In many schools across the country, students are no longer even allowed to take a “Christmas Vacation” or attend a holiday program. Most even passing mentions of religious holidays or traditions are gone from the average public school classroom. This was done in the name of being open to a wide range of religions as well as not to favor any one faith. As more classes become pretty generic as far as religion goes, it is alarming to see how some school districts force the Muslim faith onto their students.
High school kids in a Massachusetts public school are learning all about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but not from the view of any real historical value. Instead, they are being forced to pretend they are on a religious trek to Mecca. They are not learning about both sides of the conflict. Instead, they are taking a personal journey as a member of the Muslim faith. Newton Public Schools are currently walking students through what it feels like to be a Muslim and the values associated with the religious journey to the holy city.
A recent study of the overall teaching tied to this lesson uncovered some very alarming information. The textbooks are not shedding any light on the issues as viewed from both sides of the conflict. While there is a great deal of focus on the violence coming from the Israeli side of things, they seemed to leave out any mention of the violence tied to the Islamic world.
The program and lessons are biased as they present a favorable view of the Palestinian side of the conflict. There are some very creative ways the students are guided into not only learning about the Islamic faith but also connecting with the Islamic world overall. There is no care taken to give any time to the other religions of the region.
From the start, the learning unit leans towards only telling a pro-Muslim story. The title gives clear direction as students start the “Cities: Connecting the Islamic World” unit. Students are divided into groups of Muslim pilgrims from one of eight Islamic cities in the Middle East. They are told that they are living in the area as a Muslim and research what life is like in the area. There is even a collection of articles that explain the daily life of these pilgrims.
As the students prepare to take their make-believe religious trek, they are also collect artifacts from their new “hometowns” and attempt to connect to the culture. They are trying to see the journey and the regional conflict through the eyes of a Muslim without any effort made to understand any other groups in the area. This is after all the “Islamic World.”
Within this made up world where Islam is the only faith, it is also way too easy to re-write history overall. The studies barely mention in a later unit the conflict that has long plagued the Islamic faith. There is no mention of the violence, but instead, the learners are told that the Muslim conquers treated other ” decently.”
Muslim leaders throughout history are now being sold as caring and careful rulers who are fair to those they oppose. Both the historical conflict with the Islamic world and the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict have suddenly become the place where Muslims are merely victims.
Students are not instructed to analyze the differences between the two sides. They are learning very little about the real conflict. Instead, they are being lead to believe only one side of the conflict matters. They are also being guided to take on the role of a Muslim under virtual attack.
With this type of exercise, there is no room for diverse faiths in the classroom. There is also no room for critical thinking when it comes to international conflict since the students are being taught to only pay attention to one side of the issue. The assumption being that to accept all faiths the school needs to only give a favorable view of the Muslim faith.
While this series of learning exercises seem to push the Islamic world, it does little to include other faiths. Lessons are missing that ask a Muslim to pretend they are Amish or going on a trip to a Mormon temple. The only focus for this experiment in diversity is to focus on being a more positive lesson on the Muslim faith. This is often at the cost of other religions.