Diversity perversity on NY exam

New York’s Regents exam on Global History and Geography requires students to praise  Islamic conquerors and criticize Christian friars, writes Andrew Bostom on Pajamas Media.

Students read a textbook extract:

Wherever they went, the Moslems brought with them their love of art, beauty, and learning. From about the eighth to the eleventh century, their culture was superior in many ways to that of western Christendom.

Some of the finest centers of Moslem life were established in Spain. In Cordova, the streets were solidly paved, while at the same time in Paris people waded ankle-deep in mud after a rain. Cordovan public lamps lighted roads for as far as ten miles; yet seven hundred years later there was still not a single public lamp in London!

Guidelines call for awarding one credit, up to a maximum of two credits, “for each different way Islam improved the lives of people in Spain.”

No points are given for describing “massacre, pillage, deportation, and mass enslavement” including turning female captives into harem slaves and males into eunuchs, Bostom complains.

Students also read an extract on how friars converted natives to Christianity in Spanish America.

Award 1 credit (up to a maximum of 2 credits) for each different change the friars introduced in Spanish America. Examples: destroying idols/temples; building permanent monasteries; constructing Christian buildings on sites of destroyed native temples; building temporary/permanent churches; holding services/fiestas in church buildings in a converted community; attempting to destroy paganism.

As a Jew, I have no dog in the fight between the Moors and the Christians in Spain. Nor do I think Spanish missionaries were models of tolerance in the New World. But I do wonder why it’s OK to criticize Christians, but other religions are sacrosanct.

Teachers are complaining about the lack of balance, reports the New York Post.

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  1. >But I do wonder why it’s OK to criticize Christians,
    >but other religions are sacrosanct.

    It’s not “other religions” it’s Islam and the reason is simple: Christians, Jews and so forth won’t cut your head off for disagreeing with them.

  2. So I guess every single regents exam should split every religion down the middle in terms of positive vs. negative traits mentioned? (That would make for one long exam.) What about looking at trends over time? A single exam is anecdote, not data.

    From the same NY Post article:

    At the same time, MacWilliams criticized the presentation of Hernando Cortes’ conquest of Mexico — which he said portrayed him as a “choirboy” rather than a “conquistador.”

    “It’s quite a whitewash,” he said.

    You may also want to look up “confirmation bias.”


  3. If they’re going to talk about technology & infrastructure (roads, street lighting, etc) then an intellectually-honest approach would also talk about the great accomplishments of Christian monks in developing the use of water power.

    Not to mention other technological accomplishments in the western Christian countries such as the harness, the stirrup, and the improved plow.

  4. Fred the Fourth says:

    Ignoring any bias for the moment, the actual questions are very poorly designed. Instead of asking:

    ““for each different way Islam improved the lives of people in Spain.”

    the appropriate questions following such an excerpt are:

    “1. What conclusions does the author draw, and what facts does the author educe to support them?
    1A. Based on your knowledge of the subject, write arguments supporting or refuting those facts.
    1B. Is the author’s argument logical, i.e. does the conclusion follow from the supporting facts?”

  5. Fred the Fourth says:

    Of course, the existing questions require answers which are much easier to grade than my suggested questions. Also, grading answers to my questions requires actual knowledge of the subject on the part of the graders. Too much to ask, I suppose.

  6. Do we know these were the only questions pertaining to these religions on that exam? Has the blogger done the research to assure us that these are not cherry picked? And one of the previous comments rightly points out that this is just one exam version. Has there been an historical analysis of prior exam contents? What about placing it in the larger cultural context where Islam is often criticized and Christianity is glorified – doesn’t that count? Of course this is interesting but it smacks of blatant anti-islam bandwagoning. If only we were so sensitive to the amount of pro-Christian propogandizing we are submitted to daily…but we are not.

  7. I wonder if this has less to do with a fear to criticize Islam and more to do with the tendency of primary and secondary school history sources to glorify what are seen as non-contemporary cultures.
    Most of what I learned in school regarding cultures like the Romans, Egyptians, Greeks, and Native Americans focused on their contributions to human society as a whole and largely ignored their weaknesses and negative influences. The passage on Islam reads similarly to me… that Islamic culture ‘gifted’ the world during its glory days with advanced technologies prior to its decline in the 19th and 20th centuries.
    So, instead, this could be more of an issue of test writers failing to acknowledge Islam’s continued strength in the modern world and instead seeing them as a bunch of backwards militants.

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    Super. You may be right about how older cultures are painted in nicer terms than perhaps are justified.
    What cultures are painted in worse terms than are perhaps justified?
    I think the difference is the issue.

  9. Richard-
    Right now I’d say that modern Western culture is being portrayed in worse terms than justified. Now saying that it doesn’t have its negatives (it has plenty), but societal guilt over the wrongs that have been done has overshadowed its accomplishments.

  10. Richard Aubrey says:

    Precisely. And that’s wrong. Double standard and all that. See the point?

  11. I wasn’t doubting your point Richard, just providing an alternate reason for the bias.

  12. The fashion in academia is to denigrate Western Civ, regardless of its accomplishments (such as creating systems and institutions of inquiry sufficiently open that… they denigrate Western Civ).  As part and parcel of this, they attempt to elevate everything that is alien or opposed to Western Civ.  This means casting the Aztecs as victims rather than human-sacrificing imperialists, and Islam as a bastion of inquiry, innovation and women’s rights.

    It would be funny if it wasn’t so disastrous.

  13. Richard Aubrey says:

    As I read it, the reason for promoting other cultures at this or other times is pretty clear.
    My point was that there was one which was dismissed in negative terms. The alternate reason only applies to the first.