SWANSEA, Ill. – High Mount School Superintendent Mark Halwachs thinks students must understand the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks had nothing to do with religion.
“We have to present, with 9/11 or anything, it wasn’t a religion that did that,” he told the Belleville News-Democrat. “It was bad men that did that.”
Halwachs said High Mount School believes 12-year-olds are capable of understanding the difference between peaceful Islamists and the fanatical faction that attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000 innocent Americans.
“I think you have to use moments like that and use them as teachable moments,” he said. “You have to look at the age group and your students, and to me you can talk about different things in the world and teach about tolerance.”
Fox New’s Todd Starnes opined on Halwachs’ remarks.
“Well, I hate to break it to the superintendent, but the radical Islamic extremists were not hollering ‘Jesus Saves’ when they flew the jetliners into those buildings,” he wrote.
Halwachs comments come in response to complaints from parents about history lessons centered on Islam, and assignments that require students to learn about the Koran, and other detailed aspects of the Muslim faith.
Rachel Seger told the news site her 12-year-old daughter recently came home with an Islam vocabulary assignment she doesn’t believe is appropriate for her age group.
“She said, ‘What’s Koran mean?’ and I flipped,” Seger said. “I said, ‘Excuse me?’ and I looked at them, and I said oh my God.”
The list of vocabulary words included jihad, Islam, Muslim, Arabia, Muhammad, Allah, hegira, mosque, Koran and Baghdad, the Belleville News-Democrat reports.
“Some of these words, I don’t even know what they are: Ayatollah, caliph,” Seger said.
“I don’t want her learning other faiths from school. If it would have just stopped at ‘this is their culture, this is where they go to church,’ fine,” she continued. “But when you get into the actual aspect of it, that’s where I’m drawing the line. That’s just going a little too far.”
Seger is among a flood of parents streaming into school board meeting across the country to complain about lessons on Islam required by national Common Core standards, or closely aligned state standards.
In many districts, teachers require students to write or recite the Islamic call to prayer: Allah is the only God, Muhammad is his prophet, and to learn in-depth how, when and why Muslims pray.
The issue has come to a boil in Tennessee, where parents in numerous counties have demanded answers from school board members, who have largely pointed to required state standards. Tennessee education officials, like those in most other states, have pointed out that schools are required to teach all world religions as part of world history for sixth- and seventh-graders, EAGnews reports.
Many parents contend their children are spending much more time learning about Islam than other religions, while district leaders like Halwachs, meanwhile, insist teachers giving equal attention to all faiths.
“You can teach about religion, you just can’t … endorse or support a religion over another,” Halwachs told the News-Democrat. “You can’t say (Jesus) is the one and only, or he’s the best; you can explain and teach about the religions of the world.”
Seger told the news site she contacted her daughter’s history teacher, Jim Munden, with her concerns about Islam, and the two worked out a resolution that satisfies both sides.
But Seger and other parents “just don’t think that it should be the teacher’s job” to discuss religions in-depth.
Segar, for one, doesn’t think her daughter can fully comprehend the difference between nice Islamists and the “bad guys,” as Halwachs puts it.
“It’s just hard to explain this to her,” Seger said. “That age group, 12-year-old girls, they’re a lot more sensitive than people give them credit for.”
“When it comes to that, some of those terms should have been left off of there, or left to parents, or wait until they’re older,” she said. “Wait until 16 or 17 and old enough to rap her head around it. If they’re going to teach it, they’re going to teach all of it, not just the happy, good side of it … and she’s not prepared to hear the whole truth.”
EAGnews reports a Tennessee lawmakers introduced legislation to delay teaching about Islam in public schools for the same reason.