November 16, 2016
Warning of Islamic “indoctrination,” Tennessee parent petitions school to ban history textbook
by Kait Howard
Earlier this year, we wrote about repeated attempts by the Tennessee House of Representatives to pass a bill making the Bible the state’s “official book,” whatever that means. While the bill was eventually vetoed by Governor Bill Haslam, it seems a fitting setup to the battle that’s currently playing out in a Tennessee school district over the use of a world history textbook that includes material on Islamic traditions.
Josh Zuckerman at the National Coalition Against Censorship reports that a parent in Sullivan County has filed “a formal complaint to her child’s school district in an effort to remove a social studies textbook that she claims ‘promotes Islamic propaganda.’” The parent, Michelle Edmisten, first addressed the school board in early October claiming that the school “violated her daughter’s religious beliefs” by teaching lessons on Islam from a Pearson textbook called My World History.
Edmisten, who has the support of at least one school board member, has detailed her issues with the way Islam is taught in the school via a Facebook group called Sullivan County Parents Against Islam Indoctrination. In one post she argues that her daughter should have had the choice of opting out of a homework assignment connected with the lesson, writing that she doesn’t “agree with the bias way the Pearson textbook teaches islam. I think it’s disproportionate and does not teach in truth in entirety. [sic]” In a video posted separately, Edmisten said that her fight was political, urging people to bring the issue up at their churches, and quoting, of all people, George Orwell saying that “people that elect corrupt politicians… are not victims… but accomplices.”
As Zuckerman explains, the Sullivan County controversy “reflects larger efforts to purge lessons on Islam from schools in Tennessee. According to his reporting, the state’s Board of Education has “recently drafted new educational standards that have largely redacted Islam from the curriculum,” while “lessons on other religions, like Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism, remain on the syllabus.”
“[Islam] is still part of history,” Susan Lodal of the Tennessee School Boards Association told the Kingsport Times News in September. “We’re just not teaching it.”
Kait Howard is a publicist at Melville House.