BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – School board members in Brentwood, Tennessee received an education on the public’s frustrations with Islam lessons in local schools during a radio station sponsored town hall Wednesday.
Criticisms of the middle school text “My World History and Geography” centered mostly on the omission of negative aspects of the Muslim religion, and the appropriateness of the materials for students in sixth and seventh grades, Brentwood Homepage reports.
The event was sponsored by Supertalk Radio and held in a “tiny room” at a Holiday Inn Express, where about 70 folks – including students, parents, teachers, lawmakers, school board members, and political pundits – huddled inside. Organizers reportedly turned some people away when the room reached capacity.
Sunset Middle School seventh-grader Avery Noe pointed out during the meeting that lessons “exclude jihadist from Islam” and questioned why negative aspects of the religion aren’t covered.
Stewart County middle school teacher Kyle Mallory said teachers cover the materials they’re given, focusing on what’s expected on standardized tests, and asserted the issue with biased lessons on Islam stem from the state’s textbook selection process. Mallory teaches in a different school district that rejected the “My World History and Geography” text, Fox 17 reports.
“Y’all had a school board member from here come up to the textbook commission,” he said. “Nothing was done. It’s not a teacher problem. We have (a state education) commissioner not doing her job, and I think the state legislature needs a no-confidence resolution.”
Mallory told Fox 17 the “My World History” text is “very biased, didn’t tell the whole story.
“We need to make sure when we’re teaching students in the classroom that we tell them the truth and the textbooks weren’t,” Mallory said.
Williamson County School Board member Beth Burgos told the Brentwood Homepage she joined the board because of textbook issues, and she backs a recent bill introduced by state Rep. Shelia Butt to postpone comparative religion courses until high school.
Board member Susan Curlee believes the key to changing the way Islam is presented in schools, and to preventing unintentional indoctrination, lies with standardized tests.
“My biggest concern is testing,” she said. “When my daughter was in seventh grade, I was told they didn’t want to teach Islam that way, but had to because 25 percent of the test was going to focus on Islam. As long as testing is the accountability metric, it could be this way.”
Curlee told Fox 17 the lessons her daughter learned about Islam while in Franklin Special School District last year presented a rosy picture of the religion, while glossing over important points.
“A lot of the things we hear about Mohammed and a lot of the warfare that was waged is very much sugar coated,” she said.
“My World History,” which is used by about 40 Tennessee school districts, also alleges Islam spreads peacefully, and that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
“My concern is, are we going to be asking students on a test to potentially compromise their faith for the sake of a grade?” Curlee said.
Tennessee state Sen. Jack Johnson, who also attended the town hall, told the Brentwood Homepage a lot of people share Curlee’s concerns.
“I’m concerned because I have three kids in Williamson County Schools,” Johnson said. “The possibility we could be advocating Islam in school and could be misrepresenting history had generated lots of calls and emails. I want to educate myself and learn more about it.”
Event organizers told the media they were forced to hold the town hall in the small Holiday Inn Express room because larger venues in the area refused to host the discussion.