From the Wash. Times, 4-16-2004
Nation of Canada has erroneous information removed from textbook
on Arab History
Indian tribe has forced distributors of an Arab studies guide for
U.S. teachers to remove an inaccurate passage that says Muslim explorers
preceded Christopher Columbus to North America and became Algonquin
DiGangi, director of Canada's Algonquin Nation Secretariat in Quebec,
called claims in the book, the "Arab World Studies Notebook,"
"preposterous" and "outlandish," saying nothing
in the tribe's written or oral history support them. The 540-page
book says the Muslim explorers married into the Algonquin tribe,
resulting in 17th-century tribal chiefs named Abdul-Rahim and Abdallah
DiGangi said the guide's author and editor, Audrey Shabbas, and
the Middle East Policy Council (MEPC), a Washington advocacy group
that promoted the curriculum to school districts in 155 U.S. cities,
have been unresponsive to his concerns since November. But Ms. 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."As the editor of the 'Notebook,'
when I heard from Mr. DiGangi that a citation in the work was not
borne out by either Native American written records or by oral traditions,
I was grateful that the statement could so easily be removed,"
she said. She did not explain how the false information got into
was no [scholarly] peer review," said Mr. DiGangi, who says
he was never contacted after lodging his complaint. "It was
so outlandish. It never should have gone to press." Jon Roth,
MEPC's program manager, yesterday said the group has decided to
remove the two-page chapter called "Early Muslim Exploration
Worldwide: Evidence of Muslims in the New World Before Columbus."
"It is not, nor has it ever been, our intention to spread lies
or untruths," Mr. Roth said.
the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation this week issued a report that
is critical of "Arab World Studies Notebook." The study,
titled "The Stealth Curriculum: Manipulating America's History
Teachers," reviewed many curriculum supplements and "professional
development" programs aimed at schoolteachers. "It appeared
that the creation and dissemination of these materials, often through
professional development institutes and [teacher] in-service programs,
had fallen into the eager hands of interest groups and ideologues
yearning to use America's public school classrooms to shape the
minds of tomorrow's citizens by manipulating what today's teachers
are introducing into the lessons of today's children," the
Fordham study concluded.
Roth said the "Arab World Studies Notebook" is the primary
reference text used in the council's program of teacher workshops
conducted by Ms. Shabbas, which have numbered more than 268 in 155
cities since 1987. The book, offered at a markdown of $15 from $49.95,
has 90 readings and lesson plans covering the history and culture
of the Arab world, the broader Middle East and Islam worldwide.
"A lot of teachers use it," Mr. Roth said.
E. Finn Jr., Fordham Foundation president, said the new "cottage
industry" of "predigested supplemental materials"
and professional development for history and social studies teachers
was intended to help teachers who had little or no background in
certain areas, and because textbooks are often insufficient. "How
could we expect them to handle complicated and emotionally charged
subjects like the Holocaust and figure out what lessons to learn
about it? To escort youngsters safely through the thicket of political
correctness and ethnic politics that now surrounds such benign holidays
as Columbus Day and Thanksgiving?" he asks in the preface of
the foundation's report.
void in teachers' knowledge and instructional materials has been
filled by publishers, universities, research groups and think tanks,
advocacy groups, cable networks, film producers and itinerant teacher
trainers, Mr. Finn said. "We know staggeringly little about
how good these materials and workshops are how accurate they
are, whether the information they present is balanced and accurate.
We know even less about the efficacy, value or intellectual integrity
of innumerable workshops, institutes and training programs in which
teachers participate," he said.
report, written by Sandra Stotsky, former senior associate commissioner
of the Massachusetts Department of Education, described the "Arab
World Studies Notebook" as "propaganda." The chapter
written by Ms. Shabbas and Abdallah Hakim Quick claims that Muslims
from Europe were the first to sail across the Atlantic and land
in the New World, starting in 889, the report says. "The idea
that English explorers met native Indian chiefs with Muslim names
in the middle of the Northeast woodlands sounds almost like something
a Hollywood film writer dreamed up for a spoof," the report
current 1998 edition of the "Notebook" has "no evidence
or documentation to support key historical 'facts' that serve to
advance their political views or religious beliefs," the report
says."One can only wonder if this has ever been questioned
by the teachers who use its materials, or if they feel they must
agree to any claim made by Muslims as an 'alternative perspective'
or risk being labeled insensitive, Eurocentric, or racist."