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It’s resolution, baby…

This is the text of a resolution currently before the Texas State Board of Education. The resolution is, in fact, sponsored by the board’s chair and its secretary. You can read the full uninterrupted text here (PDF), or follow along with my commentary interspersed below.

RESOLUTION

WHEREAS pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias has tainted some past Texas Social Studies textbooks…

Good to start from a solidly neutral base free of inflammatory language…

…such as:

Ooh, examples. My apologies. Obviously it’s going to be methodical and considered.

• In one instance, devoting 120 student text lines to Christian beliefs, practices, and holy writings but 248 (more than twice as many) to those of Islam; and dwelling for 27 student text lines on Crusaders’ massacre of Muslims at Jerusalem in 1099 yet censoring…

Censoring? Omitting to mention, or actually censoring? Are there blacked out lines of text in the section in question?

…Muslims’ massacres of Christians there in 1244 and at Antioch in 1268, implying that Christian brutality and Muslim loss of life are significant but Islamic cruelty and Christian deaths are not (see documentation in Appendix I-A);

• In another instance, allotting 82 student text lines to Christian beliefs, practices, and holy writings but 159 (almost twice as many) to those of Islam;…

I don’t know what the maths textbooks are like in Texas (probably full of that pesky al-jabr and such), but I sure am glad they took the time to point out that 248 is more than twice as much as 120, and 159 is almost twice as much as 82.

…describing Crusaders’ massacres of European Jews yet ignoring the Muslim Tamerlane’s massacre of perhaps 90,000 co-religionists at Baghdad in 1401, and of perhaps 100,000 Indian POWs at Delhi in 1398; thrice charging medieval Christians with sexism; and saying the Church “laid the foundations for anti-Semitism” (see documentation in Appendix I-B);

Because 1:1 parity in the number of lines of text given to a particular subject would prove what? If it takes an author 183 lines of text to describe Christ’s death on the cross, how many lines should that author dedicate to the dropping of an atomic bomb?

(Note: Arguments containing the word ‘thrice’ tend to be somewhat old-fashioned, quoth.)

• In a third instance, spending 139 student text lines on Christian beliefs, practices, and holy writings but 176 on those of Islam; claiming Islam “brought untold wealth to thousands and a better life to millions,” while “because of [Europeans’ Christian] religious zeal … many peoples died and many civilizations were destroyed;” and contrasting “the Muslim concern for cleanliness” with Swedes in Russia who were “the filthiest of God’s creatures” (see documentation in Appendix I-C);

Now, I’ve never seen the textbook in question, but being a naturally cynical sort, I looked this quote up. It’s a description of the Vikings written by Ibn Fadlan in the 10th Century. The Rus were possibly still pagan at the time. Not exactly ‘the Swedes in Russia’. For the record, Ibn Fadlan also reports that he had never before “seen people of such perfect physique.” If the rest of his description is accurate, I doubt the good men and women of the Texas State Board of Education would be huge fans of the Rus either.

and,

WHEREAS pro-Islamic/anti-Christian half-truths, selective disinformation, and false editorial stereotypes still roil some Social Studies textbooks nationwide, evidenced by:

• Patterns of pejoratives towards Christians and superlatives toward Muslims, calling Crusaders aggressors, “violent attackers,” or “invaders” while euphemizing Muslim conquest of Christian lands as “migrations” by “empire builders” (see documentation in Appendix II);

‘Patterns of pejoratives’ – now this is interesting. There are actually several methods of systematically analysing a text for its bias; such methods rely on identifying precisely these kinds of patterns. What method have they used? Exactly what are the patterns? Or do they just mean they managed to find the words ‘violent attackers’ in one place, and the words ’empire builders’ in another?

• Politically-correct whitewashes of Islamic culture and stigmas on Christian civilization, indicting Christianity for the same practices (e.g., sexism, slavery, persecution of outgroups) that they treat non-judgmentally, minimize, sugarcoat, or censor in Islam (see documentation in Appendix II);

• Sanitized definitions of “jihad” that exclude religious intolerance or military aggression against non-Muslims – even though Islamic sources often include these among proper meanings of the term – which undergirds worldwide Muslim terrorism (see documentation in Appendix II); and,

WHEREAS more such discriminatory treatment of religion may occur as Middle Easterners buy into the U.S. public school textbook oligopoly, as they are now doing (see documentation in Appendix III); and

WHEREAS Texas’ elected State Board of Education (SBOE) is a principal democratic check and balance on otherwise often-unresponsive editors and -unaccountable authors, making the SBOE the premiere venue for Texans’ effective exercise of the constitutional right of petition to redress curricular grievances; now, therefore, be it

What?

RESOLVED by the SBOE, that diverse reviewers have repeatedly documented gross pro-Islamic/anti-Christian distortions in Social Studies texts; that Social Studies TEKS cannot provide relief, because they tell what a course should cover, not all it should avoid; that under Texas Education Code §28.002(h) and (i), the SBOE must enforce “the basic democratic values of our state and national heritage;” that chronic partiality to one of the world’s great religions, and animus against another, flout democratic values and the letter and spirit of this rule; and that Texas Administrative Code §66.66(c)(4) provides, “[N]o instructional material may be adopted that contains content that clearly conflicts with the stated purpose of the Texas Education Code, §28.002(h)” (emphasis added); and be it further

It’s fair to say that I haven’t exactly studied the Texas Education Code in detail. I imagine, however, that should the textbook in question already breached it, there would be measures open to the board via their normal channels, without the need for this bizarre resolution.

RESOLVED, That the SBOE will look to reject future prejudicial Social Studies submissions that continue to offend Texas law with respect to treatment of the world’s major religious groups by significant inequalities of coverage space-wise and/or by
demonizing or lionizing one or more of them over others, as in the above-cited instances.

‘Offend Texas law’? Take them to court. The only thing that can be proven by a resolution like this is that those sponsoring it are substantially better placed to promote their own views and censor those of others than the authors of any textbook.

Does this book fail to offer a critical appraisal of Islam? I’ve no idea, I haven’t read it. There’s no coherent argument made, or evidence presented here that it does. Taking everything at its worst, there seems to be three cherrypicked instances of comparisons possibly favourable to Islam.

There are two basic views of the purpose of education. One is that it serves to help people understand and make up their own minds. The other is that it provides them with a set of approved facts. Even if this book was or is guilty of doing that for Islam, resolutions like this – pulling the exact same trick – aren’t even remotely close to being the answer.

Anyway, Texas, it’s all that evolution crap you want to worry about.

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