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July 25, 2007
Saudis in the Classroom
Here's a little something to get you to reach for you blood pressure meds this morning.
The Saudis have stealthily introduced their ideas of Middle Eastern history and events into American K-12 classrooms. Just how have they managed such a feat?
The United States government gives money — and a federal seal of approval — to a university Middle East Studies center. That center offers a government-approved K-12 Middle East studies curriculum to America’s teachers. But in fact, that curriculum has been bought and paid for by the Saudis, who may even have trained the personnel who operate the university’s outreach program. Meanwhile, the American government is asleep at the wheel — paying scant attention to how its federally mandated public outreach programs actually work. So without ever realizing it, America’s taxpayers end up subsidizing — and providing official federal approval for — K-12 educational materials on the Middle East that have been created under Saudi auspices. Game, set, match: Saudis. But couldn't all this just be an innocent attempt at promoting goodwill toward Muslims? Try again:
Harvard’s outreach training prompted K-12 teachers to design celebratory treatments of the life and teachings of Mohammad and the “revelation” and spread of Islam, with exercises calling on students to “appoint imams,” memorize Islamic principles, and act out prayer at a Mosque. According to Stotsky, if Harvard’s outreach personnel had designed similar classroom exercises based on Christian or Jewish models, “People for the American Way, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the A.C.L.U. would descend upon them like furies.” If this information wasn't verified by the Massachusetts Department of Education, you could dismiss the idea as simply the rantings of some conspiracy nut. Who could ever believe that a foreign country would be able to influence the curricula of American schools in such a way? And do it without any oversight by the federal government?
Instead of training teachers in the history and contemporary challenges of the Muslim world, Stotsky concluded that Harvard’s outreach program was “manipulating” apolitical teachers with a “barely disguised” attempt to “shape...attitudes on specific political issues.” The lesson plans designed by K-12 teachers who participated in these Harvard-run seminars included exercises in which students were asked to watch newscasts and spot out instances in which Muslims were stereotyped as violent or barbaric. Lesson plans proposed discussion questions like, “Why have so many groups wanted to control the Middle East?” and “How might the history of repeated invasions influence the history of people in this area?”
Maybe the feds could start a program "No Slanted View Of Middle Eastern History Left Behind."