Friday, April 24, 2009

What are US students learning about Islam?

“History is not history unless it is the truth.” – Abraham Lincoln

Is political correctness distorting historical truth in our public school systems?

Gary Bauer is a conservative and most of you will remember him as a former undersecretary of the Department of Education under President Reagan. At present, Bauer is president of American Values and chairman of Campaign for Working Families.

Bauer has written this opinion piece in the Christian Science Monitor. He is proposing that the information in historical textbooks which are supposed to provide factual and objective account of events that have happened throughout the course of history, is being altered so as not to offend the perceived fragile sensitivities of the various cultures.

Bauer writes:

Most Americans understand history as an objective accounting of past events. In recent years, however, textbook publishers have come under increasing criticism for rewriting history. Claims are presented as facts while controversial material is whitewashed or omitted.

Today these trends are quite apparent in the way public school history books address Islam. In his 2008 study “Islam in the Classroom: what the textbooks tell us,” Gilbert Sewall, director of the American Textbook Council (ATC), reviewed 10 of the nation’s most widely used junior and senior high school history textbooks. The results should disturb anyone interested in conveying to our children a truthful history of the religion whose extreme adherents drive so many of today’s tragic headlines.

But how do we do this without instilling fear and hatred of an entire culture? Not an easy task.

Bauer goes on to say:

Let’s be clear. Religion is by nature a sensitive topic to teach in the classroom. And in a world where stereotypes wrongly tar all Muslims as being prone to violence, it’s understandable that schools would err on the side of caution. Indeed, they should affirm the piety and charity practiced by hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world, an acknowledgment that should be extended to Christians as well. At the same time, textbooks shouldn’t cower from covering the violent periods of Muslim conquest or the Islamic beliefs that fundamentalists exploit for violent ends.

Sewall found that many textbooks gloss over or delete important facts. For example, in the 1990s, “jihad” – which has many meanings, among them “sacred” or “holy” struggle but also “holy war” – was defined in the Houghton Mifflin junior high school book only as a struggle “to do one’s best to resist temptation and overcome evil.”

The many acts of violence committed on behalf of Islam in the past decade have made that definition incomplete, to say the least. Yet, as ATC notes, “by 2005, Houghton Mifflin apparently had removed jihad from its entire series of social studies textbooks.”

Is it okay to “soften’ history in order to make it politically correct and “less offensive”. Let’s face it, there is much about history that isn’t pretty and we can dress it up and downplay certain aspects but that doesn’t mean those events did not happen. And if we forget history, it is destined to repeat itself.

Maybe it’s time we have an open mind and all take a look at those textbooks that are being used to teach our children instead of merely trusting that what the schools are teaching are the real facts?


CyberKitten said...

History should tell it how it is (or rather was) warts and all. If we do not *know* our history how are we supposed to *learn* from it?

Stardust said...

Cyberkitten, that's absolutely true. And if there are those in the class who want to dispute or debate the information being presented, then that is what classroom discussions are for and the kids can all come to their own conclusions. The teachers could encourage the kids to do some research on their own outside of the classroom on certain THINK for themselves. What a concept.