Campbell Middle School has adjusted its curriculum on the Middle East after a parent complained that material provided for one assignment "positively slants towards Islam." The creator of the materials, though, said she doesn't understand the objection.
Hal Medlin said the assignment, sent home with his seventh-grader in late August, was aimed at helping students outline the pros and cons of school uniforms. The material includes a letter from a woman who is explaining why she is "proud and happy" to be Muslim and a list of seven conditions for women's dress in Islam.
Neither Medlin nor district officials would identify the teacher.
"I thought this was absurd," said Medlin, who describes himself conservative. "(The teacher) was trying to compare Islamic rules of dress and how they compared to school uniforms, which I thought was a stretch. The principal and the (superintendent) agreed with me … but they wouldn't agree with my premise that it put Islam in a positive light because of the (statements)."
Here are excerpts from some of the material Medlin objected to, titled "My Name is Ahlima" and copyright by InspirEd Educators Inc. It is printed here with permission:
"My name is Ahlima and I live in Saudi Arabia. … Perhaps two differences Westerners would notice are that women here do not drive cars and they wear abuyah. An abuyah is a loose-fitting black cloth that covers a woman from head to toe. I like wearing the abuyah since it is very comfortable, and I am protected from blowing sand. … I have seen pictures of women in the West and find their dress to be horribly immodest. … Women in the West do not have the protection of the Sharia as we do here. If our marriage has problems, my husband can take another wife rather than divorce me, and I would still be cared for. … I feel very fortunate that we have the Sharia."
Said Medlin: "If you take these three pieces of paper at face value and stick them out there, how can you not say that it's positively promoting religion, particularly Islam? I want them to agree that it should not go out."
But Sharon Coletti, the founder of Roswell-based InspirEd Educators and the creator of the material at issue, said she does not see Medlin's objection.
"This particular sequence is a two-day social studies lesson. They read this letter and then examine stereotyping. The next lesson is a compare and contrast on the role of women in the middle East. Yes, the Muslim girl stereotypes Western women, but are there ways we stereotype Muslims? I have no idea what the objection is," she said.
All public middle school students in Georgia spend 12 weeks learning about the Middle East, and that includes religions in that region, including the dominant Islam, she said.
"It's important for kids to have some empathy for other people in the world. Some people think we're trying to teach their children to be Muslims, and that could not be more ridiculous," Coletti said.
Her company's lessons have helped raise test scores in at least one south Georgia district, she said.
"We teach kids to think and to reason. The letters are fictitious, and we present it in different way rather than just a textbook," she said.
Dale Gaddis, who is the area superintendent over Campbell Middle, acknowledged, "The use of that material could have been served in a better way."
"The dad was correct in what he was talking about, but since then we've decided to select better materials. The issues that we had, we actually took care of. We worked with the teacher. The material would be used but we worked with our curriculum folks to verify the material and how it should be used," he said.
Tim Stultz, who represents Campbell Middle, said Gaddis kept him informed of the situation.
"I passed on to Mr. Medlin that the teacher was talked to about adjusting the resource material," Stultz told the Journal in an e-mail, and referring a reporter to Gaddis for more specifics.
Gaddis also chose to speak on behalf of Campbell Middle School principal Gail Johnson.
"Teachers may select materials that aren't always the best, which is not necessary in this case, but within the adopted materials, they have choices that they can make with how they present certain items," Gaddis added. "It was in range of the teacher and the course, which had to do with the eastern cultures."
Medlin also complained that the assignment did not give any differing opinions regarding religion.
"There was … no positive reflection of other religions," he said. "They haven't sent home documentation in any other religions. They haven't sent home any printed material that supports or disputes any of them. It's a very inappropriate thing to send home with these kids. I'm concerned for people who might not have a foundation from which to reflect from this, no religious training for any standpoint," Medlin said. "I don't think any of this was intentional, but I think it was stupid."