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Thursday, September 28, 2023


Abridged textbooks build a bridge to a more religious education

Editorial cartoon by Miko Tsubai

Last spring, Texas school children experienced a change in their social studies curriculum. Thomas Jefferson, a founding father who helped draft the Constitution, was removed and replaced with the religious right-wing icon, John Calvin, whose philosophy reflects Christianity. The reason for this change was to embrace religious teachings over Jefferson’s (the founding father who coined the phrase, separation between church and state) secular beliefs.

After a victory for social conservatives last spring, the Texas school board is at it once again. This time, they are debating whether textbooks are tainted with pro-Islamic bias.

The resolution, which was adopted Friday after passing with a school board vote of 7 to 6, cites “politically-correct whitewashes of Islamic culture and stigmas on Christian civilization” in current textbooks and warns that “more discriminatory treatment of religion may occur as Middle Easterners buy into the US public school textbook oligopoly.”

The assertions held in this resolution are that textbooks provide sanitized definitions of “jihad,” and that texts ignore Muslim practices involving slavery, persecution of non-Muslim groups and sexism.

This is all while tending to “dwell” on atrocities committed by Christian crusaders during the Middle Ages, while ignoring similar acts by Muslims, and devotes substantially more coverage of Islamic beliefs, practices and holy writings rather than Christianity.

Being the largest of the 20 “adoption” states that craft decisions at a central level, Texas dictates about $4.7 million of the textbook market and determines what K-12 public school students in the state will read.

The size of Texas’ textbook market and the state’s requirements translates into implications for what publishers produce.

Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the Austin-based Texas Freedom Network said, “Publishers will do everything in their power — rewrite and revise — to make sure their book doesn’t become a hot button point of contention.”

This means that its rules will influence what children across the country will learn at school.

Like the previous debate drew heavy fire, this current debate has drawn fire as well. While proponents of the textbook resolution state that they merely want to provide balance in the curriculum, charges of Islamophobia are being developed.

The Texas Freedom Network, a liberal religion and education watchdog group, performed a point-by-point analysis of the resolution and described it as “ill considered” and “filled with superficial, misleading and half-baked claims designed simply to promote fear and religious prejudice.”

The issue has also drawn in critiques nationwide. Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington D.C. based Council on Islamic-American Relations said, “It’s clearly just an attempt to propagandize the state’s student population against the faith of Islam.”

As if the historical revisions did not illustrate that when the Constitution and founding fathers conflict with ultra conservative principles, changing the historical fact to reflect their beliefs is reasonable.

This new resolution portrays Texas in a light of prejudice that is on a crusade to eradicate the part of the curriculum they hold to be against their beliefs instead of relying on empirical facts.

When empirical analyses done by a national poll show that Americans hold a generally unfavorable opinion of Islam, 45 percent say it is a religion that “encourages violence” while only one in ten Americans believes that either Christianity or Judaism “encourages violence.”

As a native resident, it is clear that Texas is already succumbing to the lunacy of ultra-conservative principles.

The resolution, which was proposed by a one-time board candidate who failed to get elected, is that this will not just have implications on students nationwide, it will no doubt continue to fuel the crusade of prejudice in favor of ultra-conservative principles.

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