Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Da’wa in the Pennsylvania School System

A debate has arisen in the town of Norwin, Pennsylvania over the contents of a history book that is being used in area middle schools. Controversial passages from myWorld History: Early Ages include:

  • “Religious toleration also helped the Arab Muslim Empire expand.”
  • “The Arab Muslim empire was generally tolerant towards Jews and Christians.”
  • “As the Arab Muslims build their empire, Islam spread peacefully both inside the empire and to the lands beyond its borders.”
  • “Mobs of Christian peasants turned on those Jews who would not convert to Christianity.”
  • “Medieval Christians would not tolerate even minor differences in beliefs.”

Why should there be any problem with these assertions? Anyone who has paid even the slightest attention to the news on network television is thoroughly familiar with the peaceful origins of Islam, and the dangers of radical Christianity. This is unexceptionable stuff, right?

Well, a Lutheran pastor in Norwin disagrees. Many thanks to Vlad Tepes for uploading this news report from a local TV station:

Below are excerpts from an article on the same topic in The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Norwin defends 7th-grade textbook

Norwin administrators are defending a middle school social studies textbook that a local pastor called “an Islamic Trojan horse” in requesting that the district revise its curriculum involving the religion.

In an administrative report this week, Superintendent William Kerr said the textbook is “an acceptable reference for the seventh-grade global studies course of study.”

The book, “myWorld History: Early Ages,” is one of several used in seventh-grade social studies “to teach comparative religions in a nondevotional, instructional manner,” according to the district.

In March, The Rev. Bruce Leonatti of Zion Lutheran Church in Circleville told the school board that the book “promotes Islam over Christianity and Judaism” and “denigrates Christians.”

Leonatti said he plans to present a second report to the district about two textbooks under consideration for purchase because he disagrees with how they describe the Muslim aspect of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“This is not a done deal in terms of what we’re looking at,” Leonatti said. “We’re still exploring this. And they seem to kind of want to put it away and get rid of the whole issue, but it’s still there.”

Leonatti, who formerly taught history at Duquesne High School and in Ohio, contends the social studies text is riddled with errors. He said he’s involved with “ACT! For America,” whose mission is to “give Americans concerned about national security, terrorism, and the threat of radical Islam, a powerful, organized, informed and mobilized voice,” according to its website.

The book’s publisher, Pearson Education, “reaffirmed its commitment to a balanced and accurate coverage of world religions.” The “myWorld History” program is used in thousands of classrooms nationwide, a spokeswoman said.

Kerr states in the report that “there are no errors or misrepresentations in the textbook at issue which are significant enough to render it unusable as a curricular resource.”

“I believe the board has been very supportive of our teachers and administrators and concur that the administrative report brings closure to this topic,” Kerr said.

As part of the administrative review, the district asked a second pastor, the Rev. Clifton J. Suehr, to review the book. Suehr is pastor of Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity in Irwin and president of the Norwin Ministerium.

In his report to the district, Suehr called the book “well-written and enriching” and “well-suited for middle school-aged youth.”

“Without using inflammatory language, a historical overview is presented in an even-handed manner,” Suehr wrote.

Leonatti said he believes a conflict of interest exists because Tracy McNelly, assistant superintendent of secondary education, is a member of Suehr’s church and helped to review the book for the district.

But Kerr said there is no conflict of interest and “no validity to any conspiracy theory.”

“(Suehr’s) credentials are exceptional,” he said. “Why not reach out to a very well-respected and well-known community member here in Norwin?”

Kerr said the district will address curriculum issues as they arise.

“Whatever time it takes, we’ll take the necessary time to do any comprehensive review,” he said.

The district’s focus should remain on teacher quality and the effectiveness of how they instruct, he said.

“Norwin isn’t going to have any curriculum or textbook that’s going to be harmful to students,” Kerr said. “We are here in this case to teach about cultures. Part of culture is religion and tradition. We have made every effort to teach comparative religion in a nonbiased, nondevotional way.”


Anonymous said...

Norwin could easily change name to Norway. Same same and not not that different. "Lutheran" ministers bending over for the religion of peace.

Qualis Rex said...

In fairness, individually these statements are all almost equally true as they are false. Meaning, one could provide examples to support their opinion on them either way. However, collectively they paint a very pro-Mohammedan/anti-Christian picture and do not present a ballanced view of positives and negatives on BOTH sides. This is a clear case of bias.

Anonymous said...

Whirlwinder said:

Every one of the assertions made above from the 7th grade text can be easily refuted citing chapter and verse. It is well established that Islam was spread by the conquering hordes with the sword and 10's of millions of christians and jews were slaughtered, their women taken as sex slaves and or sold into slavery along with their children. The problem with this drivel found in these textbooks is that the school children are given no countervailing view with which to make a decision. And for the school personnel to agree with the textual views is abominable.

Anonymous said...

Any of those five statements could be true at any point in history, in context. However, if they're represented as an accurate summary of Islam and the Christian world they're tendentious to the extreme and closer to pro-Moslem propaganda than history.

Instead of blah, blah endorsements and claims of "good faith", I'll like to see the book's supporters defend those statements one by one. Perhaps they should read some relevant history first.

This type of issue is not confined to the US--when will the multi-culti nightmare be over?

Old Man