Public schools are just that, public. If any one religion is persecuted and restricted, then all must be. The alternative is a convoluted hodgepodge of different religious institutions being forced on those of different faiths. Therefore it must be a collection of all best works. The use of cultural statements in the explanation of vocabulary is a dangerous way to reach a child. It will lead to a lifetime of lexicographical conjunction between words and cultural identity. Much like the male Scientist in a lab coat or the middle age female teacher, words and cultural perception is a dangerous playground. Schools that are working against the idea of the typical Arab terrorist is an admirable endeavor; however, it cannot be done without the understanding that for many Islam and terrorism are an absolute. This is mainly the result of both sides pulling apart the middle ground. Fox News is automatically judging the school for teaching information about Islam, the second largest religion in the world and still the fastest growing. As a libertarian and a Christian, this trend of judging the teaching of religious institutions or promoting religious contexts within a public school system is completely unacceptable.
Now, Fox News would make one assume that Common Core is the main one to be held responsible. In fact, the publishing companies and district content consultants are the one to blame. When textbook adoptions take place they happen at either a district or state level. Here in KY, each school district may choose but they have to pick from an approved list to be able to use any state funds. (Currently, I use a textbook with excerpts from the Torah, New Testament, Koran, Bhagavad Gita, and Taoist poetry. In addition, we spend an entire unit studying the Trojan War Epics and discuss the role of the Gods.) Therefore, at some point the vocabulary worksheets using comments about Islam to discuss vocabulary meaning were either developed by a publisher, a district official, or a classroom teacher.
A great teacher opens these works unquestioningly to the classroom and leaves the students to decide. Therefore, Islam will have a place in my classroom alongside others but it will never be judged on its merits as valid belief. Other public schools should be aware of who they hire and how they teach. If a teacher slams one student’s belief in the name of coexistence or tolerance, then they have yielded their argument hollow. Additionally, purchasing textbook bundles in a wholesale fashion is done to safe money but can never meet the real need of a classroom without personal modification.
Districts need to be proactive about how they select materials and how they are adapted for the students. This is not simply the responsibility of classroom teachers but a long process of cultural development. Any school district that leaves the selection of teaching materials to a group of tenured faculty, who have obtained seniority solely based on the act of attrition, will be sorely disappointed in the generation of students they create. If GK Chesterton is right in saying, ” Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another,” than what kind of generation are we creating. One of emotional handicapped arrogance based on social tolerance because a discussion of difference is met with intolerant babble.