Although it is hard to admit, parents are guilty of overlooking some of the "fine print" in life. The best-intended parents (myself included), who check homework, instill values, run soccer carpool, and tuck in children at bedtime, sometimes get mired in the busyness of life. While making sure all the schedules and needs are met on the home front, we often miss what is right in front of our noses.
Parents sending their children off to school trust that the kids are being taught accurate, unbiased, and morally correct information. We put our trust into a school system that spends more "awake" time with our kids than we do. Sometimes we are a little too trusting when we do not review the textbooks, look over curriculum, and ask teachers questions about their lesson plans. Before I go any further, I want to clarify that I am a believer and a product of public education. I have five relatives who teach or have retired from the public school sector. My children have been blessed with excellent teachers in the Sumner County school system who are responsible, competent and caring.
There are two areas that should be a nationwide concern for parents due to the pressure of certain political organizations and activist groups. I will only discuss one in this article due to the length. After checking my child's homework one night, I found an entire chapter dedicated to Islam. I understand that the formation of religion is a part of history and therefore should be discussed briefly; however, the length and depth of material are completely inappropriate. In the Holt World History book, the Islamic World chapter covers the roots of Islam, Islamic beliefs and practices, Islamic empires and cultural achievements. (14 pages of Islam compared to three pages of Christianity). Christianity was covered in one section under the Roman empire chapter. Furthermore, the chapter of Islam was whitewashed from clearly explaining the aspects of Sharia Law, the treatment and rights (or lack thereof) of women, and how Islam is "tolerant" (or not so much) toward other religions. The textbook glosses over the spread of Islam through bloodshed of non-Muslims and points out that trade "helped" non-Muslims convert (page 363). The post 9/11-issued book explains that jihad is "to make an effort, or to struggle." Only in the last sentence was jihad also translated as "holy wars." Although 96 percent of all social studies text books have been revised since that horrifying historic event, one-third of the textbooks make no mention of 9/11 according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. Another disturbing discovery, the textbook refers to Allah as God several times. As a Christian, I find the interchanging of "Allah" and "God's" name offensive. Any studied Christian or Muslim would attest that the two religions believe in two different beings as God. Why, then, are the two different beliefs of God being presented as one?
If you think I might be overreacting to the teaching of Islam in the classroom, allow me to elaborate on another "tool" that was used in a Bryon, Calif., classroom. At Excelsior Middle School, the teacher was supposedly following an instructional guide when she told students they would pretend to be Muslims for three weeks in order to learn what Muslims believe. According to World Net Daily, during this time they were required to wear Muslim dress, memorize verses from the Quran, pray to Allah, simulate Ramadan by fasting, use the phrase "Allah Akbar" (Allah is great), and play "jihad games." When parents were not allowed to opt out, Christian parents sued the school system. Tragically, the federal judge in the 9th Circuit ruled that such activities constitute teaching "about religion" and declared the program devoid of "any devotional or religious intent," and therefore educational, not religious in nature. In essence, the courts ruled against parental rights and religious freedom. Stories of similar cases rarely get reported. Cinnamon Stillwell, an opinion writer for The San Francisco Chronicle writes, "Islamists have taken what's come to be known as the 'soft jihad' into America's classrooms, and children in K-12 are the first casualties. Whether it is textbooks, curriculum, classroom exercises, film screenings, speakers, or teacher training, public education in America is under assault."
Parents need to research materials and resources being used in the classroom. Ask questions. Be rational and civil when you talk to your child's teacher. Remember that the teachers did not write the textbook. Do find out what points she/he intends to make. My child's teacher was clear, upfront and reasonable while addressing my concerns. I appreciate the sense of teamwork I felt when I left her classroom. As parents and concerned citizens, we cannot sit idly by. Stillwell writes, "Probably the single greatest weapon in the arsenal of those trying to fight the misuse of America's public schools is community involvement." This means you! If even 20 percent of parents took an active role in the fight against indoctrination in the public schools, substantial improvements would be made.
Beth Wettengel is a Hendersonville mother of two.