Tennessee mother calls for removal of school history book 'promoting Islamic propaganda'

Pearson textbook My World History is subject of formal complaint after parent says child felt assignments on Islam ‘went against her beliefs as a Christian’

A Tenessee mother and founding member of a parents’ group opposed to Islamic “indoctrination” has asked for a history textbook to be removed from her daughter’s social studies curriculum, claiming that it “promotes Islamic propaganda”.

Michelle Edmisten, a founder of the Facebook group Sullivan County Parents Against Islam Indoctrination, first raised the issue in October, after her daughter was given an assignment requiring her to answer questions about the name of Islam’s holy book, and the five pillars of Islam.

Edmisten told the board of education that her child “felt some of the assignments went against her beliefs as a Christian”, according to WJHL.com, and called for the textbook – My World History, published by UK-based Pearson – to be “yanked from the school immediately”.

“I would like to see parents, Christians, veterans, anyone that’s anyone, stand up for this fight. How can I, as a Christian, say that I have these values?” she said at the time. According to a report from local paper Times News, she was applauded as she called for the book to be removed, and for those present to “take back our families, schools and our country”.

Edmisten has now filed a formal complaint to the school district, claiming the textbook “promotes Islamic propaganda”. “It gives false claims and views on Islam, trying to ‘normalise’ [it] through our children,” she wrote. According to the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), Sullivan County policy gives the school’s headteacher 15 days to convene a review committee to “determine the extent to which the [challenged] material supports the curriculum”, and recommend a way forward to the head.

The NCAC, which is preparing a letter of protest should the textbook be pulled from the curriculum, pointed out that the Facebook group had “shared articles with titles such as, ‘Top 10 reasons why Islam is NOT the religion of peace’, has labelled the Pearson board of directors ‘globalists’ and has asked its followers to ‘speak to your churches’.”

The NCAC said the controversy “sadly reflects larger efforts to purge lessons on Islam from schools in Tennessee”, with a proposed new curriculum retaining lessons on religions including Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism, but removing information “on the history and spread of Islam, the life and teachings of Muhammad, and the study of Islamic art”.

In Williamson county in October 2015, the school board filed a resolution that was later withdrawn, saying “parents and taxpayers have expressed concerns that some social-studies textbooks and supplemental materials in use in Tennessee classrooms contain a pro-Islamic/anti-Judeo-Christian bias”, while in White County, a group called Citizens Against Islamic Indoctrination placed an ad in the local paper with the all-caps text: “ISLAMIC INDOCTRINATION IS IN SCHOOLS ACROSS OUR STATE AND OUR NATION”.

“It’s still part of history,” Susan Lodal, the Tennessee board of education’s vice president, told Times News in September. “We’re just not teaching it to our children.”

The Sullivan County board of education chairman, Michael Hughes, said that concerned parents were “in favour of just [taking it out of the standards]. I don’t believe they want it taught at all.”

A spokesman for the publisher Pearson told the Guardian that their “materials are created to meet the academic guidelines set by individual states.”

“In September and October of 2015 Pearson representatives made two separate trips to Tennessee to meet with parents, advocacy groups and policymakers to address their specific questions about the depiction of religion in textbooks. During these meetings, we welcomed their feedback, answered their questions in full and were clear that we are always willing to look into concerns about textbook content,” he continued.

“We continue to be committed to presenting balanced, unbiased, and accurate material. In addition, our offer stands to answer questions directly from concerned groups in Tennessee.”


Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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