Objection To School Curriculum
A middle school in Georgia, USA, has modified its curriculum on the Middle East after a parent complained that the material for one of his daughter's assignments positively slanted towards Islam.
The Offending Material
The material used for Hal Medlin's daughter's 7th-grade course at Campbell Middle School included a fictitious letter from a woman in Saudi Arabia explaining why she is proud and happy to be a Muslim. This woman, Ahlima, explains that she likes wearing the abuyah [or abaya, or burqa], a loose-fitting black robe that covers a woman from head to toe, because it is very comfortable and protects her from blowing sand, and she comments on how immodestly some women in the west dress. She also tells of how fortunate she feels to have the protection of the Sharia, which western women do not have. She explains that if there are problems in her marriage, Sharia enables her husband to take another wife, and she herself would continue to be cared for.
Views On The Course Material
According to Sharon Coletti of InspirEd Educators who created the material at issue, all public middle school students in Georgia spend 12 weeks learning about the Middle East. The offending material was part of a two-day social studies lesson examining stereotyping and the role of women, and is intended to teach school children to think and to reason, and to have empathy for people from other parts of the world, not to teach children to be Muslims.
Sharon Coletti could not see what the objection was about. However, Dale Geddis, the area superintendent who also spoke on behalf of the school, said that the curriculum would be modified, although he admitted that the choice of material in this case was not necessarily wrong. He said, "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". The curriculum team have examined the course material and decided on how it should be used.
As for Hal Medlin, he said that what was lacking was "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". He admitted that, "I don't think any of this was intentional, but I think it was stupid".
Think About It
Should school curricula include cross-cultural studies? Should cross-cultural studies include lessons about religions? Would they be complete without? How true is it that course materials can be used in different ways by the teacher? Was Hal Medlin too precipitate in complaining about the course on the basis of the material brought home, or did he assess what happened in class first? Or was he right in being anxious that the material brought home did not present a balanced view of Middle Eastern versus western cultures and religions? How close a watch do school authorities keep on "sensitive" courses and how they are conducted? How closely should parents be watching what their children are being taught in school?