The Tennessee State Board of Education is prepared to approve new social studies standards for middle schoolers that would dramatically reduce instruction on Islam, according to the Huffington Post.
During the curriculum revision process which took place this past summer members of an educator advisory team altered the social studies standards for 7th graders to remove a section on the “Islamic World, 400 A.D./C.E. – 1500s”. This discarded section included 11 standards,
“ranging from the physical location and features of the Arabian Peninsula to the expansion of Muslim rule and cultural diffusion of Islam and the Arabic language, the origins of Islam and the life and teaching of Muhammad, including the historical connection to Christianity and Judaism. Also gone is a standard about understanding the Qur’an and Sunnah, different sections within Islam, the Sunnis and Shi’ites, contributions of Muslim scholars, trade routes of Arab society, art and architecture, including the Taj Mahal, the importance of Memed II the Conqueror and Sleiman the Magnificent and writing an explanatory text about the Sha Abbas and how his cultural blending led to the Golden Age and the rise of the Safavid Empire.
“Documents and texts in the current standards are to include excerpts from “The Hadith” by Muhammad and from “The Book of Golden Meadows” by Masoudi.
“However, some Muslim history remains in the seventh-grade draft standards, including in West Africa: 400-1500s C.E., where a standard is that students must be able to “explain the importance of the Malian king, Mansa Musa, and his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324. In addition, Southwest Asia and North Africa: 400-1500s C.E., expects students to be able to “describe the diffusion of Islam, its culture, and the Arabic language.”
Sara Heyburn, Ed.D., Executive Director of the Tennessee State Board of Education, said the revision was simply “part of our ongoing and comprehensive process to ensure that Tennessee students have the highest academic standards”. Heyburn also stated that the new curriculum was developed by an advisory team that “used not only their own classroom experience and practical expertise, but also the extensive feedback gathered from other teachers, parents, and the public through an initial online review of the current standards earlier this year”. Also, Laura Encalade, Director of Policy and Research at the State Board of Education explained that “what Tennesseans will see in the revised social studies standards are that they have increased clarity and manageability and are age-appropriate”.
But in December 2015 the Atlantic learned that seventh grade classrooms covered the entire “Islamic World” unit in just one week. And this curriculum review process which altered the unit was moved up two years due to fears across the state of “Islamic indoctrination”. One placed an ad in a local paper with this graphic:
However, apparently this change is not based solely on fear. According to the Atlantic, a seventh grader at Heritage Middle School said she is concerned about her social-studies lessons because “I am being taught in class that Islam is a peaceful religion, yet there are many historical and modern-day examples of violent killings and persecution in the name of Allah and Islam”.
The solution, however, is not to ignore it. Ignorance breeds further uncertainty and fear. Understanding can only come through education.