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Islam curriculum protested

This article posted with permission. You must obtain permission from Barbara Curtis to repost.

Islam curriculum generates protests from many parents
Unit part of ongoing social studies series on religion

By Barbara Curtis
Christian Times of the Central Coast

 SACRAMENTO-Students returning post-holidays to seventh-grade social studies classes in many school districts found themselves immersed in the study of Islam.  By Jan. 11, parent complaints were making headlines on conservative radio and Internet news sites.

 Indignation grew as parents checking the controversial text, “Across the Centuries” found the charges to be accurate: an in-depth look and decidedly positive perspective on Islam – interspersed with verses from the Koran – with no corresponding account of Christianity.  Only the most negative aspects of Christianity’s history – for example, church corruption, inquisitions – were mentioned.

 “It was like a slap in the face,” said JenT, parent of a San Luis Obispo seventh-grader.  “My son’s class actually started on Islam before the so-called winter break.  It grieved my heart so much, I spent every spare minute of his vacation trying to finish my report on what was going on in his class.”

 Shroder’s 10-page content analysis, detailing biased textbook passages and assignments such as “imagine you are on a Mecca pilgrimage and write about it” began circulating via e-mail, Jan. 4.

 In the meantime, trouble was brewing in Byron, a small school district halfway between San Francisco and Modesto, which just last fall had hired a new science teacher, Elizabeth Lemings.  Lemings’ son, a seventh-grader at Excelsior Middle School, where his mother teaches, brought home handouts describing a 10 – to 15 day Islam intensive.

 “From the beginning, you and your classmates will become Muslims,” the handout, published by Interaction Publishers in Lakeside, Calif. Reads.

 Students are encouraged to wear Muslim garb, and required to choose a Muslim name, to memorize Islam’s Five Pillars (professing faith in Allah, praying five times a day, almsgiving, fasting or making a pilgrimage), and to imitate one specific pillar.

 On Jan. 9, ASSIST News Service carried the Lemings story, which was quickly picked up by conservative talk shows throughout California and nationally over the next couple of days.  Parents and kids calling in complained of similar abuses in their school districts.

 Nancy Castro, Excelsior’s principal, insists there is nothing wrong with the course.

 “We do not endorse any religion; we just make students aware,” she said, noting that the textbook [not the handout] is in use throughout the state, and that it reflects California educational standards.

 The standards call for a three-year study of civilizations, beginning in the sixth grade.  Since the series is arranged chronologically, Christianity is covered in the first year.  Section 6.7.7 of the standards reads:

 “Note the origins of Christianity in the Jewish Messianic prophecies, the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as described in the New Testament and the contribution of St. Paul the Apostle to the definition and spread of Christian beliefs [e.g., belief in the Trinity, resurrection, salvation].”

 According to Forrest Turpen, executive director of Christian Educators Association, California’s social studies standards – originally written in the late ‘80s – represented a radical breakthrough for public schools throughout the nations, which had responded to the removal of prayer in schools and calls for separation of church and state by eliminating all references to religion from the classroom and from textbooks.

 But when a 1986 National Institute of Education study demonstrated that then-current textbooks were damaging to family values, then-state Superintendent of Education Bill Hoenig, himself a former social studies teacher, began pushing for a framework that would offer a better perspective on religion.  Once the standards were in place, publisher Houghton Mifflin began working on textbooks to conform to the standards.

 “They went out on a limb,” Turpen said.  “California was the first state to open the doors to teaching about religion in the schools again.  So even though California represents 11 percent of the textbook market, they were taking a risk, breaking new ground.”

 The first editions were published in 1991.  Now, a decade later, the Houghton Mifflin series is in use throughout many states.  Also, other publishers have produced textbooks conforming to the California social studies standards.

 Turpen said he sees today’s openness to teaching about religion in school as a wonderful opportunity for Christian educators.

 “We can’t teach the faith, but we can teach about the faith – in an objective, not a subjective manner,” Turpen said, noting that throughout California and other states, “Jesus” name can now be lifted up.”  [Please see Turpen's denial of reviewing Islam section]

 Still, even though the California standards appear to be fair and balanced, the application of the standards appears to be flawed.

 Many parents report teachers glossing over or skipping the section on Christianity entirely, while focusing too much time and attention not only on Islam, but on Egyptian and Hindu religion and worship.

 The texts themselves are problematic; though the sixth-grade text does a commendable job of presenting Christianity, including Bible verses, [Christian review had not been finished by this publication-Jen] the seventh-grade text is heavily skewed, with Islam being described as having close ties to Judaism and Christianity, as well as being “tolerant” of other religions and generous in granting rights to women. Islamic aggression toward surrounding groups is called “expansion,” jihad is defined as the individual’s struggle to resist temptation and overcome evil, or at most defending oneself against persecution.  Christianity during the corresponding time frame is represented as corrupt, full of schisms and responsible for “slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Jews.”

 More egregorious than the texts are supplemental materials being used by many seventh-grade teachers.  These clearly fall outside the protection of the law, experts said.

 “If they are role-playing, they are going too far,” according to Charles Haynes of the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center, author of a six-page section in the teacher’s editions of the textbooks titled, “Teaching About Religion in Public Schools.”

 The section contains clear guidelines for teachers to enable them to teach about religions without crossing the line into actually teaching the religions themselves.  It specifically states:  “Recreating religious practices or ceremonies through role-playing activities should not take place in a public school classroom.”

 Over the months ahead, these issues will be hammered out school district by school district, and perhaps in the courts.  Pacific Justice Institute filed an official complaint with the school district.  Lemings is being assisted by [Thomas More Law Center].  Both organizations note that when confronted with school lessons that violate their faith, parents may opt their children out of that instruction.

Read the outrageous Court ruling by Judge Phyllis Hamilton [a Clinton appointee] authorizing public schools to REQUIRE students to get on their hands and knees and pray to Allah by memory along with any other practices of faith  "in demonstration." This ruling was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the US Supreme Court refused to hear it, thus allowing it as setting precedent, a tool used to uphold the decision in other states.

In my opinion, this reduces our children to slaves, for slaves have the right not to believe as they are forced to take the position and pray to foreign gods. - Jen Shroder 11/27/2010