Religion in the public schools, libraries, etc.
An Oregon attempt to teach
Education standards in Oregon require students to "understand the
important of the rise of Islam and its interaction with Europe."
According to school superintendent Don Grotting, schools in Nyssa, OR, are
teaching material from a series of textbooks by McGraw-Hill titled "Journey
Across Time." The series is intended for ages 9 to 12. Amazon.com describes
"Journey Across Time: The Early Ages is an all-new middle school
world history program organized chronologically from the first humans and
ancient civilizations to the present. Co-authored by National Geographic and
Jackson Spielvogel, Journey Across Times: The Early Ages' engaging
narrative and outstanding visuals transport students back in time. As
co-author, National Geographic ensures that students understand the
influence of geography on historical events. The result is a standards-based
program with important geography skills embedded in every lesson."
"Journey Across Time: The Early Ages is available in a full volume
and also as Course 1 (7000 B.C. to A.D.800) and Course 2 (A.D.500 to
As of 2006-OCT-12, only one customer reviewed the book on the Amazon.com web
site. He/she was not impressed, and gave it a rating of 1 out of 5 stars. Zero
stars is not permitted:
"I have to use it every day in school, it is so dry you could dump the
ocean on it and it would not get wet. I always fall asleep while reading it.
This is a boring book in a 12 year olds view. I don't know about you but
DON'T BUY IT! IT SUCKS! ... only nerds and geeks will like it."
Grotting said that the book talks about:
"... how civilization has developed and some of the particular aspects of
Islam. We teach out of the book, and there are some supplemental class
activities. The kids do some skits, they could bring a food from the region,
you could build a prop that would have depicted [something] maybe during
that time period. If you wanted to you could dress up (as a Muslim) for
Other topics that the students learned are:
|The geography and climate of the Middle East.|
|The food and everyday activities of Muslims.|
|The five pillars of Islam -- (to recite
the shahadah (creed); prayer; charitable donations; fasting during Ramadan
and to make a hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca once during their lifetime.|
The class listened to a woman guest speaker who is a Muslim and was described
on the WorldNetDaily (WND) web site as "dressed in her religious costume."
This might have meant that she wore a hijab -- a scarf that covered her hair.
Grotting said that:
"She relayed to the kids: 'if you're a Christian, you have your Bible.
This is our Qur'an'."
The Associated Press wrote:
"School officials said that teaching about Islam is not promoting the
" 'We try to be cognizant of parents' concerns. At times we will have
alternative assignments for some students,' said social studies teacher Jim
Casad. 'I believe we're not here to promote or advocate either religion or
politics. However, we do have an obligation to inform students of what is
going on in our world today and how history and culture have affected that
Teaching about religion
As we describe elsewhere in this web site, teaching about religion
in public school is fraught with hazards:
|It is unlikely that Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christian
parents would find a balanced, inclusive, objective religious comparative
to be acceptable. ... it would expose their children to beliefs
that they strongly disagree with. Some believe that these other religions are
led by Satan or his demons.
Many regard any attempt to educate as indoctrination.|
|Liberal Christians, and non-Christians would probably approve of the
course, particularly if it discusses a wide range of religions and is an elective
|Agnostics, Atheists, free thinkers, Humanists and others might
object, feeling that objective courses could not be taught by teachers
who follow an Abrahamic faith (e.g. Judaism, Christianity & Islam or some
other monotheistic belief system.|
Any board of education that decides
to add a religion course can expect to generate intense conflict and
anger within the community. They might expose themselves to an expensive
court battle, particularly if their course was not balanced so that it did not
favor one religion over another, and did not favor religion over a secular
The result might well be a
stalemate, with no religion courses being taught.
Objections to the Nyssa, OR course:
Kendalee Garner objected to her son taking the course. She also objected to
the amount of time spent on teaching about Islam. When she complained to the
school, her son was given an alternate assignment in the school library. She said that her son is
"indoctrinated that Islam is a religion of peace, and being dressed up as
a Muslim, being taught prayers, and scriptures out of the Qur'an. ...I just
don't understand the ban on Christianity but Islam has free rein.
WND wrote that:
"She said the guest speakers and skits and reports were wrong, but what
set her off was a class in which students in all three social studies
classes dressed in traditional Islamic outfits. 'The only reason I knew
about it was because my son told me about it,' she said. 'They sent him to
the library instead of stopping what they were doing. I'm sure people would
be outraged if they dressed up as the pope'."
It is not clear why she compared students dressed in traditional Muslim
clothing with hypotheical students dressing as the pope. Comparing the students
dressed in Muslim clothing with students dressed in Christian, Hindu, or
Buddhist clothing would have been a more meaningful comparison.
A legal opinion:
Edward White III, of the Thomas More Law Center said:
"If that's how teaching about religions is done [in Nyssa, OR], then
teach all religions in the same way, Christianity, Judaism. Have the kids
study Native American religions, do the dance, smoke the pipe. Have the kids
dress up as priests and hear confession."
He said when he suggests that, school managers and even judges get that
There are obvious health problems with smoking a peace pipe. Any school that
tried that would probably be descended upon by the local health unit. There
would also be major concerns if students learned about Roman Catholicism by
dressing in a priest's clothing and hearing confession. But learning about the
history, traditions, beliefs, and practices of Native American, Christians can
obviously be done without endangering the students' health or engaging in
"Journey Across Time: Early Ages, Student Edition," McGraw-Hill, (2004).
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
"Parent protests; school defends unit on Islam," Associated Press,
" 'Five pillars of Islam' taught in public school. 'Education practice
wouldn't last 10 seconds if kids told to dress as priests'," WorldNetDaily,
Copyright © 2006 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 2006-OCT-12
Latest update: 2006-OCT-12
Author: B.A. Robinson