HOME:__click here__ to see new posts on the Home/Main page

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Religious Bias in Textbooks

From: "The Trouble With Textbooks - Distorting History and Religion", by Gary A. Tobin and Dennis R. Ybarra.

This book highlights 500 problematic statements about Judaism, Christianity and the Middle East that can be found in 28 of the most widely used public school textbooks in the United States. The book’s website states that “history and religion are being distorted in every one of the 50 states”, and suggests that “textbooks around the world are blatantly used as tools for propaganda.”

The website and the Executive Summary do not expand (beyond the Middle East) on that last statement, but I believe there is some evidence that supports it. For example, history textbooks used in China and Japan since WW2 cannot agree on certain facts. Quote from Wikipedia :- “The controversies primarily concern what some international observers perceive to be a systematic distortion of the historical record propagated in the Japanese educational system, which seeks to whitewash the actions of Imperial Japan during WW2.”

A few examples from the book (as quoted by Dennis Ybarra in a Fox News video track) :-

Textbook: ‘The World’
“True or False - Christianity was started by a young Palestinian named Jesus.”
The expected answer is True.
Que’s response :- In the Christian New Testament, Jesus grows up as a Jew in a Jewish community in Galilee. Both his parents were Jewish, and all the disciples were Jewish. As an adult he preached in Judea and Galilee - two provinces that strictly speaking were not part of a country called Palestine (at that time). It was at least 100 years later when Judea and the neighboring provinces were renamed ‘Syria Palaestina’ by the emperor Hadrian. (Late Roman Period II 135–220 CE.)

Textbook: ‘World Civilizations’
“Excepting the Old Testament’s poetry, the Jews produced very little of note in any of the art forms… There is no record of any important early Jewish contributions to the sciences.”
The author says that the textbook writers “go out of their way” to include those statements, and they seem to have an “agenda to disparage the Jewish contributions.”

Textbook: ‘World History’
“Ten Commandments - Moral laws Moses claimed to have received from the Hebrew god … on Mount Sinai.”
But in the glossary there is this entry: “Qur’an - Holy book of Islam containing revelations received by Muhammad from [Allah].”
The author says that the biblical reference is presented as a fable, and the Qur’an reference is presented as historical fact. He then goes on to say that the Constitution of the United States “says in schools you have to treat all religions equally.”
As far as I can tell, the Constitution doesn’t actually say that, but the First Amendment does say :-
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”. Perhaps a visitor to this blog from the United States could clarify the situation for me? … Thanks!

The major findings of the book are listed and explained in the Executive Summary that can be seen in a .PDF file _here_ .
The major findings are :-
-- Textbook writers often do not know much about their subjects.
-- Publishers use “Chop-Shops” to write books.
-- Information can be out of date.
-- Low quality scholarship is not uncommon.
-- American textbooks are “dumbed down”.
-- Politically motivated propaganda wheedles its way into textbooks.
-- Various interest groups influence social studies.
-- Organizations like the Council on Islamic Education have wide influence.
-- The result is textbooks that are anti-Christian, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.

To be completely fair, there should perhaps be a book that exposes anti-Arab, anti-Muslim and anti-Iran (etc.) statements and bias in textbooks.

The book’s conclusion apparently includes this observation by the historian Bernard Lewis :-
"We live in a time when great efforts have been made, and continue to be made, to falsify the record of the past and to make history a tool of propaganda; when governments, religious movements, political parties, and sectional groups of every kind are busy rewriting history as they wish it to have been, [and] as they would like their followers to believe that it was."

Other links for ‘The Trouble With Textbooks’ :-

(‘Que’ originally learnt about this book while viewing video tracks at: www.foxnews.com )

from: wikipedia.org
The guidelines of the California Department of Education (Code 60044) state the following: "No religious belief or practice may be held up to ridicule and no religious group may be portrayed as inferior." "Any explanation or description of a religious belief or practice should be present in a manner that does not encourage or discourage belief or indoctrinate the student in any particular religious belief."
California State Law - Code 60044 (.pdf) - see the section on Religion on page 7.

1 comment:

Que said...

People are welcome to use these blog posts for *research purposes. However, I certainly don't write them to make things easier for school students who are often tempted to 'cut and paste'. Any material needs to be re-written in your words or their words, and I would expect an entry in the references of the document - as is normal practice.
I would be very interested in seeing any documents that use information from my blog posts. Thanks in advance.
Please use the email address that is shown in the 'About Me' section - on the right-hand side of the blog page.
Thank you,
Peter (aka Que)