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Florida's Textbook War Heats Up

Richard M. Swier, Family Security Matters.org
May 5, 2010

It started with a young mother named Aya reading her son's high school history textbook and has spread to Gov. Crist's desk in Tallahassee.

There is a growing movement that began in Sarasota and is now spreading throughout the state of Florida and beyond. I recently met Aya, who was concerned about the Florida Edition of the McDougal Littel high school textbook World History: Patterns of Interaction. This textbook is on both the Florida Department of Education and Sarasota County School Board approved list of references. This textbook was one of 28 reviewed by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research. The Institute produced a comprehensive study in 2009 titled The Trouble with Textbooks: Distorting History and Religion. An Executive Summary of the report may be read by clicking here.

The study found:
"Textbooks around the world [including World History: Patterns of Interaction] are blatantly used as tools for propaganda. It is shocking to discover that history and geography textbooks widely used in America's elementary and secondary classrooms contain some of the very same inaccuracies about Christianity, Judaism, and the Middle East as those in Iran."

Aya became so concerned that she requested a meeting with Sarasota's Superintendent Lori White. The Superintendent referred Aya to Nancy Roberts, Director of Curriculum & Instruction for Grades K-12. Aya, along with a group of concerned parents, grandparents and citizens, went to meet with Ms. Roberts. Ms. Roberts did not wish to meet with the entire group, as the meeting appointment was made with Aya. As a compromise, Aya and I, at Aya's request, were allowed to meet with Ms. Roberts. Also at the meeting was Bernadette Bennett, Director of the District History Department.

During the meeting, Aya pointed out to Ms. Roberts and Mrs. Bennett numerous errors of omission and commission in the textbook. When Aya was finished, Ms. Roberts took no action other than to refer Aya to her child's teacher. Aya said this was a bigger issue than one child in one classroom and she wanted a reaction from the district staff about an approved textbook that was factually incorrect. She received none. When Ms. Roberts was specifically asked if it was district policy to provide students with textbooks that were both biased and factually and historically incorrect, she refused to answer.

The next day, April 20th, four and I citizens appeared before the Sarasota County School Board to point out two district approved textbooks which were both factually incorrect and biased. The reaction from the School Board and Superintendent White was to have the group fill out a complaint form and submit it through channels. No action was taken, nor did any member of the School Board react to the policy issue that the district had factually incorrect and biased textbooks on its approved list.

Several people spoke in support of keeping the textbooks including Dr. Andrea Blanch, Director of the Center for Religious Tolerance. This group addressed tolerance as their primary concern. Those who spoke against the textbooks simply wanted information provided to public school students to be balanced, historically correct and unbiased.

Since the April 20th School Board meeting, a flurry of e-mails have passed between Superintendent White, Aya and concerned parents and citizens. Of note is one from Dean Jorgenson who lived in Saudi Arabia. Dean said in his e-mail to the School Board:

"In Saudi Arabia they have 2 different police departments that both patrol the streets. One is the Traffic Police and the other is the Religious Police. The religious police patrol the streets looking for individuals, men or women that violate Sharia Law. Example: In Saudi Arabia a man is not allowed to have a woman in his car that is not his wife unless he has a note from her husband saying it is all right and likewise a woman is not allowed to be in a car with a man that is not her husband unless she has a note. I had one of our flight attendants ask me for a ride to Flight Operations one day; I was reluctant to take her, but I did and was extremely nervous the whole 15 min drive. As a westerner if you were caught violating this law, you were out of the country, i.e. you lost your job. As a non-westerner I would imagine the punishment was far more severe, especially for the woman. In "Saudi City" which was the aircrew family compound in Jeddah, a gated community, the possession of a Bible or any other literature not of the Koran or Islam was forbidden. The meeting together for a Bible study on Sunday was forbidden. The only way to get a Bible into the Kingdom was to smuggle it in. Fortunately for the aircrew members, we were most of the time not closely scrutinized by customs.

I doubt very seriously that the 3 ladies that spoke out [at the school board meeting on April 20th] in support of Islam have ever lived in or been to a fundamentalist Islamic country and therefore subject to fundamentalism, especially the young lady that appeared to be a local convert. I dare say that if they had, they might have a different take on Islam."

Here are just some of the inaccuracies in the Florida Edition of World History - Patterns of Interaction: From the Muslim World chapter pgs.260-281

1. pp. 267 Lists the five pillars of Islam as faith, prayer, alms, fasting and pilgrimage. It leaves out Jihad.

2. pp. 268 The internet text lesson asks students to "create a chart in which you identify and explain the meaning of Muslim prayer rituals." There is no online exercise for any other religion.

3. pp. 267 States, "unlike other religions, Islam has no priests or central religious authority." Not true. Judaism has no priests or central authority, they have rabbis or teachers. Islam does have central religious authorities; Iran is a prime example with the Ayatollahs who combine both religious and political authority.

4. pp. 265 describes the Hijrah in general terms when it was the period with Jihad as the primary pillar of Islam and conquest was Mohammed's way to spread the faith. Example: “Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them, take them captive, harass them, lie in wait and ambush them using every stratagem of war.” (Qur'an 9:5)

5. pp. 274 States, "the Qur'an declares that men and women, as believers, are equal." What is missing is the Hadith which states holds women and other minorities as property and second class citizens. No mention is made today of the implementation of Sharia Law and its affects on other religions, women and minorities. It does not address apostasy, the Sharia Law that states those who leave the faith must be killed. All four schools of Sunni Islamic law (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i, and Hanbali), as well as the main schools of Shia Islamic law, unanimously agree that a former Muslim male, also known as an apostate, must be executed. While some hold that an apostate woman should also be executed, the Encyclopedia of Islamic Law: A compendium of the Major Schools, adapted by Laleh Bakhtiar, states that she should be imprisoned or beaten five times a day until she repents or dies.

6. pp. 270 States, "Because the Qur'an forbade forced conversion, Muslims allowed conquered peoples to follow their own religion. Christians and Jews, as 'people of the book,' received special consideration." The special consideration was to convert or pay and onerous tribute (tax) to Mohammed. In the Hadith, which cannot be separated from the Qur'an (see 4 above) Jihad and conversion to Islam is required by all Muslims.

From the Christianity pgs. 286-287 (note only two pages devoted to Christianity while 21 pages are devoted to Islam).

1. pp. 286 States, "Christians regard Jesus as the Son of God." Regard is a false term. Christians “know” Jesus is the Son of God is the proper description.

2. pp. 287 A picture is on this page showing a black Ethiopian Orthodox priest in Muslim style garb. No picture of a Roman Catholic priest or the Pope.

From the Judaism pgs. 292-293. Same note as above with only two pages devoted to Judaism.

1. pp. 296 Chart lists Judaism's Holy Book as the Hebrew Bible. Not true, it is the old testament.

2. pp. 296 Chart lists the Qur'an as the Holy Book but leaves out the Hadith and any mention of Sharia Law.

The amount of material and exercises provided to Islam far outweigh that given any other religion. This imposes a bias on the students understanding of the other religions major impact on world history.

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