"Wonderful World," a popular Sam Cooke song in the late 1950s, began with the words "Don't know much about history ..."
Whether it's apathetic and disinterested students, poor teaching or problems with standardized testing, those lyrics have become prophetic at many schools in the U.S. National testing showed that fewer than one quarter of all students are "proficient" in American history.
When asked about Abraham Lincoln, most fourth graders in one survey were able to identify him, but few could say why he was an important president. One answered that it was because he had a beard. Another survey showed that almost one-third of Americans believed the Emancipation Proclamation or the Civil War came before the Declaration of Independence.
As if that isn't enough, a recent report out of Florida showed that one textbook, which is on a state-approved list in the Brevard County school system, has come under scrutiny from concerned parents and other officials because it favors Islam.
After reviewing the textbook, State Rep. Ritch Workman calls the book "remarkably one-sided" since it includes a 36-page chapter on Islam but no chapters on Christianity or Judaism. He said it's clear the authors "make a very obvious attempt not to insult Islam by reshaping history."
The book indicates that Jesus proclaimed himself to be the Messiah while stating as fact that Mohammed is a prophet, Workman said. He said it leaves out that tens of thousands of Jews and non-believers were massacred by Mohammed's armies, calling it "a blatant deception."
"If you don't see it from the eyes of a parent, kids are going to take this book as gospel and believe that Christians and Jews were murderous barbarians and thank God the Muslims came along and the world is great," Workman said.
Students are also given lessons on the Koran and the five pillars of Islam but there's no such attention given to Christianity which Workman said is offensive to him.
In a response, Pearson, which promotes itself as a leader in "custom publishing" of textbooks, admitted there is a chapter titled, "Muslim Civilizations" but that "its authors adhere to the highest editorial standards when creating course materials, which undergo a rigorous review process." It claims that "balanced attention given to the beliefs of Islam, Judaism and Christianity."
Workman vehemently disagrees, charging that the publisher admitted that a Muslim cleric was hired to write the Muslim section for the book.
Our students, who are doing poorly in history to begin with, don't need these deceptions in their textbooks. America needs to heed the warning of George Santayana, the Spanish philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist, who told us that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Parents have reason to be concerned about of what's inside their child's textbooks, including any attempts to peddle revisionist history.
By Jim Zbick