their children (link). I said in that post that I did not know the truth about what was being reported and had not read the textbook in question but I doubted school board members and educators in White County had an agenda to indoctrinate kids in Islamic theology and I said I suspected the truth of what was going on was somewhere between an excess of naive liberal political correctness and bigotry. 

I still have not read the textbook in question and still think the charge that kids are being indoctrinated may be a bit strong.  However, the textbook in question may be inappropriate. It can be inappropriate without being part of plot to turn little Johnny into an Islamic terrorist. Not only may the textbook be inappropriate but the standards that make such a textbook necessary may to be a bigger problem.

Michael Patrick Leahy in a piece in Britbart News  quotes a teacher by the name of Kyle Mallory who has many years experience teaching social studies and who sits on the State Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission. Mr. Mallory opposed the adoption of the current Social Studies standards. “These [new Social Studies] standards are not appropriate for seventh grade," he says. "We need to revert back to the old standards. They were very comprehensive and at grade level."

Here is an excerpt from The Britbart News article:

In contrast to the current seventh grade standards, which deal with World History and Geography exclusively during the period 400 AD to the 1500s, (an approach more often associated with high school or college curriculum), the previous standards provided a very broad overview of cultural, economic, geographic, governance and civics, and historical issues that have shaped our current world.

All major religions – Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam – were briefly summarized in the old standards. Students were introduced to the complexity of the various cultures in the world at an “age appropriate” level of detail.

In contrast, only Islam is given detailed attention in the new standards. In fact, as Breitbart News reported previously, 13 percent of the learning objectives of the current standards (10 out of 75) are devoted to instructing students on both the tenets and history of Islam.
That in itself is a concern. Why should only Islam be given detailed attention.  Even if the textbook is not biased, if an inappropriate amount of time is given to the study of Islam, then other areas of study are being ignored.

Mallory says there is a serious problem in counties that have not yet purchased the textbook in question.  In those counties, teachers are going to the internet and printing off material to use in their class that support the standards. Some of that material may be material that originates with the Council on American-Islamic Relations.  Mallory also points out that, “Many teachers teaching seventh grade are sixth to eighth grade certified, not content teachers.”

I share that general criticism of education, beyond just this topic. Many teacher are not scholars in their topic of study and they have been taught how to teach but may not know any more about the topic they are charged with teaching than the parents of their students or the average man on the street. The teachers may not be able to select objective material or judge biased material or know very little about the topic they are teaching. If teachers are just downloading material from the internet and using it in their classroom, I can see how that could be a real problem.

I stand by my opinion that bigotry may be partly responsible for the charge that children are being indoctrinated in Islam.  A few years ago we saw  bigotry at play when people in Murfressboro fought to stop local Muslims from building a mosque simply because it was a mosque and we also saw it in play when Governor Haslam was accused of trying to impose Sharia law on Tennessean simply because the Department of Commerce hired a well-qualified Tennessean who happened to be a Muslim.

While bigotry and prejudice may be at play in getting people riled up, that does not mean that the textbook in question may not also be biased or inappropriate, and perhaps more importantly, that the social study standards are inappropriate.

While Mr. Mallory has made a good case that the Social Studies standards are inappropriate, I still do not know what is in the text book in question that is objectionable. If anyone has examined it, I would like to see examples of what concerns them and what bias they found.

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