Right-wing websites are still hailing the Texas State Board of Education‘s passage of a resolution that attacks Islam and falsely claims that social studies textbooks are anti-Christian and pro-Muslim. And state board member Don McLeroy, the dentist from Bryan/College Station, is still pretending to be an expert in history (in addition to science, economics, political science, mathematics and the list goes on). For the newest example, check out (if you have the stomach for this particular website) a story posted Tuesday at WorldNetDaily, the far-right, conspiracy-obsessed site run by folks who seem to think Ann Coulter is too liberal and tolerant. (Yes, we’re serious. Now clean up the coffee you just spit out on your keyboard.)
The WND article goes through the list of disingenuous and outright false claims made by supporters of the state board’s anti-Muslim resolution. We see no point in repeating them here — we debunked them long ago, explaining how the resolution’s charges are based on absurdly incomplete and grossly distorted information about what’s actually in world history textbooks used in public school classrooms. What really forces your forehead into your palm, though, is McLeroy’s demonstration — once again — of why politicians shouldn’t be deciding what children learn in their classrooms. Here’s what McLeroy has to say about how a particular world history textbook discusses the spread of Islam to distant places:
“On page 167 it says, ‘The fact that Islam won converts overwhelmingly through peaceful contacts by long-distance traders and the preaching and the organizational skills of the Sufis.’ I think that’s inaccurate.”
Sigh. No, it’s not. In fact, page 167 of the textbook he’s discussing — World Civilizations: The Global Experience — falls in a chapter about the spread of Islam to South and Southeast Asia. And guess what? Historical scholarship does show that Islam spread to those regions largely through trade and missionary work. In fact, Indonesia is the largest country in the world with a mostly Muslim population. Muslim armies didn’t conquer Indonesia, Malaysia or other countries throughout that region of the world. Islam spread throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa the same way — through traders and Muslim missionaries.
For McLeroy, however, history is black and white: either Islam spread through conquest (as it actually did in the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Europe), or it didn’t. History is far more complicated than that. After all, Christianity spread throughout much of the Americas through European conquest, forced conversion of native populations and colonization. But Christianity also spread through trade and missionary work.
Look, we don’t point all this out to pick on Don McLeroy. We are simply noting what is clearly obvious to most Texans (72 percent of them, actually, as our May 2010 poll showed): teachers and scholars should be deciding what students learn in our public schools, not politicians who are more interested in promoting their own personal opinions and agendas than in basing education on facts and sound scholarship. If you agree, join our Just Educate campaign to reform the State Board of Education and keep politics out of our children’s classrooms.