December 23, 2008
By Tony Blankleyn
Teaching Religion: U.S. Textbooks Distort History, Christianity
I recently read a book that deserves the widest possible readership. The book is "The Trouble with Textbooks - Distorting History and Religion" by Gary A. Tobin and Dennis R. Ybarra. I have never met or talked with either of these gentlemen, but I can't say enough good things about this book. For all who believe that there is a fairly objective rendition of history that we are obliged to teach our children, this book reveals how shockingly far from that objective American education-and particularly school textbooks-have fallen.
In their conclusion, the authors quote the great historian of Islam, Bernard Lewis' observation concerning the willful bending of history: "We live in a time when great efforts have been made, and continue to be made, to falsify the record of the past and to make history a tool of propaganda; when governments, religious movements, political parties, and sectional groups of every kind are busy rewriting history as they wish it to have been, as they would like their followers to believe that it was."
I discuss some of the findings of Mr. Tobin's and Mr. Ybarra's study in my latest book ("American Grit - What It Will Take to Survive and Win in the 21st Century," which will be released in January). "The Trouble with Textbooks" identifies a system of self-censorship and cultural equivalence that celebrates everybody and omits many unpleasant historic facts.
The grievance group that has become particularly adept at influencing textbook publishing is the organized Muslim lobby. The founder of the Council on Islamic Education, the chief Islamic group for vetting textbooks in the United States, refers to his work as a "bloodless revolution … inside American junior high and high school classrooms."
He is, regrettably, right. While these days one may expect "sensitive deference" to Muslim sensitivities, the authors show how American textbooks have gone so far as to outright proselytize Islam.
As "The Trouble with Textbooks" shows, textbooks relate Christian and Jewish religious traditions as stories attributed to some source (for example, "According to the New Testament…"), while Islamic traditions are related as indisputable historic facts. The authors cite the textbook "Holt's World History," where one can read that Moses claimed to receive the Ten Commandments from God, but Muhammad simply "received" the Koran from God. In the textbook "Pearson's World Civilizations," the book instructs that Jesus of Nazareth is "believed by Christians to be the Messiah"- which would be a fine comparative religion study observation if the book didn't also disclose that Muhammad "received revelations from Allah."
The "Trouble with Textbooks" is filled with such shocking examples. It reports on a textbook, "McDougal Littell's World Cultures and Geography," which relates that "Judaism is a story of exile" and that "Christians believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah," but that the Koran "is the collection of God's revelations to Muhammad." As "The Trouble with Textbooks" makes only too clear, one instance could perhaps be overlooked, but in fact there is a consistent, malicious practice that Islam - and only Islam - is repeatedly described in numerous prominent public school textbooks as historical truth. In those textbooks, Christianity and Judaism are equally consistently described as mere notions of their believers.
I have no problem with religions being taught in public school textbooks on a comparative basis. But to see Islam, alone, taught as the "truth" is an outrage. This is only one small part of the assault on truth in textbooks by organized Muslim special pleaders analyzed in the book "The Trouble with Textbooks." As you might expect, there are constant examples of American textbooks describing recent Middle East Israeli/Palestinian history in a manner consistent with the late Yasser Arafat's version rather than anything approaching honest and accurate history.
I understand that perfect objectivity in the study of history is never possible. And it would not surprise anyone that each country tends to teach its children its history - and the history of the world - in a manner that makes the country look better than it perhaps is. What is particularly galling in this report on American textbooks is that some fraction of the 5 million or so Muslims in America is winning the battle for textbook writing against the interest and tradition of the 275 million or so Judeo-Christian Americans.
"The Trouble with Textbooks" is a wake-up call to the parents of America to fight back to re-insert the truth of our history in our children's textbooks and classrooms. Is it too much to ask that in American schools our traditions and faith not be denigrated, but rather get equal treatment with other faiths and traditions?