It would be lying to say that things in America haven’t changed since Sept. 11. Each time we are in an airport, the changes we have experienced are crystal clear. Security measures when flying are more extreme, and immigration policy has drastically changed. And then there are the changes we have seen in the way we, as Americans, treat those who are different from us. This becomes more pronounced with each new terror attack that is experienced around the world. Many Americans are afraid, and many Americans do not understand other cultures or faiths, and these two things combine to create a climate of bigotry towards people who look or believe in different things than we do.
Perhaps the circumstance where this is most clear has been in our schools.
We were curious just how often school assignments had American parents up in arms in 2015. Here are a few that stand out above the rest
This month, an entire high school had the pleasure of starting their Christmas break a day early after Riverhead High School in Virginia took precautionary measures against the outrage from the community concerning a recent class assignment by temporarily closing their doors. This assignment was focused on calligraphy and how important it is to the faith of Islam. Students were given a copy of the Islamic statement of faith and asked to copy it down, to “give you an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy.”
Even though the school insisted that students participate in many hands-on assignments like this one for a wide range of cultures and religions in their World Geography course, parents were sure that the school was trying to convert their children to the Islamic faith.
This fall, seventh graders enrolled in World Geography in the Williamson County school district were required to complete a unit on the Islamic World that covered the history of the faith and culture surrounding the faith up until the year 1500 A.D. In October, parents, and even school board members, shared concerns about Islamic indoctrination in their public schools. The main complaints against the lessons included a bias against Judeo-Christian values and the portrayal of the Islamic faith as peaceful with no mention of ISIS.
Another school district in Tennessee expressed their anger about the inclusion of lessons focused on the Islamic faith in a seventh grade social studies class. Even though the curriculum of this course also included teaching the prominent religions in Japan, China, Africa and Western Africa, parents were particularly outraged about the unit teaching the basic tenets of the Islamic faith. In September, many parents used social media to express their outrage and, in a clarifying response by the school district, were told that students were being taught about many different faiths, including Christianity.
This month, the third grade class of the Eau Claire School in Wisconsin was assigned a reading of Nasreen’s Secret School. This book depicts a young girl who defies the Taliban while remaining devoted in her Islamic faith. Parents of many of the students were uncomfortable with the book, expressing fear that the school was preaching the religion instead of merely teaching the students the religion. While rumors were spread that students were being required to memorize and recite an Islamic prayer, the superintendent of the school district confirmed that those rumors were not true.
In September, several parents of students enrolled in Walton County schools in Georgia met with school officials to express their displeasure with a statewide social studies curriculum. Their chief complaint in the meeting? They believed the school was “trampling on their children’s religious freedom,” according to Fox 4. After meeting with the superintendent, one parent expressed that he didn't expect to have his concerns addressed and would likely be filing a lawsuit against the school district.
In April of this year, a Wisconsin high school World History class required 10th-grade students to write an essay in which they were to imagine being Muslim and the difficulties that they might face in America. Students were also asked to describe, in detail, three things they would do daily as a part of their faith. This assignment received national attention and was strongly criticized by Fox Insider.
Finally, a small middle school in Wapakoneta, Ohio, has buckled under pressure from parents unhappy with the segment of their social studies curriculum that examines the Muslim faith. This month, the school administration announced that parents would be allowed to opt their children out of any portion of the social studies curriculum dealing with Islam. What is really puzzling about the uproar is that this lesson had very little to do with teaching about the faith and was instead focused on sharing with students the contributions people of the Islamic faith have made to humanity.
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