Thursday, September 23, 2010

Texas Board of Education Supporting Islamophobia?

The news cycle today has been rife with news that the Texas Board of Education is voting tomorrow (September 24th) on what they're calling the 'balanced treatment of religious groups in textbooks.' What an innocuous statement, right? What could possibly be wrong with promoting a balanced treatment of religions in public schools?

The problem here is that the ruling has really little to do with balancing all faiths/religions and more to do with ousting Islam and promoting Christianity. Recent reports have come out saying that leaders in the Texas education system claim that social studies textbooks in schools now have a pro-Islam/anti-Christianity message. Interestingly enough, ABC reports that the guy saying textbooks are too anti-Christian is the same exact guy who made sure that textbooks already got one conservative overhaul earlier this year. The same exact guy promoting the anti-Islam/pro-Christian resolution is the same one who said there needed to be more Biblical focus in the social studies curriculum, and any remote reference to certain non-Christian leanings of the founding fathers had to be removed (along with sections on Martin Luther King, Jr. and a few other civil rights issues). And, oh yeah, 'slavery' is too incorrect a term now... It paints white folks in a bad light.

Gail Lowe, the governor-appointed president of the board of education, dismissed the criticism that the proposal, which she supports, is anti-Muslim. "The resolution is not attacking that religious group," she said. "There are some entities that like to stir up controversy even when there isn't any." Lowe said she hasn't studied the textbooks or the passages called into question by the resolution, which would bear her signature should it pass, but that she intends to before Friday. The critics, she said, are "unnecessarily worrying. It has nothing to do with anyone's personal religious beliefs," she said. The proposal doesn't say children shouldn't learn about Islam, Lowe noted, just that there should be more emphasis on Christianity to give students a balanced education.

Lowe said she's been told that the textbooks treat other religions, such as Judaism, Confucianism, Sikhism and Buddhism, in the same light as Islam, but only Christianity seems to be demonized. The resolution however, does not mention any other religions besides Islam.

Now, I'm not one to jump on the Christianity is evil bandwagon, and I'm not going to do so here, but...really? How is this not Islamophobia? To say that Christianity should specifically take precedence in the public school classroom while Islam - specifically - should be downgraded (if not completely removed) is the opposite of education.

Obviously, it would be quite one-sided to report this occurrence without showcasing the vast public outcry against such legislation. Leaders from each end of the political spectrum - from far-right to far-left - have come out against this.

"It's clearly just an attempt to propagandize the state's student population against the faith of Islam," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington D.C.-based Council on Islamic-American Relations. "Somehow they were getting too rosy a picture of Islam."

Bigger picture here is that Texas' education system is so large, there are so many children educated in its hallways, that forcing publishers of Texas' social studies textbooks to change their content will change the content for many states around the US. 5 million students are educated in Texas, which is a lot more than many other states. Because of the strange changes done to textbooks recently, California has a bill pending that will make sure to not purchase any textbooks changed due to Texas legislation. tee hee


According to the resolution (which can be found in its complete form here):

Diverse reviewers have repeatedly documented gross pro-Islamic, anti-Christian distortions in social studies texts.

Board member Pat Hardy, R-Fort Worth, suggested the issue may be moot because none of the books cited by Rives still are being used in Texas, having been replaced in 2003, and said Rives "might want to go back and get newer copies of the books."

It's quite hilarious to me that the proposal opens by counting the number of lines of text in a textbook to find that Christian beliefs and practices had 128 less lines of text than Islam, specifically. Now, normally this kind of thing would be relegated to some uber-conservative blog or newsfeed, but it's gotten all the way to a vote. Let me say that again, this time using the big letters:

THIS BOLLOCKS HAS GOTTEN TO A VOTE!

And, as many commentators have put it, it's probably going to be very close, despite the mass dissent. Despite the fact that the textbooks in question have not been in schools in 7 years, this narrow-minded, Islamophobic, irrational, nut job proposal might very well become the way things are for 5 millions students. 5 million children might easily become 5 million adults who have been programmed by this kind of ruling to demean and belittle Islam.

Some educators fear the debate might lead to a revision of history. "I was a social studies teacher, and, I’m sorry. History is what it is. It happened," Gayle Fallon of the Houston Federation of Teachers told CBS affiliate KHOU. Fallon said the claim that books devote more lines to Islam that Christianity is baseless anyway. "I’ve talked to the history teachers. They say there’s nothing there," Fallon said. "A textbook should not proselytize for any side. It should present fact. And, from what we’ve seen of the text, they present fact."

Children should be given facts, as closely to the truth as we can make them, as honestly as we can deliver them. Then, they should be allowed to make up their own minds. The best that we can do now is pray that sense and reason take hold in the board's vote tomorrow. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed, anticipating a vote that is pro-education. Balanced. Tempered. True education.

I'll also be praying that Texas - and America - doesn't turn into a legitimate Theocracy one bigoted ruling at a time.

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

2 comments:

  1. Thanks to the powers that be, I don't live in Texas.

    In the past I've always taken a back seat to an election - however, lately (and partially due to your podcast/blog) I've finally realized how important it is to actually vote in these elections and how much good I can do by just talking about the pros and cons of a certain vote. Thanks Fire Lyte for being such an inspiration... and a good kick in the pants to get off my couch. :)

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  2. This is frighting. as a parent of a small child, this is just adding to the "homeschooling is the way to go" discussion me and the hubbs are having. scary.

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