The unconstitutional presentation (and whitewashing) of Islam in American public schools

The Clarion Project, a think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C., states that its mission is “to [educate] the public about the dangers of radical Islam” and “[to deliver] news, expert analysis, videos, and unique perspectives about radical Islam, while giving a platform to moderate Muslims and human rights activists to speak out against extremism.” The Southern Poverty Law Center, of course, has designated Clarion as a group that spreads “Isalmophobia.”

A new post on Clarion’s site, “Pro-Islamic indoctrination in public schools?”, by Meira Sversky, paints a disturbing picture of American secondary schools not only teaching Islam over other religions (a violation of the First Amendment), but also whitewashing the religion à la Reza Aslan.  The motivation, I suspect, is admirable: to stamp out bigotry against Muslims, but you can’t do that by violating the Constitution and distorting a religion in the service of liberalism.

One aspect of this “indoctrination” is a U.S. Department of Education program—yes, funded by the taxpayers—called “Access Islam“.  Clarion also notes that the program is also supported by the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and the Smithsonian.

Below is a video from that program aimed at children from grades 5-12 (note that it’s presented by the “Christian Action Network”, which surely has its own agenda). Since I haven’t found the original government materials myself, take this with a grain of salt. But note as well that there are no similar programs for other faiths—a clear violation of the First Amendment’s prohibition of the government favoring one religion over others. Clarion notes:

Parents across the U.S. have objected to a Department of Education program called “Access Islam.” The federally-funded program is directed at children from grades 5-12 and is also featured on various websites, including PBS Learning Media.

The Smithsonian also promotes the course as does the Indiana Department of Education and the United Nations.

Parents charge that the course amounts to nothing less than proselytizing about Islam in public schools. In addition, they note that the Department of Education provides no comparable study or promotion of any other religion.

A video from the course prominently features a Christian convert to Islam, who declares emotionally how he has found the true religion without any “intermediaries.”

In addition to videos, students are given worksheets to learn the Five Pillars of Islam and how to pray. Children are also expected to memorize verses from the Quran and know the meaning of those verses.

The video (with its Christian gloss):

Note that there is a link to a Snopes investigation of this charge of “indoctrination”.  Examining the claim that “Seventh graders in California are subjected to an intense three-week course in Islam that requires them to pray to Allah and memorize Koran verses”, Snopes judges the claim “mixed” (you can see the California history and social science standards here, which certainly do privilege Islam over other faiths). Snopes criticized the use of this curriculum in one California school district:

We think the Byron School District erred badly on the side of liberalism in how it chose to teach this segment and that it displayed an appalling lack of sensitivity to the fears that even more will be drawn to the fundamentalist Islamic faiths that spawned the terrorist attacks on America if Islam is made attractive enough, but that’s a judgment call, not a matter of fact. What can be argued is whether the line separating teaching about a religion and teaching the religion itself was blurred by how the district chose to fulfill the Islamic history element of the Grade 7 social studies curriculum. Whether that line was actually crossed remains a matter of debate (the district is not at this time addressing charges that it had students memorize Koran verses), but it must be said if the shoe were on the other foot — had the portions of world history centering on the spread of Christianity been taught in similar manner — the outcry would have been thunderous.

Clarion discusses the teaching of Islamic doctrine in other states. Not all use the “Access Islam” materials, but all, by preferentially teaching the tenets of one faith and not others, seem unconstitutional.

Maryland

As part of the school’s “World History” curriculum, high school students in Maryland were taught extensively about Islam — without any context of current events — and required to list the benefits of the religion.

In one homework assignment obtained by a news outlet, the question was asked: “How did Muslim conquerors treat those they conquered?” The correct answer was, “With tolerance, kindness and respect.”

One parent, John Kevin Wood, who objected to the mandatory class said, “I don’t force my religious views on them, so don’t force your religious views on me.”

His wife, Melissa, noted, “We cannot discuss our Ten Commandments in school but they can discuss Islam’s Five Pillars?”

New Jersey

Two mothers who spoke up about the courses on Islam that they charge amounted to indoctrination about Islam were smeared with the label of “Islamophobes” after bringing up the issue at a school board meeting.

The mothers objected that their children were required to learn intricacies of Islam but no similar courses were being taught about Christianity or Judaism.

Here’s one video shown to children in New Jersey, and to me it looks like material straight out of CAIR or some similar propaganda organization. Nothing similar is shown about Judaism, Hinduism, or Christianity:

Massachusetts, one of the nation’s most liberal states, has long been dogged by accusations that they show a sanitized version of Islam to students in public secondary schools. Clarion reports this:

Massachusetts

Charges that teaching materials about the Middles East are biased and funded by Saudi, Palestinian, and other Arab states were levied against Newton high schools.

One of the books the schools recommend as reading material included extremist writings by Muslim Brotherhood leaders Sayyid Qutb and Yusuf Qaradawi, who is known for his sermons calling for the murder of Jews and homosexuals.

Newton schools officials have continuously refused to make school curricula and teaching materials available to residents. [JAC: this is unconscionable, as those residents are the ones who pay for their children’s education and, to my mind, are entitled to at least see what those kids are learning.]

Public pressure previously forced the high schools to discontinue using the Saudi-funded Arab World Studies Notebook, which makes spurious charges against Israel. The book has been rejected by a number of other school districts as well.

There’s information on other states as well; here’s one “lesson plan” that thankfully was never adopted, but shows how clueless (or biased) educators can be:

New York

A lesson plan developed in New York State and promoted by the New York State Education Department called “Dying to be a Martyr,” featured video interviews with Islamic terrorists who explain why their attacks on Israelis were justified. The lessons plan contains no instructions for teachers to denounce the views. In addition, the plan does not contain an Israeli response.

The plan was offered to teachers for a decade through the taxpayer-funded Public Broadcasting Service’s “LearningMedia” website.

Whether this form of preferential presentation was done to defuse anti-Islamic bigotry, or to show concern for what the Left sees as an “underdog faith,” the results are clear: a violation of the Constitution. This is what would happen were the Huffington Post to be put in charge of American education.

I have no objection in principle to students learning comparative religion in public schools. As Richard Dawkins has long argued, religion is an important part of human history, and you can’t understand a lot of Western literary references without understanding Judaism and Christianity. However, that cannot, at least in the U.S., justify preferential teaching of the Bible over, say, the Qur’an or Bhagavad Gita.

Further, there’s a big tactical problem in teaching comparative religion: how is it to be done? One can easily see how various groups would quarrel over how their faith is presented (which tenets are important?), and even subgroups, like Sunni versus Shia Muslims, might argue about the presentation of their differing claims. Do you teach Mormonism? And Scientology? If not, why not? After all, Scientology has official tax-exempt status in the U.S. as a “religion”. There are tens of thousands of different faiths in this world (I haven’t even mentioned “folk religions,” of which there are many), and how do you decide which ones to include and which to leave out?

Nobody ever seems to recognize that any kind of religious-studies curriculum is going to be seen as offensive to some people, particularly the dominant faith in America, Christianity. This makes me despair about the possibility of religious education, although I think it might be feasible to construct a curriculum that offends very few people.

Some say that such a curriculum will help mitigate the religious conflicts and hatreds that plague our world, but given that kids are indoctrinated at home well before they’re of an age appropriate for religious education, I’m not sure that such religious education will have the desired effect.

Do readers (especially those in America) think that religious education should be required in public schools? If so, is it possible to design a fair yet useful curriculum?

h/t: Orli, Malgorzata

79 Comments

  1. Posted September 4, 2017 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    If so, is it possible to design a fair yet useful curriculum?

    Yes, it is *possible*, but there is no way it would be politically acceptable.

    Any fair and balanced curriculum would be critically examining religious texts and claims, asking question such as was Jesus an actual historical person, and who actually wrote the books of the New Testament? Did the Exodus actually occur historically, or is it purely allegorical? Was the founding of Mormonism basically a con by a known fabricator? Et cetera.

    • Kevin
      Posted September 4, 2017 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      Apply scientific logic to religion, you mean?
      You can’t do that: you must keep science out of the religious curriculum!!!!

    • eric
      Posted September 4, 2017 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      I don’t think a comparative religion course needs to do that to be effective. It would merely need to explain the doctrines and typical practices of top world religions (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, maybe a couple of others).

      My freshman roommate (who was evangelical) was convinced Catholics worshiped the devil and we pretty easily convinced him (because we wanted to see how gullible he would be) that they sacrificed chickens in their Sunday services. AIUI the Saudi-funded textbooks are just as bad as that when it comes to talking about Judaism. So IMO a comparative religion class succeeds even if it merely informs students about what other people actually believe. Because I think many many kids grow up with largely erroneous understandings of religions other than their own. Correcting that misunderstanding is a good first step, and honestly is probably plenty of material for a High School semester class to cover, even without the critical analysis.

  2. BJ
    Posted September 4, 2017 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    This is absolute absurdity. The descriptions of what various states are teaching read like a list of lies. Muslim conquerors suddenly weren’t imperialists — you know, like the evil white Europeans, who were the only real imperialists because only white people treated those they conquered poorly; no, Muslim conquerors were all sugar and spice. Is this a fucking joke?

    There is so much to which I could respond in this post, but I won’t bother. We all know what’s wrong.

    “Whether this form of preferential presentation was done to defuse anti-Islamic bigotry, or to show concern for what the Left sees as an ‘underdog faith’…”

    Well, the left (I guess it is just “the left” now, since this came from the left in the federal government. We can’t just blame regressives at this point) does seem to care about anti-*Islamic* bigotry above any other form of religious bigotry. Jews in their country continue to suffer the highest rate of hate crimes of any minority, but a good portion of the left doesn’t seem to mind (when it isn’t actively promoting antisemitism). And I think it’s less about them seeing Islam as an “underdog faith” than as an ally because, somehow, Islam is now a “brown” religion, while Judaism and others they don’t care for are “white” — just as Israel is full of oppressors, while places like Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are full of liberators.

    This is propaganda at the highest level of government, percolating down to the schools so it can be taught to our children.

    • BJ
      Posted September 4, 2017 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said this is coming from the federal level. This is individual states, and there’s no evidence they’re doing this with any direction from the Department of Education.

      • Diane G.
        Posted September 5, 2017 at 3:20 am | Permalink

        Yeah, say what you will about Betsy D., this is one lamebrained initiative we can’t blame on her. 😉

  3. Randy schenck
    Posted September 4, 2017 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    I do not approve of any of this in public schools. There is no time for education in the myths that are numerous and unproven. It is junk history as far as I am concerned. Should public schools also teach about ghosts and witches, maybe ancestry worship practiced by many around the world. A little more time on “real” history would be nice. Our own American history is almost unknown by most in this country and that includes separation of church and state.

    • eric
      Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      Real history includes the Salem witch trials, which are hard to understand if you never teach kids about belief in witches. “They hanged 20 people…but the reason why is junk history so we won’t tell you about it”?

      Likewise it’s pretty hard to understand the crusades without an understanding of the religious motivation for them. And I’m sure there are other important examples. Religion has been an important motivation for human action throughout history. So our kids need to know about it. Schools certainly don’t need to proselytize, but IMO they need to teach informatively about world religions because of their past and present role in human history.

      • somer
        Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:22 am | Permalink

        I don’t see why they need to pander though to ever touchy Muslim sensibilities about portraying the religion in a way that effectively proselytises it. Probably best just for the teacher to talk with no videos and to mention the many tough facts about Islamic history not just the Alhambra and Islamic scholars things. Including if slavery is raised about Slavery in the Quran and continuing up to 1960 – and Muslims capturing slaves for the Atlantic slave trade (actually Europeans never actually did the capturing and transport to coast though they did all the exploiting of the slave after that)

        • eric
          Posted September 4, 2017 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

          ‘Slavery in the Koran’ would IMO be specifically looking to say something nasty about it. I agree with frednofaith2 below (as do you) that at the H.S. level coverage of the core, basic beliefs and historical practices is sufficient. You don’t have to say it’s horrible. You don’t have to say it’s wonderful. Just teach the key beliefs. The same would be true of Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. Teach what they are and what they generally say. Editorial commentary on them is not needed.

          • Diane G.
            Posted September 5, 2017 at 3:25 am | Permalink

            I don’t think you can totally separate beliefs from practices in teaching religion without leaving students with an inaccurate idea of how religions really do play their roles in society and history.

      • frednotfaith2
        Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        During my high school years, in California from 1976 through 1980, I took classes in both mythology & folklore and history, of both the U.S. and of Europe (or Western Civilization). The history classes touched on various religions as they impacted history overall, although they did go deep into what those religions believed except to tough on the reasons for Luther’s rebellion against the Catholic Church, and some of Calvin’s extremism, and, of course, Henry VIII’s break with Catholicism and the religious based turmoil in England and continental Europe throughout the 16 & 17th centuries.
        I believe that if a history of religion is to be taught in public schools at all, it should teach the basic beliefs of the most prominent sects around the world while avoiding debate about whether or not they are true, as was done in my mythology & folklore class. Yeah, even that won’t suit too many hardcore religious nuts who want their superstitious non-sense taught as absolute facts and everyone else’s religious non-sense taught as deceptions of the devil and I’d really prefer that all religious non-sense be taught as just that, non-sense without any basis in fact-based reality. At the very least, however, no public school teacher should teach any of it as factual, aside from the fact that billions of people believe in it, but the sheer number of people who believe in non-sense does not make it any less non-sense. The Sun does not orbit the Earth no matter what people once believed or how many people still believe that.

        • somer
          Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

          I agree – teach it with no promotional videos as dry facts about the tenets and some of the history taking care to include both some good and some bad for each. A hard sell though because each faith will apply tremendous pressure and even collectively maintain the course promotes atheism etc etc.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        I was not talking about those kind of witches but then, you probably already knew that. The Salem witches in the 1600s is simply American History sir, not a class on religion. Although I know the difference, it is perhaps likely that many do not, as proven here.

  4. Posted September 4, 2017 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Since all homo sapiens are born atheist, that should be the default foundation. Put another way: the assumptive mode ought to be objective reality and reason as absolutes.

    As a result, while a course on comparative religion might be part of a curriculum, it ought to be embedded as the examination of competing aberrant beliefs. The history of objectivity should be a major study.

    As part of the atheistic foundation, the discoveries of Julian Jaynes on how/why the illusion of the supernatural originated and persists should be mandatory.

    Further, the claim that religion is the source of “the good” in culture should be countered with “good people, minus magical thinking, are better people.”

    • Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      Sorry, you can’t teach that religious are “aberrant” or “bad” compared to atheism in America. That violates the First Amendment.

      • Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

        Hmmm. I don’t think that is true. Atheism simply means “without God, no God.”

        “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; …”

        I’d argue that founding the philosophy of education on objective reality and reason as absolutes, in public schools, is not a “law respecting an establishment of religion.”

        Do you think it prohibits the free exercise? I don’t.

        How about “moderating” the language to “myth?”

        Not teaching public school children that religion is a myth “respects the establishment of religion.”

        • Posted September 4, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

          I don’t want to argue about you; I’m telling you the way it is, and you’re saying it shouldn’t be like that. Teaching that there is no god, and all religions are myths, is an unconstitutional act in the U.S.

          • Posted September 4, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

            I deference to this being your blog, that you are away, and that you don’t want to argue, I will not argue back with you.

            Anyone else?

            • eric
              Posted September 4, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

              Jerry is right about how the first amendment is currently interpreted. I agree with that interpretation and would oppose your idea. The whole point of the first part of the 1st amendment was to prevent governmental force being used in religious disputes, and you propose to do exactly that, in favor of atheism.

              • Posted September 4, 2017 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

                I’m going to take a look at the claim that the Supreme Court has rulled that public schools cannot promote fact, reason and objective reality as absolutes. As opposed to irrational myth “established” as true.

                Do you think public schools ought to abstain from pointing out the difference between myth and fact?

                Note: I am not saying public schools should teach “There is no God.” I consider that to be false atheism. It’s a dangerous error.

                In fact public schools would not have to “promote” or “establish” atheism at all. Just proactively teach that there is no factual basis in religion.

              • eric
                Posted September 4, 2017 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

                I’m going to take a look at the claim that the Supreme Court has rulled that public schools cannot promote fact, reason and objective reality as absolutes.

                What you want to look up is the Lemon test. Schools can indeed teach counter-religious facts (such as teaching earth history to creationists). The legal barrier is that such teaching must (1) have a secular purpose for being taught, and (2) the primary effect of teaching it must be secular, and (3) it must not excessively entangle government in religious disputes. The courts have generally found that anything which is mainstream science passes the test, as the state has a secular purpose in teaching kids science, the primary effect of a science class is learning what science says and how science is done, and teaching science is not excessively entangling.

                So schools can teach the earth is 4 billion years old. Schools can teach there’s no evidence of ghosts, and laying on hands doesn’t realyl work. But you seem to want to go farther and have them teach things like Jesus wasn’t God’s son, Christianity is wrong about there being an afterlife, Hinduism is wrong about souls reincarnating, etc. That seems very clearly to fail the first two prongs of Lemon. Moreover, those sorts of claims aren’t really backed up by science (in part because they aren’t really even scientific questions in the first place – they are not empirically testable).

                Do you think public schools ought to abstain from pointing out the difference between myth and fact?

                Well see above. Schools can and do teach scientific conclusions based on empirical observation. Some of those have religious implications which religious people don’t like. That’s okay to teach. But broad statements targeting religion like “Christianity’s theology is a type of mythology” or “there are no Gods” IMO goes way beyond that.

              • Posted September 4, 2017 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

                @ eric

                I wish to make it clear again that I have not stated I support the teaching in public schools of; “there are no gods.” I am always very clear about that, and gave my stance above that anyone claiming to prove “there’s no such thing as God” is perpetrating a horrible error.

                As for teaching Christianity’s theology is a type of mythology” or the other examples you gave … these are equally bad … these are claims to prove a negative, which always gives the believer a victory.

                However, clearly and proactively teaching that facts are facts and anything with no factual basis cannot be considered true … not only do I think it acceptable, I think it mandatory. Not to consistently promote reason and reality is to do disservice to young minds.

                We wouldn’t want public school teachers to stand aside without comment when a student claims evolution is not true because their religion says it is untrue and “science is one way of knowing, revelation of god is another, neither is truer than the other, but God’s word is true for me.” I would want the teacher might say “well Jane, that is what you believe, however, in this school we teach that your opinion is your opinion, no one is going to tell you not to believe it, but it can’t be considered objectively true without proof. [Teacher is sure to get pronged for saying that.]

                Frankly, I don’t think teaching children that religion has no basis in truth … is wrong! However, I concede that it has been so constructed under current law before the Supreme Court, and public schools would not allow it – I am sure it would be interpreted as “inhibiting” religion under Prong 2, but I see no violation of the other Prongs.

              • Posted September 5, 2017 at 12:19 am | Permalink

                This looks like a long-winded way of admitting that you were wrong in asserting that it’s not a Constitutional violation to teach that religions are false. Unless you’re a constitutional lawyer, you had no business making such a claim from the outset, and asserting, as you still do now, that you know better than the Supreme Court in how to interpret the Constitution. What you FEEL or WANT TO BE TRUE is, unfortunately, not the law.

          • Posted September 4, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

            My apology for saying “blog.” I meant “website.”
            JRD

  5. Historian
    Posted September 4, 2017 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Your link to the Washington Post article does not mention the SPLC as naming Clarion a hate group. It is CAIR that does. This article from the SPLC does mention Clarion.

    https://www.splcenter.org/news/2016/10/26/splc-publishes-media-guide-countering-prominent-anti-muslim-extremists

    • Derec Avert
      Posted September 4, 2017 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      Would that be the same SPLC that named Ayaan Hirsi Ali as an “anti-muslim extremist”?

      Guess So.

      https://www.splcenter.org/20161025/journalists-manual-field-guide-anti-muslim-extremists#ali

      Never took the SPLC seriously. And after that nonsense don’t see why I should _ever_ take them seriously.

      So I don’t.

    • somer
      Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Read Tom Holland “in the shadow of the Sword” when the Arabs conquered the East Roman empire and Persia they created millions and millions of male and female slaves and they divided women into Persians (as submissive since they traditionally prayed to their husbands 3 times a day) for having children/wives; Christians/Jews for concubines and some other non muslims for whores. Thats how beautifully they treated non muslims.

  6. Norbert Francis
    Posted September 4, 2017 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this post. As I mentioned in passing once, this kind of religious indoctrination has been going on for some time at state universities, under the guise of “Religious Studies”, for example in Departments of Middle Eastern and North African Studies. Students have reported to me that the content of courses is simply and plainly the teaching of religious doctrine, as if it were being conducted at a mosque, in this case. This kind abuse of the system might in other state institutions include the teaching of doctrine of other religions as well, but I don’t have an example of it.

  7. Rita
    Posted September 4, 2017 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    I find it hard to believe that “Access Islam” would be promoted by the Indiana Department of Education, since Indiana isn’t a left-leaning state by any means. Promoting the Confederacy might be more likely! 🙂
    I’m taking all of this with a huge grain of salt.

    • Paul S
      Posted September 4, 2017 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      I guess this depends on where in Indiana. From the Hoosiers I know, Fort Wayne is very conservative, Hammond & Gary, not so much.

  8. Historian
    Posted September 4, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Politifact, Florida branch, has evaluated the question, “Did the U.S. Education Department introduce an Islamic indoctrination program for public schools?” The organization states “Access Islam is a real program for school teachers looking to offer lesson plans on the religion of Islam. But to say it’s part of an ‘indoctrination program’ delivered from the federal government isn’t accurate.” It goes on to say “It’s unclear how many schools have used the materials, and there is certainly no requirement that schools do.”

    I think we have to be careful not to be caught up in the hysteria created by right wing and Christian organizations, particularly when it is unclear how many school districts actually use this program.

    http://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2017/apr/05/volusia-county-republican-party/did-us-department-education-introduce-islamic-indo/

    • Posted September 4, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      Public funds were used to create biased, proselytizing materials about a religion for use in public schools. nuf ced.

      • Historian
        Posted September 4, 2017 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        It must be true because you said it is so.

        • Posted September 4, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

          Which part(s) of my statement do you contest?

          • eric
            Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

            For me – the “proselytizing” part. Here are the lesson plans (…I think…). Show me where it tells kids to become Muslim.

            I agree with Jerry that the coverage is lopsided. It looks like this is intended as something like a 10-week course. That seems greatly excessive; a year-long comparative religion course has about 36 weeks, so just SWAGging it I’d expect maybe 4-5 weeks each for the top 5 world religions and a few weeks of general discussion. So each of it’s 4-class units should probably be cut down to 1 class or something. But the way they present the material is, IMO, not proselytization. Here for example are the learning objectives for lesson 1: “Students will be able to: (1) Describe the basic beliefs of Islam; (2) Explain the meaning of each of the Five Pillars of Islam; (3) Compare and contrast the Five Pillars of Islam with the duties of other religions with which they are familiar.”

            • somer
              Posted September 4, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

              There are also the 6 articles of faith and ihsan – and explain what the articles of faith mean (they involve hellfire) No religion in reality Ever arrives fully formed so I think it would actually be anti secular not to mention something about the early history and main historical phases of each religion.

            • Posted September 4, 2017 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

              Teaching the Five Pillars could be considered proselytization, not less than would students being told to memorize the Nicene Creed.

              • eric
                Posted September 4, 2017 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

                If having kids learn the basic tenets of other religions counts as proselytization to you, how do you propose teaching comparative religion at all? What content questions do you put on the final, if you haven’t taught them anything about what those believers actually believe?

              • Posted September 5, 2017 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

                I don’t favor comparative religions being taught in public high schools. In any case, these materials were provided for what we used to call “social studies” classes — and learning about a region and its people does not require an in-depth review of their religious dogma.

                I certainly consider the material on women and Islam to be highly tendentious polemic:
                http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/globalconnections/mideast/questions/women/index.html

                and consider it, if not proselytizing, then rank and disingenuous propaganda, to test students with these questions:

                True or False:
                ___ Muslim women are oppressed by their religion.
                ___ The Qur’an explicitly states that men and women are equal in the eyes of God.
                ___ When Muslim women marry, their property is given to their husbands.
                ___ The Qur’an instructs Muslims to educate daughters as well as sons.
                ___ Muslim women have had rights for over 1400 year that were only granted to American women in the 19th and 20th centuries.
                ___ The restrictions placed on women in some Islamic countries are cultural, not religious.
                ___ The Qur’an directs both men and women to dress modestly.
                ___ Use of the hijab, or head scarf, varies according to the society in which a Muslim woman lives.
                ___ Women of many cultures and religions cover their heads in different ways.

              • Diane G.
                Posted September 5, 2017 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

                Omigod those are terrible questions! (Not to mention actual questions that beg the question. 😀 )

                If not proselytization, certainly propaganda!

              • Posted September 6, 2017 at 2:33 am | Permalink

                Matt,

                Did you make these questions up based on the PBS site? Or do they appear somewhere else?

                Thanks.

              • Posted September 6, 2017 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

                The quiz:

                http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/accessislam/pdfs/women3.pdf

  9. Karin Lindhagen
    Posted September 4, 2017 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    In Sweden, one of the most secular societies in the world, religion is a required subject throughout primary school. Children learn ABOUT religion, they learn that there are different religions and get som insight into what the basic myths and tenets are, they learn about the history of religions. And, yes, secular outlooks are also included. As an atheist, I may have a bit of a quarrel with details in the curriculum, but on the whole I think it is a good thing. Children learn from an early age that people have different versions of religon, or non-religion.

    • somer
      Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Yes but the angle of both vids are distinctly proselytizing put the religion in the best possible light, indicate it is the natural religion for the world. Although the first vid, also provides a lot of detail about what the faith actually entails as Jerry says there is this obsession with catering to Islam over other faiths – which get much less attention and less favourable attention. For anyone who isn’t carefully fed the nice stuff about the religion until they convert – there is an awful lot of oppressive stuff dominating the tenets. As a woman its disgustingly oppressive and discriminator. and as a human being its a totalitarian faith glossing miserable rituals that commandeer the believer from 4.30 am til bedtime with endless rituals and observances, brainwashing and terror of hellfire. Every page of the Koran has references to hellfire or “doom”.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      That’s encouraging. The US though has a very complex mix of religions and cultures which might provide greater challenges.

  10. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted September 4, 2017 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    I can well understand the good intentions behind these curricula, which is to instill knowledge and tolerance towards those who practice a faith that has been badly damaged because of extremists. But no doubt this has segued into indoctrination.

    • Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      Wouldn’t it be easier, and more constitutional, to teach the 1% of Americans who are Muslim, how to live in a secular society? It just seems like every time there’s an issue with a small group the other 99% have to adjust.

      • somer
        Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        ++++++++++++++++++100

      • Draken
        Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:18 am | Permalink

        Jolly sharp, Speaker, jolly sharp.

        • somer
          Posted September 5, 2017 at 8:33 am | Permalink

          Im not suggesting denigrating or hassling people but refusing to allow islamists like Sarsour crying “social justice” and Muslim community organisations to push their authoritarian, or misogynist worldview as superior or necessary to accommodate ever more in the wider society by arguing the crimes of the West, Christianity; Capitalism. Every culture has done or tries imperialism when it can and in the case of Islam it is every bit as imperialist in its history as the west – moreover those in the west may not argue that as a means to impose or excuse behaviours that are unacceptable by western human rights standards. People matter not cultures and we cannot and must not allow cultures to impose /promote dark ages for fear of appearing “racist” because it has become a marker of acceptability amongst our peers. If the religion is a way of life – it still has to adapt to decent norms or be encouraged to do so. In the UK this has become a real issue.

          The Secular Jihadist podcasts of Ex Muslims are brilliant exemplars of the case for this
          Shazia Hobbs – You Tube
          https://www.youtube.com%5BDELETE THIS TO PLAY]
          /watch?time_continue=1&v=KuxlRPOZ_W8

          • Diane G.
            Posted September 6, 2017 at 1:14 am | Permalink

            “People matter not cultures…”

            Hear, hear!

      • eric
        Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        Yes, it’s the minority’s fault they are the subject of assaults! If only they would learn to stop antagonizing us with their differentness![/sarcasm]

        Every Islam-motivated terrorist attack gets splashed across the national news. Such attacks do occur, and religion is the motivation. I’m not one of the religious apologizers who think religion isn’t to blame for violence. It often is. But statistically, my understanding is Muslims in the US aren’t more violent or less law abiding than anyone else. They have learned to live in a secular society. The most violent states in the US are actually the ones that are the most evangelical christian (here’s a map – for reference, the highest % Muslim populations by state are in Illinois, Virginia, New York, and New Jersey. There’s essentially no correlation with state violence levels). However rates of violence also correlate pretty well with poverty, so I would hesitate to claim any sort of causation from the religious correlation. It could simply be a coincidence, or (my guess) the religiosity and the violence could both be outcomes of the poverty.

        Regardless, as my first link shows, there’s something like 3 times the number of hate-crime type religious motivated attacks against Muslims as there are against Christians in the US. Looking at the hate crime table, it’s pretty obvious that in the US it’s minorities (gays, blacks, Jews, Muslims) who are the victims, not necessarily the aggressors. The 99% has a hard time living with the 1%, not the other way around.

        • eric
          Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

          My apologies for the html fail, but it appears my two links work despite the overlap. Click on the first sentence and it’ll take you to the FBI hate crime statistics. Click on the “here’s a map” sentence and it will take you to the US peace index by state.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 4, 2017 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

        I’m with Eric on that.

        I agree that immigrants should know ‘how to live in society’. That doesn’t mean they should have to conform to the majority, any more than Bible Belt atheists should have to go to church. And if they’re not going to be subjected to unjustified discrimination, some outline knowledge of what they actually do believe would be useful.

        Besides that, if it’s desired to reduce the ‘Murican insularity that knows nothing of the world beyond the borders, some knowledge of the beliefs current in the rest of the world would be useful, don’t you think.

        Obviously that should stop short of proselytising for any particular belief.

        cr

  11. GBJames
    Posted September 4, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    It is possible and desirable if not politically realistic to offer education about religion in public schools. But the only way one could have any confidence that it was being done right would be to have teachers be atheists.

    I assume that FFRF is all over this kind of religious propagandizing in public schools.

    • Posted September 4, 2017 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      Don’t count on the FFRF, which recently supported the establishment & school promotion of dedicated prayer rooms for moslem students during Ramadan.

      • GBJames
        Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

        That’s not true, Matt. What they supported was the extension to Muslim students the same privileges that are afforded Christian ones. They have the right to schedule rooms for religious use as long as they are not sanctioned by the school itself. And the rooms are not dedicated prayer rooms.

        • Posted September 4, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

          Those were not the same privileges. Not being dedicated as a prayer room was but a fig leaf. The principal admitted it was created expressly for use by moslem students during ramadan, it was managed by moslem students, and the school actively promoted its use as a moslem prayer room. It’s a clear violation of McCollum.

          • GBJames
            Posted September 4, 2017 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

            You’re simply wrong. The room wasn’t “created expressly for use by moslem students”. It was a room that was made available for use because it wasn’t needed for regular activities. It is no more a violation of McCollum than Xtian prayer clubs using school rooms. You’re struggling to make FFRF into apologists for Islam. And failing badly.

            • Posted September 4, 2017 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

              * Prior to ramadan, the room was not available for any non-curricular purposes;
              * The principal expressly made the room available for moslems to pray in because moslem students were leaving school during class hours;
              * No similar accommodations were made for students of other faiths;
              * Dismissing students of a certain religion to conduct religious practices during class time is known as “Release Time”. Arranging for Release Time to take place on school property has been deemed unconstitutional per McCollum;
              * School staff actively promoting such activities has been deemed unconstitutional per McCollum;
              * A school permitting members of a particular religion to supervise these religious activities on school property has been deemed unconstitutional per McCollum;
              * Use of school facilities for religious activities is only allowed outside of class time;
              * FFRF has on several occasions spoken out against christians being allowed to conduct religious activities on school property and during class time. It had a sudden volte-face when moslems were so indulged.

        • Historian
          Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:21 am | Permalink

          Here’s the official statement by the FRFR:

          https://ffrf.org/news/news-releases/item/29624-ffrf-weighs-in-on-n-y-public-school-ramadan-debate

          The FFRF takes legal action when it considers practices in violation of the First Amendment. It has concluded that a separate prayer room does not violate the First Amendment. It should not waste its resources on hopeless causes.

          • Posted September 4, 2017 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

            FFRF has repeatedly spoken out against nearly identical violations when perpetrated for Christianity. They are hypocrites.

        • Posted September 4, 2017 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

          I’ve lost all respect for Gaylor and Barker and their Islamo-apologetics.

        • Posted September 4, 2017 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

          Ha! Concerned about sex segregation? Photos of the high school ramadan prayer room in question showed the girls relegated to the back of the room.

          What a difference a year makes.

  12. somer
    Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Re Intro to Islam – anyone swooning yet? What a blatant piece of propaganda to show schools. This is the sort of gutlessness from government funded organisations run by liberals who should know better that drives me to despair for the survival of any kind of “enlightenment” into the future. our naivety knows no bounds and on the other side we have the Trumpitron who would rather start some conflagration and support the likes of Sherriff Arpeio than apply himself to passing sensible domestic legislation or enabling some sensible foreign policy

  13. Draken
    Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    A ‘comparative’ religion course would also have to deal with a comparison of the number of victims of the early Muslim Conquests (and subsequent slave trade) versus the Christian Crusades. And I’m not certain the Religion of Piece can’t win this celebrity death match.

    • Posted September 4, 2017 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      Why do you hate brown people?

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 4, 2017 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

      I think, to be fair, your comparison should also include not just the Crusades but all the other Christian-flavoured colonial expansion e.g. the Conquistadors in South America.

      One could also have a big debate about the how many of those conquests were religiously motivated and how many were motivated by greed or politics with [relevant religion] just a pretext.

      I rather think, though, that your comparative religion course would then descend into one of those intellectual bar-room brawls of hairsplitting and what-aboutery.

      Probably best to just outline the basic tenets of each belief and politely skirt the blame game.

      cr

  14. rickflick
    Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Ideally a balanced religious education course should be taught in schools. It should have the positive effect of teaching tolerance, and provide support for kids who decide not to follow any religion. However, each district and each teacher could have a different slant on the subject. How can we guarantee objectivity? In the schools I’ve been associated with in New York, the teachers tend to be liberal and seem to understand how to be objective. But, I have my doubts whether the administration or staff of a school in the deep south, for example, would do as well.

  15. Posted September 4, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    “I think it might be feasible to construct a curriculum that offends very few people.”

    I agree. Christianity (2.1 billion members) and Islam (1.3 billion) cover the religious affiliation of more than half of the world’s population. No other religion gets beyond the millions. If all non-religious people (atheist, agnostic, secular) formed a single “religion,” it would be the world’s third largest. I could see a history of religion course that explained the main tenets of Christianity (which, by necessity, would include Judaism) and Islam along with the post-Enlightenment trend toward secularism. Other religions could be included on an as-needed basis—e.g., if a student should ask “What about. . . ?”

    Not saying such a course should be required, but I do think it could and should be allowed without violating the Constitution. And I agree with Dawkins that such knowledge is an important part of human history.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted September 4, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      The fact that you justify it with numbers is reason enough to discard the idea. What other k thru 12 classes to we create based on how many are in the group. This is why we have churches, Tax Free, I might add, all over the country. Let them teach the religion and keep my taxes out of it. There is a large population that love guns and cars as well. Shall we have classes for these subjects as well. Roughly 20% of the kids do not even graduate high school today. That is what we need to work on.

      • Posted September 4, 2017 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        I cited the numbers to support the question of which religions should be included in such a course, not whether the history of religion should be included in the curriculum. I don’t happen to think that guns and cars are as important parts of human history as religion, but if you can make a case for it, fire away.

        And while we’re on the subject of justifying things by numbers, your citing of high school graduation rates to determine “what we need to work on” is questionable given that the rate could be significantly improved merely by lowering standards. Seems to me that what we need to work on is the quality of education kids get on their way to graduation.

        • Randy schenck
          Posted September 4, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

          Just the fact that you and apparently many other atheists on this thread seem to want to bend over for religion and even to stuff it in our public schools is pretty sickening to me. I will say the same as Madison and Jefferson said to Virginia just a few years ago. Keep the religion and government separate please. Send your kids to private school or religious school if you want this junk in there. Then let me know how it improves their career potential.

      • eric
        Posted September 4, 2017 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

        There is a large population that love guns and cars as well. Shall we have classes for these subjects as well.

        As electives? Sure why not. AIUI, in most states the requirement for offering an elective amounts to “show evidence it’s viable.” IOW, the proponents need to show good evidence they’ll fill a classroom with students who want to take it, for at least a few years.

        That may seem like a low bar, but it’s notable that even in the religious US, even in the bible belt, most school districts can’t offer bible-as-literature classes because the student interest isn’t there. These classes occasionally crop up and run for a year or two (mainly on the effort/demand of some student’s religious parent), but most fail in the long run (my theory: when the kid graduates, that parent doesn’t care enough to spur the school to keep it going).

        So, it’s a good news/bad news situation. The bad news is that in theory it’s easy to create religious elective courses which you would probably consider a waste of your tax dollars. The good news is, in practice students aren’t interested in them. Not even most religious students want to take them. 🙂

    • Posted September 6, 2017 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      … the main tenets of Christianity (which, by necessity, would include Judaism)….

      No, they are far too dissimilar to be conflated.

      Other religions could be included on an as-needed basis….

      Seriously? Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism don’t make the cut because they miss the billion-follower mark?

      And what about the profound impact of Buddhist mindfulness on Western secular philosophy, including one of the most effective therapy treatments, DBT?

      Note that I don’t favor extensive teaching about any of these faiths, but your arbitrary selection process seems like the old BLUES BROTHERS line: “We have both types of music — Country and Western!”

  16. nicky
    Posted September 4, 2017 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Yes, a comparative religion course would be good, if we ask the ghost of The Hitch to draw the contents.
    I’m deeply shocked that this pro-Islamic brainwashing is going on in schools in the US. As if Christianity isn’t bad enough!

  17. Posted October 21, 2017 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    As more Muslim immigrants are let in, regardless of the problems with a large proportion of the ones already present, we can expect more of this catering to Islam.


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