House gives nod to Volusia-inspired textbook review bill

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida House, essentially reacting to a months-old protest over the portrayal of Islam in Volusia County school textbooks, passed a bill Monday that would give local school boards, parents and protesters more power over classroom materials.

Hours later, a small but vocal group of demonstrators in Daytona Beach rallied to keep textbook selection free from political battles over religious and cultural differences.

“I’m concerned about having a narrow point of view presented to students; they need to have all sides of an issue, multiple points of view presented,” said Dan Spink, a retired teacher from Port Orange who joined the rally.

The proposal, which still has to go to the state Senate for approval, was the less dramatic of two textbook bills in the Legislature — the other a Senate bill that would have eliminated altogether the state’s role in short-listing and choosing books.

“This is a win for us,” said state Rep. David Santiago, R-Deltona, who joined in the 84-33 House vote to approve the measure. He said he spoke to local school officials, and “they’d rather take this version of it than the Senate’s.”

Rep. Dwayne Taylor, D-Daytona Beach, voted yes in a break with the House Democrats, most of whom voted against the bill. Rep. Dave Hood, R-Daytona Beach Shores, was not present for the vote.

The issue itself started in Volusia. A November School Board meeting was canceled because of security concerns when conservatives rallied to protest the use of the 10th-grade world history textbook they called pro-Islam. The book had a chapter about the rise of Muslim civilizations without a corresponding chapter on Christianity.

The measure the House approved retains the state-level textbook screening process, along with an existing option (passed by the Legislature last year) for local school boards to take over the instructional materials review and selection process if they want.

The House’s language also would require school boards to adopt a formal process for public review and comment on textbooks being considered for adoption and resolution of any objections that might arise from that.

In the Senate, Hays’ original bill would have gone a step further, eliminating the state review and short-listing of appropriate textbooks altogether. That task would’ve been turned over to local districts individually or in small groups. That version passed the Senate earlier this month by a vote of 21-19. Local Republicans Dorothy Hukill of Port Orange and John Thrasher of St. Augustine supported it.

Representation of Islam in European Textbooks

September 16, 2011

The Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research (Braunschweig, Germany) released the findings of a study on the representation of Islam in European textbooks. Following a systematic analysis of textbooks in Germany, Austria, France, Spain, and England, the researchers concluded that Islam is often (and in all five countries) represented in a simplified and distorted way; instead of reflecting the Islam’s diversity across the globe, textbook presentations often reduce it to a homogeneous entity. Similarly, Muslims are often represented as a religious and pre-modern collective, a non-European “Other” that appears to be in opposition to a modern (and also homogeneous) European society. The analysis also showed that differences and controversies between Islam and the West are often highlighted and emphasized, whereas similarities are hardly mentioned. Representatives of the institute and researchers involved in the study noted that this sort of representation does not help to improve any intercultural dialogue and fight Islamophobia; instead, it helps to maintain existing (negative) perceptions and prejudice.

ABSTRACT

Current textbooks from European countries cling to simplified portrayals of  Islam, thus stabilising perceptions of Muslims as a (primarily) religiously  defined collective of non-European ‘others’. Such are the findings of a  recent study by the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook  Research in Brunswick.(1) Most of the history and politics textbooks  examined, from Germany, Austria, France, Spain and England, inspire  and/or reinforce the impression that Islam and ‘modern Europe’ exist as  mutually exclusive and in themselves homogeneous entities that share  confrontational encounters, yet practically no commonalities or  similarities.

This perspective is based on a lack of differentiation between Islam as a  religious model and cultural and political practices associated with it.  Consequently, depictions of Islam and Muslims in current textbooks from  European countries are dominated by essentialised images of religious  difference and collective associations. Particularly frequent are  judgements of Islam as an antiquated system of rules and regulations that  nevertheless still dominates all spheres of life for people of Muslim  religion. A lack of differentiation and collective references to Muslims can  foster a form of ‘cultural racism’ that takes religious difference to be  invariable. The focus of this polarisation is, however, not primarily the  presentation of Muslims as religious opponents in violent conflicts, such as  in narratives on the crusades, but in their portrayal as pre-modern and  thus as ‘others’ incompatible with Europe. Even historical depictions that  acknowledge and pay tribute to the Arab-Islamic Middle Ages do not  destabilise this polarised concept but rather underpin the perspective of  broken cultural advancement in reference to predominantly Muslim  societies.

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1 The study was carried out at the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook  Research, Brunswick, by Susanne Kröhnert-Othman, Melanie Kamp and Constantin  Wagner between July and December 2010.

Texas Education Board Wants to Limit Mentions of Islam in World History Textbooks

The Texas State Board of Education adopted a resolution Friday that seeks to curtail references to Islam in Texas textbooks, as social-conservative board members warned of what they describe as a creeping Middle Eastern influence in the nation’s publishing industry.

The board approved the one-page nonbinding resolution, which urges textbook publishers to limit what they print about Islam in world history books, by a 7-5 vote.

Critics say it’s another example of the ideologically focused board trying to politicize public education in the Lone Star State. Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, which advocates for religious freedom, questioned why the resolution came at a time when “anti-Muslim rhetoric in this country has reached fever pitch.”

Fitna put on par with Mein Kampf in textbook

The Dutch right-wing Freedom Party is furious that a primary school textbook has compared Geert Wilders’ short film Fitna with Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf. The textbook, which will be distributed to some 2,000 primary schools, cites both Fitna and Mein Kampf as examples of “one-sided thinking.” The Freedom Party called the comparison a disgrace, and demanded that the authors recall the textbooks. The authors – The Day of Respect Foundation – said they have no plans of canceling distribution of the textbook, although they expressed some concern about the phrasing of the passage in question.

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