After our discussion here on the blog, I suggested that the AJC do a deeper story on the controversial Cobb lesson plan that featured a fictional two-page letter written by a 20-year-old Saudi Arabian woman in which she writes approvingly of wearing the Islamic veil and of her fiance’s multiple wives and the law of Sharia. A Cobb parent complained that the lesson was not balanced, and his concerns spread across the Internet this week.
In the course of reporting the news story, the AJC learned that the company that created the material, InspirEd Educators, is getting threats.
And now even the state school chief is saying that he doesn’t approve of the material, although it was offered to teachers as a resource through the state Department of Education.
If the message of this lesson was supposed to be tolerance, it seems to have demonstrated to students that tolerance is in short supply. (By the way, any bets that some legislator will sponsor a bill to combat the “Islamizing of public schools?)
From the AJC:
A firestorm in the blogosphere, ignited by a Cobb middle school’s’ use of curriculum materials defending Islamic precepts, has brought threats against a Roswell curriculum publisher. The assignment by a teacher at Campbell Middle School, which asked students to write on the issue of dress codes, included a fictional two-page letter ostensibly written by a 20-year-old Saudi Arabian woman.
Wednesday, InspirEd Educators released a statement saying it “has received what the police have classified as hate email and phone calls, and the company and its staff have been threatened and discussed with threatening language on various websites and blogs.”
The letter from Ahlima is part of a 358-page unit for use during a two-week segment that Georgia middle schoolers devote to the Middle East. It is paired with a letter from a fictional Israeli woman discussing her own lifestyle. It is part of the “resource materials” offered to local schools by the state Department of Education, from a vendor approved by the state.
But State School Superintendent John Barge said “I don’t agree with this lesson, I’ll be up front with you.” Despite state approval of the vendor, the material might not have been reviewed by the state, Barge said. “I honestly don’t have the staff here to do that,” he added. “The reality is with budget cuts here, I have one social studies studies specialist for the entire state of Georgia.”
Henry County schools also used the material last year, and listed it on its website, but subsequently removed it. “We have made sure that it is not being used this year for any lesson plans,” said Henry spokesman J.D. Hardin.
Used in a context of discussion of the school dress code, the InspirEd Educators material was out of place, and appeared unbalanced, said Dale Gaddis, Cobb’s area assistant superintendent. But as to whether Cobb is “indoctrinating American youth with Islamic propaganda” (as is charged by a website called Creeping Sharia), Gaddis pleads not guilty. “Our responsibility is to provide information in a balanced manner; not to endorse, defend or not defend.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog