Islam in the Classroom:
what the textbooks tell us


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Islam in the Classroom
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In 2008, the American Textbook Council report Islam in the Classroom: what the textbooks tell us sampled ten widely adopted junior and senior high school history textbooks. In subsequent editions and titles, the texts examined remain in classroom use nationwide.

Islam in the Classroom: what the textbooks tell us

The review asks:
  • How do history textbooks characterize Islam's foundations and creeds?
  • What do textbooks say about terrorism? What do they say about the September 11 air attack on the United States? About weapons of mass destruction? Do textbooks outline Islamic challenges to global security? Do they describe and explain looming dangers to the United States and world?
The review concludes:
  • Many political and religious groups try to use the textbook process to their advantage, but the deficiencies in Islam-related lessons are uniquely disturbing. History textbooks present an incomplete and confected view of Islam that misrepresents its foundations and challenges to international security.
  • Misinformation about Islam is more pronounced in junior high school textbooks than high school textbooks.
  • Outright textbook errors about Islam are not the main problem. The more serious failure is the presence of disputed definitions and claims that are presented as established facts.
  • Deficiencies about Islam in textbooks copyrighted before 2001 persist and in some cases have grown worse. Instead of making corrections or adjusting contested facts, publishers and editors defend misinformation and content evasions against the record. Biases persist. Silences are profound and intentional.
  • Islamist activists use multiculturalism and ready-made American political movements, especially those on campus, to advance and justify uncritical Islam-related content makeover in history textbooks.
  • Particular fault rests with the publishing corporations, the boards of directors, and executives who decide what editorial policies their companies will pursue.
Publishers have developed new world and U.S. history textbooks at three different grade levels. Errors about Islam that occurred in older textbooks have not been corrected but reiterated. Publishers have learned of contested facts and have had the time to correct imbalances. But instead of making changes, they have sustained errors or, in deliberate acts of self-censorship, have removed controversial material.

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