Last week my youngest child took his New York State High School regents exam in World History. I am proud to say that he earned a 95 on the state-wide test. What makes me particularly proud is the fact that my son had to do double the work and learn two different versions of the curriculum, the one the teacher was telling them...and the truth.
Being a History buff and a Political Science major, I have been my the "in house" Social Studies tutor for each of my children during their public schools lives. As I reviewed each chapter with him, he would learn what he had to answer to get a good grade and he would learn what really happened.
Having a physical disability my son cannot physically take written notes, so gets a copy of the teacher's power point presentation which a summarizes the key points in the text book and other points that the district wants taught.
Particularly disturbing is the section on the history of the Middle East, which could have been taught by Palestinian President Abbas. Worse, is the fact that this skewed curriculum is not the fault of the teacher, he is following the guidelines prescribed by the district.
Allow me to present a few examples of the differences between what the teacher is presenting the children/per the district (using actual quotes from the teacher's power point as a guide), and the truth:
Power Point: The movement to settle Jews in Palestine began in the late 1800s and early 1900s. These Jews believed that Palestine belonged to them because it was their home 3,000 years ago. But Muslims had lived there for the last 1,300 years.
Truth: There has been a continual presence of Jews in the Holy Land since the Kingdom of Judea was destroyed (around 70 CE) through today. By denying this, the kids are are being taught that Israelis just swarmed in and took the Palestinians land which is not at all true
Power point: After WW II, the British left the area. The United Nations divided the land into two parts. One part was set aside for the Palestinians. The other part was set aside for Jews.
Truth: I will admit that this one is a personal nitpick. The United Nations divided the land into two parts, One For Palestinian JEWS the other For Palestinian ARABS. By calling it Jews and Palestinians you are saying that only the Arabs had a right to the land and there were now Jews there before 1948.
Power Point: Many countries backed the idea of a separate Jewish state. They wanted to help make up for the suffering Jews had experienced in WW II
Truth: The Holocaust was certainly one small element that created the political pressure on the world community to recognize the new Jewish State. Especially because many of the nations such as the US and Britain, refused to allow the Jews into their countries during the war and certainly didn't want all those Jews into their countries afterward.
The original creation of Israel was 3,500 years ago. For those who want to stick to more modern references, there was the Balfaur Declaration in 1917, or the League of Nations Mandate of 1922, which granted a mandate to Great Britain to create a "National Home" for the Jews in Palestine.This right was based on the right to self determination, a right shared by all peoples. It is the Israel-haters who argue that Israel was created because the nations of Europe took pity on the Jews after World War II. They believe that the UN gave them the land as a privileged and the Jewish State can be taken away if Israel doesn't "behave."
Power Point: On May 15, 1948, six Islamic nations invaded Israel. Israel won the war in a few months with STRONG support from the United States. This war was the first of many Arab-Israeli wars
Truth: If by strong support of the US the teacher meant the US government, well that's wrong. Truman recognized Israel right away, and many American citizens donated time and money to the new Jewish State, but America did not give the nascent Israel nation strong support. The State Department did not want to provide the Jews with the means to defend themselves (just like today). "Otherwise," Undersecretary of State Robert Lovett argued, "the Arabs might use arms of US origin against Jews, or Jews might use them against Arabs."On December 5, 1947, five months before the state was declared, the U.S. imposed an arms embargo on the region. Britain aided the Arab side, Jordan's Arab Legion was armed and trained by the British, and led by a British officer. At the end of 1948 and beginning of 1949, British RAF planes flew with Egyptian squadrons over the Israel-Egypt border. On January 7, 1949, Israeli planes shot down four of the British aircraft. Israelis on the other hand, were forced to smuggle weapons, principally "rent-a-wrecks" from Czechoslovakia.
Power Point: The peace settlement that followed [after the 1948-9 War] gave the [Suez] canal to Egypt anyway.
Truth : It was a truce, not a peace settlement, why is this semantic distinction important? Because today all of the nations of the Arab League, with the exception of Egypt (1978) and Jordan (1994), still consider themselves in a state of war with Israel, even states such as the supposedly "moderate" Saudi Arabia.
Power Point: What did the Suez Crisis and Six-Day war have in common? Both were wars started by the Arab nations to regain territory lost to Europeans and Israelis.
Truth: This is so far away from the truth that I don't know where to start.These wars were started by Arab nations with the intent of Destroying Israel (in both cases Israel was within its 1948-1967 borders). With this answer the Kids are being taught that all of Israel is occupied territory.
Power Point: Despite many efforts, Israel and the Palestinians have not made peace. Palestinians living in Israel dislike Israeli rule. They want a nation of their own.
The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), led by Yasir Arafat, became a leading group in the struggle for self-rule. During the 1970s, and 1980s, the military arm of the PLO made many attacks on Israel. Israel responded by invading Lebanon to attack bases of the PLO. In the late 1980s, many Palestinians in Israel began a revolt called the intifada. The intifada continued into the 1990s.
Truth: Here the children are being taught half-truths. For example the West Bank and Gaza were controlled by Jordan and Egypt respectively until 1967. The Power Point omits the fact that Egypt and Jordan forced the Arab Palestinians to remain in camps beginning in 1948 to use them as a tool against Israel.
This fact was stated succinctly by the former head of UNRWA, Ralph Galloway, when he said: "The Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the UN, and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders do not give a damn whether Arab refugees live or die.
As the conflict with Israel hardened throughout the 1950s, Nasser came to see that Palestinian nationalism, if carefully manipulated, could be an asset instead of just a threat and an annoyance. Although the fedayeen terrorism prompted Israel to invade the Sinai in 1956, the Egyptian leader saw the value in being able to deploy a force that did his bidding but was not part of Egypt's formal military; which could make tactical strikes and then disappear into the amorphous demography of the west Bank or the Gaza Strip, giving Egypt plausible deniability for the mayhem it had created. But Nasser's ability to support such a useful terrorist group was limited by the failed economy over which he presided; and so, in 1964, he was delighted to cooperate with the Soviet Union in the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). (Source: David Meir-Levi The Roots of Palestinian Fascism and the Myth of Israeli Aggression, New York: Encounter Books, 2007)
The Social Studies curriculum also forgets to mention that Yassir Arafat (born in Egypt), was set up by the Russians, to lead this movement in 1965 two years before the 6-Day war.
The power point also talks about a military arm, that is a fantasy dreamt up by the terrorists to make them look legitimate. That is like saying the US Airforce is a military arm of the US, certainly not the way most people would describe it. It goes on to discuss "attacks," that generic description belies the truth. They were acts of terror, which included blowing up a civilian airplane in mid-flight, blowing up a school bus with a bazooka, killing athletes at an Olympics, and taking over a school and killing 21 little children.
Power Point: The two sides have yet to achieve final peace. Hostility and tensions remain very high in Middle East, even today
Truth: This is another half-truth. In 2000 Israel offered Yassir Arafat almost everything he demanded. The terrorist walked away and instead began the second intifada (this has been verified by Bill Clinton and Dennis Ross). A similar deal was offered to President Abbas by Israeli PM Olmert two years ago, he too rejected peace.
Why is any of the above important? Interpretation of History is subjective, but truth isn't. The Social Studies curriculum is teaching children distorted facts which will lead to distorted interpretations. The last page of the teachers Power Point asks:
Political commentators have said that the Arab-Israeli conflict represents the struggle not of right against wrong, but of right against right. Do you agree or disagree? Explain.
I think that question is a valuable exercise, but how can students come up with an answer if they are not given a fair presentation of the truth? I can guarantee you that your child is being taught a bogus version of History as well.
Unfortunately, the school year is over, and while I did protest when this section was being taught nothing was done to correct the mistakes. I will have one measure of revenge. Next year my son is taking American History, I have given him a copy of the Federalist Papers to read. Boy are they going to have trouble.