Should the School Board take action about the book, which some say favors Islam over Christianity?
BY EMILY BLACKWOOD | STAFF WRITER
Boos, applause and intense emotion filled the Brewster Center in DeLand during the Volusia County School Board meeting Monday evening, as citizens voiced their stances on the controversial textbook dealing with the Islam religion. The meeting was originally supposed to take place last week, but was cancelled due to a security threat.
Linda Costello, Volusia County School Board member serving District 4 (including Ormond Beach), said she was excited about the large amount of public participation during the meeting.
"I tell people that sometimes I don't think we have a public school anymore. It seems like it's run by the government," she said. "But not today. This is definitely public school, and it's exciting. When the public shows up to one of our meetings, it's cool. They are directing us. They care. They know it's about the kids."
Volusia County residents definitely showed the School Board they cared. Eighty-five people lined up to speak about whether the textbook used in 10th-grade history classes, "History Alive! The Ancient World," from the Teacher’s Curriculum Institute, should be revised to edit the chapter that teaches Islam.
Those who spoke from Ormond Beach took both sides.
Resident Tony Ledbetter is also chairman of the Volusia County Republican Executive Committee. He said the book is imbalanced.
"The School Board should answer the call by citizens about the textbook," Ledbetter said. "I do urge you to respect the concerns of the many citizens that have concerns, and put the issue on the agenda. I want truth and balance."
Other citizens, like Alfred Perkins, said he didn't find any inaccuracies or imbalance in the textbook.
"I am a historian, a committed Christian and registered Republican," Perkins said. "[This meeting] indicates a misunderstanding of the way history is written. Things are always omitted. It is the goal of the writer to include what is most important. I have read the chapter in question, and I have no complaint in balance or inaccuracy."
In fact, Perkins' said there wasn't enough about the contributions Islam has made to the west.
Lee Dunkel, of Ormond Beach, argued that it was more of an economical issue than a historical one.
"It’s important for students to grow up knowing what is going on in the world," she said. "Business has become very global. The employment of young people will become global. It's an economic issue as much as it is historical."
Brevard Country was faced with the same issue in October. When citizens complained that one of their textbooks was biased toward Islam, the Brevard County School Board created a World History Review Committee to review the book, and address the concerns. Lee Boyland was on the committee, and said that he and other committee members found missing, overly compressed, and misstated information. Those errors include:
- Textbook fails to clarify that Muhammad’s Roll in founding Islam had two phases: Mecca and Medina.
- Text understates Muhammad’s change from peaceful prophet to pirate. The textbook states that Muslims attacked several caravans after moving to Medina when, in reality, the Hadith’s (reports of Muhammad’s sayings and deeds) record that he became a pirate, a warlord and finally the conquer of Arabia.
- Muhammad did not write nor arrange the chapters of the Quran. The textbook states (page 123) that “God instructed Muhammad to arrange the chapters (of the Quran) into the order in which the appear.”
- Jihad — primary definition omitted. The textbook states in its glossary, “Jihad in Islam, an effort in God’s service (p. 120)”
"It is my opinion that failure to present the basic tenets of Islam’s ideology and the history associated with its development prevents students from grasping the root causes of Islamic terrorism and the conflicts in the Middle East and Africa," Boyland stated in an email to Andy Zigler, Brevard School Board Member.
At the end of the meeting, it was decided that the school board would keep the text books in school, according to Costello, who did not want the book to be censored.
"Many making accusations of fear and hate, were in denial of their own fear and hate," Costello said. "It is difficult to have a critical thought about a history you know nothing about except what your learn in 37 pages. There's no reason that I can think of to not present them with the truth about anybody's history. I don't want to censor the book, I want to expand it."