Muslim Americans React To New School Standards

Posted at 10:22 PM, Sep 28, 2016
New proposed standards for what your child learns in school are now public. They come after a year of controversy over how the history and pillars of Islam are taught in Tennessee schools.
A group of teachers spent the summer drafting the new proposed social studies standards.

"There's been a wide variety of changes to the standards and that's happened across all grade levels and content areas," said State Board of Education Policy Director Laura Encalade.

The State School Board began the review of K-12 social studies standards a year earlier than scheduled, largely because of the public feedback.
Meetings in White and Williamson Counties brought concerned parents and religious leaders together over the past year, mobilizing over what they called Islam indoctrination in school. Others, including local school board members, said the groups were creating a problem where there wasn't one.

"We are asking you to please reevaluate these text books we are deeply concerned," said one parent in Williamson County.

Spurred by the movement, the state legislature also passed a bill against religious indoctrination in school.

A big focus is on how Islam is taught in World History. Now, the proposed standards have fewer lessons on the topic than the current standards.

American Muslim and  Kasar Abdullah says she's disappointed.

"How does it impact that Muslim child who never seems to hear anything about who they are?" she asked, "it seems to me it tells that child you're not important."

She says limited history for all major religions is on the list of standards. But Christianity is the only religion where in-depth theology is also taught.

"The question we should ask ourselves is what is the purpose of our schools our institutions," she said, "are we to teach our students just a singular narrative?"

Some Muslim community members also worry the historic events chosen slant against the Muslim religion, focusing on conquering and wars rather than economics and trade.

But the state school board said all religions were treated equally.

"You'll see a streamlining of content and that's consistent across the board that's not targeted at any particular religion," Encalade said. Though she added that anyone dissatisfied with any certain standard can still voice their opinion online.

So far 17,000 people have gone on to the website to review the standards. You can look at each individual standard, based on grade level and unit, and encourage the state to keep it, have it reviewed or remove it. 

A legislative-appointed committee will have final approval of the standards and will take the comments into consideration. The public comment period ends Oct 28.

Once the standards are approved each district will then choose its own textbooks and draft its own curriculums locally.

NewsChannel 5 reached out to the group behind the anti-Islam indoctrination movement for comment. They said they haven't had a chance to review the standards yet.