FRANKLIN, Tenn. – A textbook committee assembled to review a parent’s complaint about anti-Semitic materials used in Williamson County schools will conduct its business in secret.
District officials are refusing to disclose the names of several committee members tasked with reviewing the advanced placement text “A Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography, 10th Edition,” the Williamson Herald reports.
The committee was appointed after parent Laurie Cardoza-Moore, founder of the pro-Israel advocacy group “Proclaiming Justice to Nations,” requested school officials remove the text for “blatant anti-Semitic material,” the news site reports.
The textbook reads:
“If a Palestinian suicide bomber kills several dozen Israeli teens in a Jerusalem restaurant, is that an act of terrorism or wartime retaliation against Israeli government policies and army actions?”
The textbook was chosen from a list of state-approved books. Proponents contend the passage in question was read out of context and is designed to prompt an academic discussion about different perspectives on violence, the Herald reports.
“The material on world religions and terrorism has been reviewed for accuracy and sensitivity by a large number of geography experts as well as by religious scholars, including scholars in Judaism,” James Rubenstein, author of the text, told the news site. “Concerns raised in Williamson County have not been expressed in any other school district in the country.”
District officials made the right decision when it assembled a committee and asked members to read the text in full. The group is expected to hold a hearing with Cardoza-Moore and teachers who use the book before rendering a decision.
That seems fair enough, but for some reason the district is keeping the public out of the process, and that’s not right. The public should always have access to the public’s business, particularly when it involves materials students are learning in the classroom.
“Since this is an ongoing review and we want to make sure we preserve the integrity of the process, we will not be sharing the names of committee members at this time or commenting further,” WCS spokeswoman Carol Birdsong told the Herald.
The committee’s decision may be the final word on the issue, but the public deserves the right to be heard.
Cloaking the process in secrecy will undoubtedly draw suspicion from parents and taxpayers who have the biggest interest in the outcome. That will only create more controversy.