Public schools are often seen as indoctrination centers due to high-profile incidents such as Diatha Harris’ in-class criticism of the Iraq war and the many examples of students praising President Obama at the behest of their teachers.
A new report by Mary Grabar attempts to put these incidents in perspective by covering a recent conference geared toward social studies teachers.
“I was becoming increasingly disturbed by the lack of age appropriateness I was seeing throughout the conference,” reflects Grabar about the 2009 National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) conference in the America’s Survival report. “The dismay continued as the uniformed middle school Ron Clark Rappers danced and shouted out slogans about Iraq and domestic spending, categorizing them with shouts of ‘Obama on the left’ and ‘McCain on the right.’”
In the embedded video from CNN, students from the Ron Clark Academy sing “Dear Obama, hear us sing/ We’re ready for the change that you will bring/ … The time is now/Bring our troops home/Iraq can stand strong on their own. …” The students in the video traveled from the Atlanta academy to Washington, D.C. to perform at multiple inaugural events, reported CNN last January.
Grabar covered a “sampling of workshops over two days” at the NCSS conference, she writes, including a panel on how to teach Islam to high school students and a session on “Exploring the Human Rights of Illegal Immigrant Students and Communities”; Grabar asserts that in the latter session Los Angeles middle school teacher Martha Infante suggested www.icedgame.com as a possible resource. (“ICED” in this case stands for “I Can End Deportation.”)
According to the conference agenda, Infante also held another session on the Middle East entitled “Unclenching Our Fists: Making the Middle East Relevant to Students.”
Accuracy in Academia has extensively covered the multicultural treatment of Islam in public schools, especially in California school curriculum.
Grabar claims to have found similar bias at the NCSS panel, “Muslim Perspectives Through Film and Dialogue: Understanding, Empathy, Civic Discourse,” which had two presenters: Barbara Petzen and Daniel Tutt from the Unity Productions Foundation.
“Since the Fort Hood shootings were fresh on people’s minds, the presenter, Barbara Petzen, was quick to say that she doubted it was [sic] as an act of terrorism,” writes Grabar. “Petzen is employed by Harvard University’s Middle East Policy Council, which is run by Charles Freeman, whose nomination as National Intelligence Council [sic] was ended over his financial connections and statements regarding 9/11 that contradicted official U.S. policy.”
Petzen, who is the education coordinator for the MEPC, said via email that “The quotation is not accurate.”
“The Middle East Policy Council is not affiliated with Harvard University,” she writes. “The president of the Middle East Policy Council is Frank Anderson.” (Freeman is the former President of the MEPC).
Petzen’s staff bio states that she was previously “outreach coordinator at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University…”
As for her Fort Hood comment, Petzen writes that she “said the Fort Hood shooting was still under investigation, and it was unclear whether there was any organized terrorist group involved or whether this was a single individual.” Her panel took place on November 13, 2009, according to the program—little over a week after the Fort Hood shooting.
However, news stories such as this one from the UK Telegraph had covered the connection between Major Nidal Malik Hasan and radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki prior to the conference. “Al-Awlaki moved to Dar al-Hijrah as imam in January, 2001, from the west coast, and three months later the September 11 hijackers Nawaf al-Hamzi and Hani Hanjour began attending his services,” write Philip Sherwel and Alex Spilius for the UK Telegraph in early November last year. “A third hijacker attended his services in California.”
“Petzen offered a defense for Muslims who rioted and killed over the publication of cartoons about Muhammed,” writes Grabar in the report. “She pointed out that were cartoons published making fun of Christ, Christians too would get upset.”
Petzen responded to this, stating, “I offered no defense for violence, but merely explained why many Muslims were angry about the cartoons.”
The MEPC has received multiple donations from Saudi Arabian royalty. Its website states that “The Council has been offering fully-funded, full-day staff development workshops to teachers around the nation since 1985… During this time, approximately 18,000 educators have attended Council Workshops.”
In 2004 the MEPC told the Washington Times that it would be removing a section from its Arab World Studies Notebook which contained “an inaccurate passage that says Muslim explorers preceded Christopher Columbus to North America and became Algonquin chiefs,” states the paper that year.
Arab World and Islamic Resources (AWAIR), lists its founder, Audrey Shabbas, as the editor of the Arab World Studies Notebook. “… Shabbas said this week the passage was removed immediately from subsequent copies, and that she was ‘giving careful and thoughtful attention’ on how to notify the 1,200 teachers who have been given copies of the book in the past five years,” reported the Times back in 2004.
Ironically, Shabbas is also listed as the MEPC’s “Teacher Workshop Leader” in an old Council web page. It notes that she is “A long time member of The National Council for the Social Studies, she has served as a presidential appointee to its Equity and Social Justice Committee, and as chair of the International Human Rights Education Special Interest Group.”
“She is a regular presenter for Social Studies educator conferences—state, regional and national—as well as for the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the National Association for Multicultural Education, and the National Association for Bilingual Education, among others.”
Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.