American elementary and high school textbooks contain many “gross misrepresentations” of Judaism, Christianity and Israel,according to a book-length study released this week by the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research.
“It is shocking to discover that history and geography textbooks widely used in America’s elementary and secondary classrooms contain some of the very same inaccuracies about Christianity, Judaism and the Middle East as those [used] in Iran,” the IJCR said in a summary of the findings of the five-year study.
In examining the 28 most widely-used history, geography and social studies textbooks in America, researchers Dr. Gary Tobin and Dennis Ybarra found some 500 instances of “errors, inaccuracies and even propaganda” on these issues. Tens of millions of schoolchildren in all 50 states use the textbooks, according to Tobin.
The study compared language used in describing Jewish and Christian belief with that describing Muslim belief. “The textbooks tend to be critical of Jews and Israel, disrespectful about Christianity, and rather than represent Islam in an objective way, tend to glorify it,”says Ybarra.
“Textbook publishers often defer completely to Muslim groups for their content [on Islam] because they want to be sensitive to Muslim concerns,” he explained. “So they write that Mohammed is a prophet of God, without the qualifier you should have in a public school that shows you’re teaching about religion, rather than teaching religion.”
One example among the many cited in the study is in World History: Continuity and Change, in which a glossary entry on the Ten Commandments describes them as “Moral laws Moses claimed to have received from the Hebrew God Yahweh on Mount Sinai.”
The same glossary describes the Koran as a “Holy Book of Islam containing revelations received by Muhammad from God” – without a conditional qualifier.
“Islam is treated with a devotional tone in some textbooks, less detached and analytical than it ought to be,” the study finds. “Muslim beliefs are described in several instances as fact, without any clear qualifier such as ‘Muslims believe… .’