Teaching Islam

History teachers need an independent hotline to evaluate books and instructional materials on Islamic history, writes Sandra Stotsky on History News Network.

After September 11, it is clearly urgent to teach K-12 students about Islamic history and culture. It is also crucial for their teachers to have suitable instructional materials that do not inadvertently promote some person’s or group’s religious or political agenda.

Workshops for teachers confuse faith with history, she writes. One source given to teachers, The Arab World Studies Notebook, “claims not only that Muslims from Europe were the first to sail across the Atlantic and land in the New World, but also that they reached Canada where they intermarried with the Iroquois and Algonquin nations.” It’s not true, but few teachers know enough about Islamic history to evaluate the credibility of what they’re given.

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Comments

  1. “…few teachers know enough about Islamic history to evaluate the credibility of what they’re given.”

    Lots of people major in history because they like it, and end up teaching because that’s where they can find jobs. I’ll bet there are more history teachers who majored in history, than math or science teachers who majored in math or science. Surely anyone who ever studied history knows that Muslims didn’t arrive on this continent first. Even people like me, who CLEP’d 6 hours and only took Western Civ in college, know better than that.

  2. Bob Diethrich says:

    Joanne:

    This issue was about the “Arab World Studies NOtebook” was dealt with by Donald Sensing (I believe) last Fall on his blog.

  3. Keep in mind, of course, that according to a particular leftwing mindset, only Christianity and Judaism are actually “religion” (because they’re Western and therefore evil), the merest passing mention of which must be militantly excluded from the classroom. Everything else is “culture,” and so at least allowed if not actually encouraged.

  4. My family is Buddhist, and my brother in highschool had a religion portion in his English class. The purpose of this portion was to educate the class about different religions out there.

    The teacher was very ignorant and uninformed about the Buddhist religion, and my brother pointed out indescrepancies in her teaching. I will not go into her mistakes here. It resulted in her dedicating about 10 minutes to Buddhist concepts, because it was clear she did not understand what she was teaching.

    I am of Asian descent, but his school was predominatly white suburbanites. I’d rather these diversity programs NOt be taught than to be taught incorrectly. It will only serve to reinforce/encourage incorrect stereotypes and prejudices.

    I find that these “well intentioned” diversity lessons often backfire.

  5. Walter E. Wallis says:

    A job for a committee. Gather members of every significant faith, have each one write his own description of his faith and have the others edit it. The final unit would convey an objective description of all the covered units without any BS.
    If religions cannot be presented that way then don’t even try.

  6. Yes, there are a lot of history majors out there teaching history, but most of them are teaching high school. It is the elementary school and middle school teachers who may not have enough background knowledge to discern the lies from the truth.

  7. I can see how this will develop. There will be no discussion of ‘history’ as such…it will simply be more multicultural cheerleading from the empty-headed diversity types. No genuine discussion of cultural attributes that might offend any of the professional victims out there, no analysis of pros and cons of various cultures (well, lots of discussions about Western failings, but somehow I imagine any discussion of Muslim failings will be quickly squelched lest we offend the poor sensitive darlings…), nothing but the usual ignorant pablum…

    Sigh…

  8. “It is the elementary school and middle school teachers who may not have enough background knowledge to discern the lies from the truth.”

    Come on, I learned enough in elementary school to know this is bogus. Are you telling me that the average middle school teacher nowadays doesn’t have as much “background knowledge” as a smart 5th grader in 1963?

    Or maybe I had an “unfair advantage.” No TV set in the house.

  9. markm asks “Are you telling me that the average middle school teacher nowadays doesn’t have as much “background knowledge” as a smart 5th grader in 1963?”

    Unfortunately, that seems to be about the size of it. Those who came out of our colleges during the 60s, 70s, and 80s have an appalling lack of basic knowledge, and not just in history. What I find even more appalling, however, is their lack of drive to learn – most of them haven’t learned much since them except for the required ‘indoctrinations’ on whatever ed theory is currently being pushed. When even the elementary kids can identify that the teachers are wrong, it’s a sad commentary on our teachers’ quality.

  10. Walter,

    The problem with your idea is that a lot of people don’t really understand their own religion, much less anyone else’s. I’m shocked sometimes at the number of Catholics I encounter who don’t understand the basic tenets of their faith.

  11. Bill Leonard says:

    The real questions are: can anyone who wants come in and provide “materials” like the Arab World Studies Notebook, have the materials accepted without any vetting whatsoever, and have such materials distributed to classroom teachers? And if so, why? And, who, exactly, is responsible at any level for such decisions?

    The sad part is, there are lots of good histories of Islam out there. Try any of the excellent, well-written and very readable books by Prof. Bernard Lewis, of Princeton, for instance.