Green Room

Textbooks and Whitewashing Radical Islam

posted at 1:00 pm on April 23, 2009 by

Let me just preface this by saying that I know the fanatic extremists who claim to follow Islam are a tiny minority, and that the vast majority of believers disagree with their madness and misunderstanding of their own religion. There’s always a risk of kids not understanding that there’s a difference.

But this is too much.

Most Americans understand history as an objective accounting of past events. In recent years, however, textbook publishers have come under increasing criticism for rewriting history. Claims are presented as facts while controversial material is whitewashed or omitted.

School textbooks have always been at least moderately politically correct, because publishers have to be careful. It’s crazy-expensive for public schools to buy an entire grade’s worth of books, and if the books are found to be incorrect or offensive (toward anyone), or simply out-of-date, schools have no choice but to replace them, at full cost again. And the publisher ends up with a warehouse full of books it can’t sell.

But there’s junior high-level political correctness, and then there’s absurdity.

Today these trends are quite apparent in the way public school history books address Islam. In his 2008 study “Islam in the Classroom: what the textbooks tell us,” Gilbert Sewall, director of the American Textbook Council (ATC), reviewed 10 of the nation’s most widely used junior and senior high school history textbooks. The results should disturb anyone interested in conveying to our children a truthful history of the religion whose extreme adherents drive so many of today’s tragic headlines.

I expected some eggshell-walking…

Sewall found that many textbooks gloss over or delete important facts. For example, in the 1990s, [the term] “jihad” was defined in the Houghton Mifflin junior high school book only as a struggle “to do one’s best to resist temptation and overcome evil.” (emphasis mine)

…but nothing like that. That’s not just PC, it’s simply incorrect.

Yet, as ATC notes, “by 2005, Houghton Mifflin apparently had removed jihad from its entire series of social studies textbooks.”

In discussing sharia law, the Islamic code that can be used to subjugate women and deal death to wayward believers, many textbooks are intentionally vague. Holt Rinehart Winston’s 2006 “Medieval to Early Modern Times” junior high textbook states simply, “[Sharia] sets rewards for good behavior and punishments for crimes.” Another popular history textbook states, “Muslim law requires that Muslim leaders offer religious toleration.”

Descriptions of Islam since 9/11 are particularly disturbing. Though Islamic extremism has become a fact of life throughout much of the world, most of the reviewed textbooks suggest instead that poverty, ignorance, and the existence of Israel are at the root of terrorism.

Hooray! They can start blaming Israel for everything, before they’re even old enough to drive! Thanks, educational system!

The whitewashing of Islam becomes even more noticeable when contrasted with how history textbooks treat Christianity. One book describes the Crusades as “religious wars launched against Muslims by European Christians.” But when Muslims attacked Christians and took their land, the process is referred to as “building” an empire.

I knew this was going on, but I didn’t realize, somehow, that it was in the textbooks. Like the unabashed Bush-bashing and global warming preaching of the last few years, I thought some misguided teachers just saw a captive audience with minds eager to learn, and simply took it upon themselves to teach these “lessons.”

Go read the whole thing — there’s a lot more. I don’t even have kids, and this freaks me out.

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Want some real fun? Check out what the Palestinians stick in their textbooks. Then contrast that against ours form now and the last fifty years.

It’s an interesting convergence.

TheUnrepentantGeek on April 23, 2009 at 1:12 PM

One reason why I pulled out my 13 year old this year to homeschool her. I still have a 15 year old in school, but he’s strong in his beliefs and had no problem confronting a teacher.

StephC on April 23, 2009 at 1:36 PM

At the tax day tea party my mom attended in Kansas City, one of the speakers (that was talking about the importance of working on a local level) mentioned running for school board because board members get to make text book purchasing decisions. He said that parents need to be a lot more active regarding the education of their children as that goes a long way towards shaping the kid’s world view.

JadeNYU on April 23, 2009 at 2:57 PM

I know the fanatic extremists who claim to follow Islam are a tiny minority, and that the vast majority of believers disagree with their madness and misunderstanding of their own religion.

Actually, Robert Spencer, (remember him from Hot Air TV? and Jihad Watch) makes an excellent case that the fanatics are the ones following Islam accurately. Tons of posts at Jihad Watch along those lines, not to mention his book. And his argument stands up, because he relies on the Quran and on accepted, traditional Islamic teaching to make his points.

We have a whole lot of “Christmas and Easter” Catholics, and a much smaller number who actually follow the precepts of the church – or even know what the are. Same for protestants – millions of us self-identify as “born again Christians” but few have any grasp of theology or the bible. Same for Islam; a lot of people profess it, but few follow it according to Islam’s own standards.

So I agree with you about the “madness” – just not about the “misunderstanding.”

Laura on April 23, 2009 at 3:31 PM

Let me just preface this by saying that I know the fanatic extremists who claim to follow Islam are a tiny minority, and that the vast majority of believers disagree with their madness and misunderstanding of their own religion.

You need to read Robert Spencer.

There are moderate Muslims, yes.
However, there is no moderate Islam.

Disturb the Universe on April 23, 2009 at 6:58 PM