Christian history taught before Islam in state curriculum

Hassan-at-textbook-protestBy Chris Graham, The News Journal

The Volusia County high school textbook that has generated protests from conservatives over a chapter on Muslim civilizations is actually the second half of the state’s world history curriculum, with an earlier book taught in sixth grade that includes chapters on Christianity and Judaism.

A number of people came to Tuesday’s School Board meeting to protest the Prentice Hall “World History” textbook taught in 10th grade. Others showed up to speak in favor of the textbook. The meeting was canceled before it began because of security concerns. Details regarding the security concerns that led to the meeting’s cancellation remain fuzzy.

Critics say the 1,000-page book devoted too many pages to the rise of Islam without providing equal coverage to Christianity. One Lake County activist suggested patriotic schoolchildren should be encouraged to rip out the 32-page chapter on Islam, though he later recanted his position.

It turns out, however, that the scant attention paid to Jesus and Judaism in the textbook is a simple matter of chronology. The state’s world history curriculum -- and the textbooks used for it -- are divided into two years, school officials and book publishers said. Sixth-graders focus on ancient civilizations, while 10th-graders pick up the history around the early Middle Ages.

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Hassan Shibly, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Tampa, said educators would be doing a disservice to children by not teaching about the influence of all religions. He added that students are not being taught “religion as a practice, but they’re learning about diversity of cultures.”

“Ignorance is our worst enemy,” he said, adding several protesters asked him last week about Islam. “(The protesters) themselves would benefit the most from reading that chapter.” (Read more)