Letters to the Editor
Readers write about how American students are taught about Islam, illegal filesharing, and strip searches in schools.
Textbooks cannot tell the entire truth of a religion
Regarding the April 22 Opinion piece, "What are US students learning about Islam?": Author Gary Bauer is understandably disturbed by the fact that many high school history textbooks gloss over various facts about Islam, but I am not convinced that he wants the good aspects of the Islamic state to be told.
I agree with Mr. Bauer that texts should not be "feel-good distortions," and they certainly need to indicate the violent and oppressive aspects of "the Islamic state" in its historical context.
However, they also need to encourage investigation into how those various states functioned (in terms of legal systems, constitutions, division of labor, etc).
Bauer is correct that today's textbooks do not encourage students to ask critical questions, but he implies that pre-Reagan textbooks were somehow better in this regard. I am not so sure.
For example, I expect that the modern texts now state that for almost 1,300 years, Islamic governments ruled across a vast portion of the world, from small towns to transcontinental states. They may also now say, that for each of those states, for better or worse, a Muslim ruler governed according to God's law, expressed through principles and rules of the sharia that were expounded by scholars.
Do the textbooks stop right there and ask the students to think about that for a moment, conceptually, and contrast it to our legal system, in which we strive to separate church and state? It is an interesting exercise, but I'm not sure that Bauer wants to go that far.