“Teachers are pulling things off the Internet, and a lot of it is fine, but a lot of it not”
A monograph published late last month of anti-Israel curriculum used in Newton, Mass., public high schools has led to revelations of similar materials in circulation at other school districts in the country, the report’s researcher told the Washington Free Beacon on Thursday.
Steven Stotsky of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) said that since the release of his findings in “Indoctrinating Our Youth: How a U.S. Public School Curriculum Skews the Arab-Israeli Conflict and Islam,” he has received phone calls alerting him to disquieting curricula being used in Michigan and California.
“We turned over a rock and discovered a significant problem,” said Stotsky, about his deep dive into textbooks, articles, timelines, and maps used from at least 2011 to 2015—some possibly still in use—for World History course sections on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Islam in Newton’s two public high schools, which are among the most prestigious in the country.
The materials included the Arab World Studies Notebook, a textbook the American Jewish Committee has previously condemned as filled with “factually inaccuracies,” “overt bias,” and “unabashed propagandizing”; a timeline of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that almost entirely omitted instances of Palestinian terrorism; and a misrepresentative translation of the Hamas charter.
Stotsky said procedures must be established for vetting all materials brought into the classroom.
“Teachers are pulling things off the Internet, and a lot of it is fine, but a lot of it not. They can’t just be giving this stuff to students,” said Stotsky.
He questioned the decision to teach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a history class at all.
“History is complicated enough when you are studying issues that are 100, 200 years old,” he said. “You further complicate things when you add current events, and the Israeli-Palestinian issue is still politically and ideologically active.”
Stotsky’s report was the first comprehensive study of these materials, which were only obtained after a years-long battle with Newton administrators by an ad-hoc group of parents and concerned citizens.
Questions about the Newton curriculum were first raised in 2011, but the school district delayed turning over the documents until the summer of 2016. They only complied with those demands after Judicial Watch submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in October 2014, and even then dragged their feet for another two-and-a-half years.
“The obstruction, the failure to respond to citizens’ concerned, the lack of transparency was shocking,” said Stotsky. “The fact that it had to go all the way to a FOIA request is outrageous.”
An easy fix to the transparency issue, said Stotsky, would be simply throwing all curricula up on the Internet as a matter of policy.
Inaccurate, misleading, and radical Israel education is an ongoing problem at area schools, Stotsky said, pointing to a May 2017 “Middle East History Day” program at Newton North High School, at which he described a speaker as giving an “anti-Israel rant” to 150 students.
According to Stotsky, all the members of the Newton School Committee were sent copies of the CAMERA monograph weeks ago, and were asked to respond. Stotsky has been met with silence.
Ruth Goldman, the chair of the Newton School Committee—one of whose roles she said is “transparent communication with parents”—said all of the committee members received the CAMERA monograph and that a few had skimmed through it.
“You have to understand, we receive a lot of materials, and we can’t look through everything. We proactively seek out things that are agenda items for the committee. We don’t take up every thing that comes across our email,” said Goldman.
Goldman also said she couldn’t speak to the details of the case because “all that happened before my time on the committee.” She has served as the committee chair since 2013, a year before the FOIA was first submitted.
“It really had all been taken care of by the time I got here. It’s an old subject at this point,” Goldman said. “We communicate regularly with parents. We have a transparent process at the school committee.”
She wouldn’t speak to specific school curriculum, but said the district adheres to state guidelines and that “history is a tricky subject” taught in a “narrative and critical framework.”
Other school committee members told the Washington Free Beacon that they had not received the monograph and were not familiar with the case.
The mayor of Newton, who also sits on the school committee, was “too busy” to comment.
The superintendent did not respond to the Free Beacon‘s inquiry.