Editorial: Teaching materials get failing grade

A balance of perspectives is required in any classroom, be it first grade or 12th.

Any educator who strives to positively portray Islam should be applauded, though not when it means using fabricated history lessons. Not when it means twisting the intentions of democracy. And most definitely not when it means denying the existence of Israel.

JTA spent a year investigating how anti-Israeli teaching materials are penetrating the American school system. The trail of influence and financing appears to be byzantine.

There’s no clear way to connect the dots and call it a conspiracy. But this much is certain: Perhaps millions of students are being taught distortions about the Middle East and the United States.

We’d say those programs in question deserve a failing grade.

Some of our most prominent universities are to blame, including Georgetown, Harvard and Yale. They are inviting Saudi-backed educational specialists onto their campuses. Those specialists, with one-sided Islamic worldviews, are training public school educators at federally funded learning centers.

All of that is happening in the name of academic freedom — with taxpayers’ money.

Those universities misinterpret the charge allotted to them under Title VI of the Higher Education Act.

That dusty, Cold War-era legislation funds those university-level learning centers for the stated purpose of national security. The learning centers, however, seem to be turning into incubators for anti-Western dogma.

Still, there’s a modicum of good news amid the heaps of bad — Congress is currently rethinking Title VI.

We would never support reauthorizing the legislation without major amendments, however. The learning centers need federal oversight, as do the educators who run them. We are wary of government censorship, but we are equally wary of a system running amuck.

There is another problem, too. Some teaching materials are marketed directly to school districts. That’s why we’re especially glad to have folks such as Jackie Berman on our side.

Berman, an educational consultant at the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council, runs the Institute for Curriculum Services, which has pored through materials currently being considered for adoption by California.

Already, the institute has red-flagged textbooks that flagrantly violate standards.

On Thursday, Nov. 3, the state Board of Education will decide what passes muster for students and what doesn’t. We urge the board to heed the institute’s findings.

With a system of checks and balances at the federal and state levels, we think schools can fend off anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish influences.