Monday 27 September 2010

"Learning from one Another"

Little Aussie caliphs of the future?
A report from the United States that the Lone Star State has rejected “Pro-Islam” textbooks being used in its schools. (text below)
This brought to mind the case in Australia of the new curriculum “resource” called “Learning from One Another” (LFAO).  According to its sponsor, the Australian Curriculum Studies Association, LFAO is “a new resource providing information, practical advice, and classroom strategies for teachers in all Australian Schools.”
Can’t be anything wrong with that, can there?  Learning about other cultures, understanding the diversity and perspectives of Muslim Australians, to make us a more tolerant, more just society, and so on.  Welllll.....
If you have a closer look at the LFAO document, you will see that it’s a thinly disguised – hell's bells, it’s not even disguised – propaganda puff piece on behalf of Islam.

The document itself is quite lengthy, 120 pages in pdf, available below if you want it.  Meantime, your humble diarist has had a look at it and is duly appalled.  No problem, I think, with teaching about Islam in comparative studies, or in georgraphy or in religion class. I’d even think it's OK to offer a two-sided view, eg, of the Crusades: this is what the Muslims though about it and this is what the Crusaders thought about it,  that sort of thing.  Though it’s spurious to suggest that just because there are two sides to the story both sides have equal justification.  They don’t, and I know where my take on this example -- the Crusades -- is.  But that two-sided view would at least be better than a purely one-sided take, a Muslim one, in which the Crusaders are painted as ransacking pillaging and raping barbarians who came to the Middle east to steal land and slaughter peace-loving Muslims.  If you object that giving the Muslim view "is just to counter the biased western 'Orientalist' perspective", I would respond that the Muslim perspective is already the perspective in western schools and colleges -- namely, that the Crusades are the fault of the west.  Now to have a Muslim view via the LFAO document will only be to cement the view of the perfidy and brutishness and callousness and imperialism of the west (a view that is incorrect, by the way).

To inject Islamic perspectives -- one-sided, warm and fuzzy -- into every aspect of the Australian curriculum is a bit rich. And imagine that this is being done when the population of Muslims in Australia is just 1.7%.

Politically correct doesn’t begin to describe how slanted, one-sided, tendentious and Islam-apologetic this LFAO document is.

As one detailed analysis concludes: 
Religious doctrine is presented as acceptable fact, contentious issues are left aside, or, if touched upon at all, are compacted into word-bites that prevent the target audience from discerning the very real implications behind them.  [A cognitive analysis, at AIM, reference below]

In this respect the Lone Star State is being rather more sensible that Australia.   It has noted that some of its textbooks -- provided increasingly by Saudi Arabian-owned textbook producers -- are "politically-correct whitewashes of Islamic culture and stigmas on Christian civilisation".   

The problem is, this Aussie LFOA subterfuge is being foisted on the unsuspecting public as a fait accompli.  There are to be two workshops in Melbourne and Sydney on 12 October and 20 October, not to discuss the concept, mind, but to tell teachers how to apply it in schools.  Heaven --  or Allah -- help us….
Learning from One Another.  This is the 120-page booklet by the University of Melbourne
LFOA: An alternative resource for teachers”  AIM, 20 June 2010. [pdf]
The Australian Curriculum Studies Association.  Learning fron One Another Workshops
Thanks to AIM for drawing one's attention to the LFAO document.
The South China Morning Post article is by subscription only, so here is the full text:

'Pro-Islam' textbooks rejected in Texas
Agence France-Presse in Chicago
Updated on Sep 26, 2010
The Texas board of education has voted to reject any textbooks that paint Islam in too favourable a light, vowing to curtail what it sees as a "pro-Islam/anti-Christian" bias in schoolbooks.
The move comes months after the socially conservative board enacted new social studies standards that championed capitalism and Republican party values and questioned whether the country was truly founded on the separation of church and state.
Texas is the largest textbook market in the US and its rules influence what children across the country will learn at school.
The resolution, adopted on Friday, cites "politically correct whitewashes of Islamic culture and stigmas on Christian civilisation" in current textbooks and warns that "more such discriminatory treatment of religion may occur as Middle Easterners buy into the US public-school-textbook oligopoly".
[PF comment: for "Middle Easterners" read Saudi Arabia, which is putting its oil riches to good use by funding US University Chairs in Islamic Studies and now buying into the US textbook market.  This is bringing odious Wahhabi views into US academia]
It vowed to reject any future textbooks that devoted more space to teaching about Islam than Christianity, included "sanitised definitions of jihad", or displayed bias by describing Christian crusaders as "invaders" while Muslim "conquest" was called "migration" by "empire builders".
Critics said the resolution, which passed 7-6, was a further attempt to politicise education and was based on false claims. "It is hard not to conclude that the members who voted for this resolution were solely interested in playing on fear and bigotry in order to pit Christians against Muslims," said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, which aims to counter the religious right and protect individual liberties.
The move comes amid a rise of anti-Islamic rhetoric in parts of the United States.
[PF comment: The Agence France-Presse clearly thinks these Texans are knuckle-dragging troglodytes and that it's intolerant and bigoted to take issue with the textbooks.  According to AFP, if you point out that US should not be subject to a Wahhabi-inspired warping of history, you are taking part in "anti-Islamic rhetoric"...]