Unflappable CCSD takes on Islam flap
by Lindsay Field
lfield@mdjonline.com
September 28, 2011 12:00 AM | 5176 views | 27 27 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SMYRNA — As the Cobb school district recovers from public backlash over teaching materials some parents deemed pro-Islam, the woman who oversees the curriculum insists it “is balanced and comprehensive,” and explained how such materials are selected.

Last week, the curriculum came under fire when parent Hal Medlin complained that an assignment given to his seventh-grade child at Campbell Middle School was “slanted positively towards Islam.”

The unidentified teacher had asked students to outline the pros and cons of school uniforms in comparison to Muslim women’s dress.

Area superintendent Dale Gaddis said the materials, which included a letter from a woman who is explains why she is “proud and happy” to be Muslim and a list of seven conditions for women’s dress in Islam, “could have been served in a better way.”

Pam Dingle, the district’s curriculum director, said, “This teacher is not the only teacher teaching this content. It is in the content curriculum standards for all seventh-graders in the state of Georgia.”

Seventh-graders spend two weeks studying the Middle East, Dingle said.

“Students do not spend 12 to 13 weeks on this one topic,” she said. “It is part of a broader unit in looking at African and Asian culture throughout the year.”

According to the standard curriculum, “The student will describe the diverse cultures of the people who live in Southwest Asia (Middle East) … Compare and contrast the prominent religions in Southwest Asia (Middle East: Judaism, Islam and Christianity.”

Similar content is also taught in at least two other seventh-grade courses, human geography and world geography, Dingle said, and discussions about Islamic culture may surface in world history, ethnic studies, government, gifted comparative religion and current issues, as well as multicultural literature and world literature.

“This unit carried out its intended purpose to teach about the three religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) and make a comparison of their elements,” Dingle said.

Different middle-school grades study different areas of the world in social studies, Dingle said.

Sixth graders study Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and Canadian culture and government.

Seventh graders study Africa and Asia. And eighth graders study Georgia history.

“The bulk of the social-studies curriculum is focused on United States history,” Dingle said. “Students in K-5, with the exception of Georgia studies in second-grade, learn about the United States. Middle school students spend two years on world studies — the Middle East is one of many regions students learn about.

“Students revisit U.S. history again in eighth-grade but through the lens of Georgia studies. High school students are required to take U.S. history, world history, economics, and American government. The curriculum is balanced and comprehensive,” Dingle said.

As for how the district polices material distributed to students, Dingle said, “If there is such a thing as an effort to ‘police’ curriculum, it certainly begins with the school district. In fact, the process is very thorough.”

First, a 10-member committee including teachers, a technology specialist and one parent or college faculty member looks at the materials multiple times as a team and individually.

Next, social studies materials for all grades, K-12, are delivered to six schools, where teachers, parents and administrators can review and evaluate the committee’s top selection of materials. This year’s materials were sent to the sites on Jan. 18.

In accordance with Administrative Rule IJJ, the public is notified of the review of opportunity on the district’s website, and through school committees and the communication department’s monthly board e-mail. Principals are also requested to advertise the review opportunity through school marquees, PTA newsletters and school councils.

The materials are also displayed for 10 business days at the district’s central office, and feedback forms were collected.

Following board approval, if a parent objects to a textbook or some material used in a classroom, a parent/guardian can ask for a “re-review” of the material by the curriculum review committee by submitting form IJK-3, which can be downloaded from the district’s website.
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Occupy Glover Street
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November 03, 2011
What the!? wrote on Wednesday, Sep 28 at 04:38 PM

..."Give the teacher some credit. Better to draw on a religiously neutral common experience than to have compared Islam to Christianity"

WHICH WAS THE STANDARD IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!

SS7G8 The student will describe the diverse cultures of the people who live in Southwest Asia (Middle East).

c. Compare and contrast the prominent religions in Southwest Asia (Middle East): Judaism, Islam, and Christianity

TEACHER GETS 0 CREDIT! Parent gets 100%! (Pam Dingle ?? what a bunch of BS - additionally, as Curriculum Director shouldn't you know what middle schoolers are taught in SS? You didn't even get that correct but nice CYA-ese. Weren't you just recently hired? Guess what? You hair is on fire Pam! Already!
Standards FYI
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October 04, 2011
If a parent has a problem with their child learning about the wider world, I might suggest hiding them away in a parochial school of their choosing. There are many in Cobb to choose from.

For the rest of us, here's the standard for public school children:

SS7G8 The student will describe the diverse cultures of the people who live in Southwest Asia (Middle East).

a. Explain the differences between an ethnic group and a religious group.

b. Explain the diversity of religions within the Arabs, Persians, and Kurds.

c. Compare and contrast the prominent religions in Southwest Asia (Middle East): Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.

d. Explain the reason for the division between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

e. Evaluate how the literacy rate affects the standard of living.
Hal Medlin
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September 30, 2011
Cobb County Parent.....I have reviewed every item presented in this class so far this school year. If you had been paying attention, and had any idea whatsoever about this, you would know that these 2 pages, out of 358, were cherry picked and used as stand alone items, without the intended accompanying material. I'm still waiting for the other 356. But hey, what do I know, I'm just the parent. Here's an idea for you, you take care of your kids, and I'll take care of mine.
CobbCountyParent
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September 30, 2011
I remember in 6th grade my son brought home a packet for social studies that had readings about Judaism, Islam, and Christianity and a rubric they had to fill in with the similarities between those religions and their differences.

Now mind you, that if anything I am a Unitarian with Buddhist tendancies who does not believe in the Holy Trinity or a God made in man's image. But you know what, I found the school's curriculum to be fair and balanced even though my specific brand of "belief" was not represented. I understood the historical significance of this lesson within the period and region they were studying, rather than taking it as some sort of indoctrination.

I am sure if Mr. Medlin had reviewed all the materials relating to this subject he would have seen more balance... rather than flying off the handle at what is one piece of a larger, multiple part curriculum. Is Mr. Medlin going to demand that Cobb County schools begin to ignore the mention of Galileo or the Inquisition since they reflect very poorly on Christianity?

Parents in Cobb County sure is setting a precedent, first the Evolution debacle and now this. If you are afraid your kids might actually LEARN something at school, maybe you should take it upon yourself to homeschool like so many other narrow-minded, ideologues in Cobb County have already done.

Hal Medlin
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September 29, 2011
I'm sorry for not proofreading. That is "the way in which it was presented". And, I'd like to add that although I'm concerned about the interaction of other kids and parents with the school system, this is entirely about MY CHILD. I'm very weary of others who think they know what's best for my child.
Hal Medlin
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September 29, 2011
It's too bad.....even though you have absolutely no clue about this, and lack any knowledge whatsoever about this particular assignment or the was in which it was presented, you do make a good point. Isn't it interesting that not one other parent rasied any concerns about this. I'd be willing to bet very few, if any, were or even now, are aware of it. It's a sad commentary on what is likely the biggest problem with schools. Parents who are not involved with their kids.
lack of knowledge
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September 29, 2011
It's too bad. Have you seen the material. Have you bothered to discover that there was no other written material offered and that this material was offered as a stand alone project. Did you know that this was two or three pages plucked from a 350 page course of study. Are you aware that most parents have no idea what their kids are studying and that even if they looked through bookbags and binders that they would discover no additional portions of this course of study? If not, perhaps you are just commenting through ignorance.
It's too bad..
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September 28, 2011
that everyone is making assumptions about the assignment based on what one parent reported to the media. Did anyone stop to think that if the assignment was that unbalanced, why have we not heard from ONE other parent of a child in that class? Were any of these critics in the class during the two week unit? Did the students perhaps get other related stories that the child brought home and the parent is choosing not to reference? Or maybe the child never even brought them home - they are middle schoolers after all. Why is everyone believing what this one parent is saying when he is the ONLY one saying anything who has a student in the class? Are we all that anxious to jump on a bandwagon, that it only takes one person to say something without any verification whatsoever. Which is worse - learning about different religions, or falling for the words of one man without even asking questions? Scary.
incorrect
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September 28, 2011
What the........What the????????????
What the!?
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September 28, 2011
Last week I rewrote the piece placing Amish and Jewish girls in the role of the Muslim girl.

I did this accurately (except for using the name 'Mariam' instead of 'Miriam') and listed clothing requirements, religious laws etc. to show that even here in the US there are many differences.

Unfortunately, if a teacher here in the US were to have to help students use critical thinking to contrast and compare their lives with those from other cultures, most US students would have no personal point of reference to draw from.

The one common set of standards found among a varied body of students that you can safely use for comparison- behavior rules, socially acceptable norms, dress requirements etc. that are not religious, - are school rules, dress codes, and discipline guides.

Give the teacher some credit. Better to draw on a religiously neutral common experience than to have compared Islam to Christianity.

Are there rules about exposed skin in your student handbook? Skirt length? Why?

At the most basic level, those rules are there for the same reason many Muslim women wear a Hijab, the Amish dress in long plain skirts and cover their hair, Orthodox Jewish women practice Tzniut (modesty), and you don't go to work in a miniskirt and halter top. (unless you work a lot with a brass pole).

Get a clue.
What School System?
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September 28, 2011
"Common sense", what public school district are you inferring to be Christian? Certainly not Cobb right? I recommend you read the bill of rights to be reminded that we are a government that promotes freedom of religion...so your inference is ridiculous.
mountain man
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September 28, 2011
I agree this was a poor compare and contrast assignment, the reasons for rules around dress codes for schools and muslim women are just too far apart for this to be meaningful. However, this has gotten way too much attention and shouldn't be front page new on the MDJ.
@Tyler
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September 28, 2011
Funny how you gravitated to the Old Testament. Finish reading the Book. The entry of Christ into the text made for a potentially happy ending.
incorrect
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September 28, 2011
This article is a typical CYA piece that totally misrepresents the manner in which this material was used. Nice try by the Cobb County School System. Ms. Dingle is incorrect. There was no attempt at balance, if that would even be possible, and there has not been. If you don't have knowledge don't comment. It's not necessarily an argument against Islam. It IS an argument against the introduction of a religion, to the exclusion of other religions. PERIOD!
@Carmen
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September 28, 2011
Timothy McVeigh professed to being agnostic, not Christian.

Simply mentioning other peoples in your religious book doesn't equate to teaching accurately about their religion.

Every religion will have "crazies" who do bad things in its name. Though Christianity certainly has had its share of misled dark periods in which leaders abused their interpretations of Biblical texts, Christianity does not institutionally promote violence. Islam does.

When some crazies do bad things in the name of Christianity, you'll see and hear lots of Christians speaking out against their actions. But when Muslim groups attack, there's an eerie silence from those who claim Islam is peaceful... thus, many of us have become suspicious of such claims.
Flamingp
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September 28, 2011
They should have replaced Dale Gaddis a long time ago.
Tyler Durden
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September 28, 2011
I agree, Shariah law is totally insane...so are parts of the Bible...take a gander at Leviticus 19:27 - you shouldn't cut your hair or shave (those darn hippies)

or how about Leviticus 20:9 - if you curse your Mom or Dad you should be killed (uh oh, I was really mad about my chores once..)

Or how about good old Deuteronomy 13:12-15 - if you find a town that doesn't worship like you do, destroy it and kill everyone, even the livestock...

Anyhoo- I agree, organized religion is scary. All. Of. It.

Carmen in Dallas
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September 28, 2011
Christianity IS taught in the Quran. There is a whole chapter called a Surah. The chapter/Surah name is Maryam. Pick up a copy of the Quran and read chapter/Surah Maryam. All Muslims learn of Christianity and accept Christians as people of the book. In Islam Jews, Christians and Muslims are ALL people of the book. There is no such thing as creeping sharia. Educate yourselves to our own Constitutonal Laws. Go to your nearest university and speak with a constitutional law professor and you will then understand that creeping sharia is a term that radio hosts use to fatten their wallets. Follow the money!!! And Timothy McVeigh blew up the Federal Murrah building in Oklahoma and is a Christian, should we condemn all Christians??? The Norwegian massacre also a Christian, should we condemn all Christians? Crazies, cultural beliefs (vs religion, never confuse culture and religion) and other assorted ills need to be treated with medication, education and above all else justice. Everyone needs to feel that they are treated fairly. That includes Israel and the Middle East and the rest of the World including us. Fair not some better some less but fair.
An American Mom
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September 28, 2011
Maybe if the school and Pam Dingle, the district’s curriculum director was doing their homework ...they would know that this is the OTHER side of their fair and balanced lesson:

In the Muslim faith, a Muslim man can marry a child as young as 1 year old and have sexual intimacy with this child. Consummating the marriage by 9.

The dowry is given to the family in exchange for the woman (who becomes his slave) and for the purchase of the private parts of the woman, to use her as a toy.

Even though a woman is abused, she cannot obtain a divorce.

To prove rape, the woman must have (4) male witnesses.

Often after a woman has been raped, she is returned to her family and the family must return the dowry. The family has the right to execute her (an honor killing) to restore the honor of the family. Husbands can beat their wives 'at will' and he does not have to say why he has beaten her.

The husband is permitted to have (4 wives) and a temporary wife for an hour (prostitute) at his discretion.

The Shariah Muslim law controls the private as well as the public life of the woman.

NtheNo
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September 28, 2011
Why is it so hard for these academic bubble heads to understand? It's not the subject that we find objectionable, its the context. What is remotely relevant about comparing the pros and cons of secular American school uniforms to Muslim female dress?
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