JCRC, ADL see anti-Israel bias in high school history text

A Middle East curriculum used in some local high schools is strongly biased against Israel, the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council is charging.

The offending curriculum, the “History Alive!” series distributed by the Rancho Cordova-based Teachers’ Curriculum Institute, was discovered by a Santa Rosa parent who not only brought it to the attention of the JCRC but filed a complaint against Maria Carrillo High School.

The parent, an attorney, did not want to be named in j. but he is angry.

First, he found a textbook he found factually incorrect. But what he saw in some supplemental materials was even worse.

The supplementary materials provided by TCI have so many inaccuracies that the section on the Arab-Israeli conflict shouldn’t be used, according to the JCRC’s report.

One especially offensive activity, the JCRC said, divides the students into two groups. There are the “Pads,” whose ancestors have lived in the Land of Pad for thousands of years, and the “Jeds,” who are told: “Your ancestors used to live in the Land of Z, which you believe was given them by God. Your ancestors were forced to leave the Land of Z 2,000 years ago, and your people have been scattered throughout the world ever since.”

The exercise has the teacher, acting as “the Great Power,” favoring the Jeds over the Pads in trying to reach a small, overcrowded plot of land bordered by desks in the classroom. The Pads and Jeds debate whom it belongs to, and the teacher is to act unimpressed by whatever the Pads have to say, while agreeing with the Jeds.

Jackie Berman, the JCRC’s education specialist co-authored the JCRC study with Yitzhak Santis, the JCRC’s Middle East director.

That exercise is perhaps the most egregious example, the JCRC maintains, but there are many such problems in the curriculum, causing Berman to conclude: “That’s why it can’t really be fixed, by saying, ‘Change this around or that.’ It’s just permeated with this kind of bias.”

Neither Berman nor a TCI spokeswoman knew how widely the TCI curriculum is used in this area, but Berman said she had been in touch with the JCRC in Chicago, where schools were also using it. According to the company’s Web site, www.historyalive.com, TCI programs are used by more than 1,000 school districts across the nation, and there are testimonials from California officials from Fremont Union High and Cupertino Unified school districts.

On Monday, Berman and Jonathan Bernstein, director of the Central Pacific region of the Anti-Defamation League, met with the assistant superintendent of the Santa Rosa City School District, Steve Butler. The ADL has dealt with the TCI curriculum on a national level.

Butler said the district tried to solve the complaint filed by the parent informally, as is district procedure. When they were unable to, they convened a committee of four educators not connected to the school to review the offending materials.

The committee found that with supplementary information, including some provided by the parent, as well as the JCRC’s report, multiple points of view were represented, Butler said.

The conclusion the panel came to was that the materials “are not perfect, but they weren’t at a point where they needed to be censored or banned,” he said. “This is making a mountain out of a molehill for us.”

That response does not please those at the JCRC. A copy of the report is set to be sent off to TCI shortly. And Santis said this will be an ongoing story.

“We’re not satisfied,” said Santis. “If the Santa Rosa school district acknowledges it’s flawed, why are they using it? We urge that the school district drop this curriculum completely.”

The district’s response certainly was not enough for the offended parent either. He said he is not only filing a complaint against the teacher, but plans to continue the appeal to the state department of education and is willing to file a lawsuit, if necessary.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."