Rockland woman asks committee whether teaching of Islam is education or indoctrination

Posted Aug. 23, 2012, at 9:57 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The committee that focuses on curriculum in the Rockland area school district said it wants more specific information from a Rockland woman before it will decide whether to take time to discuss her concerns about the teaching of Islam.

The Regional School Unit 13 Curriculum Committee met Thursday evening.

At the end of the meeting, board members discussed briefly the request by Beverly Cowan to make a presentation to them.

Cowan was not at the Thursday night meeting but had appeared before the full RSU 13 Board at its April meeting.

“I found it disheartening to have prepared a short statement and be cut off, though the people ahead of me were given greater latitude,” Cowan stated in a letter to Sally Carleton, who is chairwoman of the curriculum committee.

She had asked to be put on the committee’s May agenda but that request was not acted on until Thursday.

At the April meeting, Cowan handed out an executive summary titled “Education or Indoctrination?” concerning the treatment of Islam in textbooks used in grades six through 12 in the United States. Cowan could not be reached for comment Thursday evening after the meeting but information she distributed to the board in April included a statement from Brigitte Gabriel, who is the founder and president of an organization called ACT! for America Education.

In that statement, Gabriel states the organization has no objection to the teaching of Islam in public schools but cited that many textbooks fail to treat the religion in a fair manner.

“To cite a particularly egregious example of how the textbooks reviewed fail to do this, the Crusades are routinely depicted as an unprovoked invasion by Christians of the Muslim-owned Holy Land, and Muslims depicted as victims of this aggression. This historical revisionism does not inform students that Muslims invaded and conquered the Holy Land (and the Jews and Christians who lived there) over 400 years prior to the Crusades, and that the Crusades were an effort to regain the Holy Land from the Muslim conquerors,” Gabriel said in the statement.

Neal Guyer, who has served as RSU 13’s interim superintendent and is sharing administrative duties with the new superintendent, said Thursday evening he has read some of the material presented by Cowan but not all of it. He said some of the textbooks referenced in the study are not used by RSU 13 but since he has not read the entire list he does not know if there are some used by the district.

Board member Loren Andrews of Cushing said Cowan should be asked to provide more specific concerns before the committee decides whether to take time to discuss the matter at a subsequent meeting.

“We have curriculum people, teachers and administrators and we should let them decide the curriculum,” Andrews said.

Board member Carol Bachofner of Rockland said it would be similar to if a person asked that a book be removed from a school library. She said there is a system in place and that it should be followed.

Bachofner said, however, that the board should not put Cowan off any longer since it has already been a long while since she asked to meet with the committee.

“When you put people off they tend to become more strident,” Bachofner said.

Carleton and Guyer said they would meet and then contact Cowan so she could provide a more specific written reason for meeting with the committee.

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