BlessedCause's FULL RESPONSE to Houghton Mifflin's denials:

Detailed Version


Following are Houghton Mifflin’s (HM) answers to their own posed questions, found on their website about their textbooks; and BlessedCause (BC) responding comments.  Please do not miss the bolded sections of #7, 10, 12, 16 and #17 below. 

5/5/03 update: Houghton Mifflin has rewritten their questions and answers in response to this rebuttal, but retained the previous date, again creating deception. For our current response to THOSE denials, click here.  

1.  HM’s Q: Does the textbook spend a disproportionate amount of time covering Islam spending a great deal less on other religions such as Christianity and Judaism? Does Islam dominate the textbook?

HM’s A: In actuality, material on Islam comprises only about 10% (page volume) of “Across the Centuries.” The book also covers Western, Central and Southern Africa, Japan, India, China, the Renaissance and Reformation, Early American Civilizations, European Monarchy, and the Enlightenment. Christianity and Judaism are primarily covered in “A Message of Ancient Days,” which is a sixth grade textbook. That book covers early hunter-gatherers, Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China, the Israelites, Greeks, Romans and Christians. However, there is a significant inclusion of Judeo-Christian history in “Across the Centuries” as well.

BC Comment:  The disproportionate coverage is not in page numbers.  It’s the content.  Christianity, or beliefs about Jesus Christ is actually what Islam believes about Jesus, not Christians.  In the Islam unit, religious beliefs presented in emotional indoctrinating appeals are far and away the main focus, along with claims of Muhammad as Prophet and Islam’s tolerance and protective reverence of Christians and Jews.  Conversely, the coverage of Christianity and Judaism is presenting the “culture” stripped of faith and describing Christians as hateful towards others.  In fact, it is this writer’s opinion that the opportunity was seized to present Biblical history as devoid of God, giving cynical explanations of events and motives.  For example, the textbook claims the people chose Saul as King.  The Bible says that God chose Saul.  The textbook explains that Jews had faith because of manipulation by the prophets, etc.  The Bible shows that God IS.  While looking at the Islam section, again, you see the exact opposite, bold statements of the authenticity of Islamic beliefs.

2.  HM Q: Why is this history lesson split into two books and two years?
3.  HM Q: What happens if a student is new to the school in seventh grade and misses the units on, for example, Christianity and Judaism?
4.  HM Q: Why have some schools in California (or elsewhere) decided not to cover Christianity in their studies?

BC Comment:  Volumes are written explaining Houghton Mifflin is not responsible for what teachers choose to teach.  I agree.  My issue, again, is the biased context of the textbook. 

5.  HM’s Q: What type of suggestions do the textbooks make regarding classroom activities?

HM’s A: The textbooks present students with a wide variety of activities to help them learn and understand concepts. This includes writing exercises, skits, art projects, architectural projects, and classroom debates. Some of these activities ask that students see things from the perspective of peoples of the past. These types of activities are intended to help students to gain an understanding of how and why people acted as they did, and to begin to think critically about how they might have acted similarly or differently. Nowhere in either textbook are students asked to engage in “mock-religious” activities, wear religious or cultural clothing, or to exercise the beliefs of any particular religious group.

BC Comment:  Not true.  Asking children to “imagine” being Muslim soldiers, or on a Mecca pilgrimage, building mosques, writing their names in the “spiritual” script of the Arabs, and many other activities IS participation and IS an exercise of belief. Any psychologist will validate the power of suggestion.  How much would ad agencies pay to have teachers ask children to “imagine” using their product and then write what is good about it.   Would we ask our children to “imagine” using cocaine, write what is good about it, to understand and promote tolerance of the drug addict?

6.  HM’s Q: Was the Council on Islamic Education (CIE) involved in reviewing this textbook?

HM’s A: The CIE, as well as the Hadassah Academic Advisory Board, the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center, and the Christian Educators Association International, were all involved in reviewing the textbook prior to publishing. 

BC CommentChristian Educators DENIES having reviewed "Across the Centuries."  Mr. Turpen, Director of CEAI wrote me the following regarding this issue on June 13, 2002: 

"I agree with you that the response from HM implies that we reviewed the books in the series in total.  That isn't the case at all as we focused only our attention on the Christian perspectives that were written and did not look at or compare the other content of the texts." ( full letter )(originally sent in all caps)

I have discovered that the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center is very connected with the Council of Islamic Education in that both websites refer to each others with positive commendations.  Additionally, Freedom Forum has teamed up with the Council of Islamic Education to write "Teaching about Religion in National and State Social Studies Standards."  This appears to be a government document incorporated by the Dept. of Education. For a closer look,  CLICK HERE

Hadassah, also listed in Houghton Mifflin's response in what I consider an implied endorsement, has given me this statement to post:

"Hadassah made a very limited review of only those pages of the manuscript that concerned Judaism, but many of its comments, suggestions and corrections were not incorporated in the textbook. Neither Hadassah nor Dr. Sandra Alfonsi endorse the book."

7.  HM’s Q:  Did the CIE or any other religious group contribute to the writing of either “A Message of Ancient Days” or “Across the Centuries”?

HM’s A:   No, the scope of their involvement was limited to reviewing the textbook material.

BC Comment:  WOW!  That is not what HM's Editorial Director said in an article profiling the CIE! (Council of Islamic Education). See article  She states very clearly that "We see our reviewers as playing a crucial role in enabling us to present accurate and complete information,"  She also notes that the Council of Islamic Education gave ISLAM'S PERSPECTIVE of the Crusades!!!!  I NEVER saw the textbook credit CIE with that in the textbook!

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