CAIRO – Facing protests over a chapter on Muslim civilizations in sixth grade curriculum, education officials at Florida’s Volusia County have confirmed that the high school textbook is the second half of the state’s world history curriculum, after an earlier book included chapters on Christianity and Judaism.
“The Florida Department of Education approved the Pearson World History programs for adoption and validated that the content in our programs meets the requirements and educational goals of the state,” Brandon Pinette, spokesman for Pearson Education, a parent company of Prentice Hall, told Daytona Beach News-Journal on Saturday, November 9.
Controversy surrounding the textbook appeared when a number of people came to Tuesday’s School Board meeting to protest the Prentice Hall “World History” textbook taught in 10th grade.
Critics said that the 1,000-page book devoted too many pages to Islam without providing equal coverage to Christianity.
One Lake County activist went too far, suggesting that patriotic schoolchildren should be encouraged to rip out the 32-page chapter on Islam, though he later recanted his position.
Yet, school officials and book publishers confirmed that the state’s world history curriculum is divided into two years.
“We believe it’s a balanced approach,” Volusia County School Superintendent Margaret Smith said.
“We are taking all the world’s religions that have had an impact on our society.”
Smith, a former history teacher, has also emphasized that the chapters don’t teach the religions but rather an understanding of them and their place in shaping cultures.
She added that it would be “silly” to judge a curriculum by how many chapters are devoted to each religion.
While sixth-graders focused on ancient civilizations, shedding light on Christianity and Judaism, 10th-graders pick up the history around the early Middle Ages, therefore focusing on Islam.
“Looking at one textbook is taking it out of context in terms of what students learn,” she said.
“All the religions are a part of the cultures that help us understand the modern world.”
Though he did not see the book, Rick Sarmiento, a self-proclaimed Lake County patriot who has led the charge against textbook, said he believe schools should not be in the business of teaching religion.
“When it comes to talking about faith and about a messiah, personally, I don’t think that should be handled by the school,” he said.
“That should be left to churches, mosques, synagogues and houses of worship.”
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.”
Although there are no official figures, the United States is believed to be home to between 6-8 million Muslims.
According to a report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the University of California, Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender said that Islamophobia in the US is on the rise.
A US survey has also revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A recent Gallup poll, however, found 43 percent of Americans Nationwide admitted to feeling at least “a little” prejudice against Muslims.
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