Teaching about Islam

What to think when a self-proclaimed Jewish-American ex-Trotskyist Muslim-convert neoconservative comments on the treatment of Islam in state history standards in a post-9/11 world? Stephen Schwartz’s Weekly Standard evaluation of current standards in Florida, California, and Texas, three big states that dominate the textbook industry, is worth the read. His own outfit, the Center for Islamic Pluralism, seeks to “Educate the broader American public about the reality of moderate Islam and the threat to moderate Muslims and non-Muslim Americans represented by militant, political, radical, and adversarial tendencies”--and he finds the Florida and Texas standards in much closer alignment with this worthy mission than California’s. FL and TX standards, he says, do an exemplary job of addressing extremism, “dhimmitude,” and other unsavory elements of contemporary and historical Islam, including distinguishing among the different sects and studying its sometimes violent history. CA’s standards, on the other hand, express a more unified, Arab-centric, and benign history of Islam, all of which Schwartz finds to be misleading. Given that Fordham gave California an “A” on world history in 2006, with specific kudos for rigorous coverage of Islam, and gave Florida an “F” for vagueness, these revelations may portend other big changes in state standards in the past three years. As for nuanced coverage of non-Texans in Texas--will the wonders never cease? 

What Johnny Needs to Learn about Islam,” by Stephen Schwartz, The Weekly Standard, December 7, 2009