For more on the actual sixth and seventh grade social studies standards, see our previous post. More than 30,000 WCS students have taken social studies, including world religions, under the current comprehensive standards. (The standards related to the history of world religions used to be covered in sixth grade; they are now split between sixth and seventh grades.)
Have you heard of a single convert based on middle school social studies? Ever?
We are talking about real people here. Who believes that an actual seventh grade social studies teacher is indoctrinating kids into Islam? That’s a pretty hefty charge to make. If this charge is true, social studies teachers are either unwittingly tricking your kid into changing religions (without knowing about it themselves) or they are fiendishly and deliberately plotting to convert kids to Islam? It’s a hefty accusation either way.
Something else is going on here…
This charge of ‘indoctrination’ is not new, and it’s not really about seventh grade. (It is very popular with the 912 Glenn Beck crowd.)
“…an insidious action was at work to brainwash our children to be anti-free market, anti-capitalism, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, pro socialism, pro Islam, pro big government, anti-innovation, anti-fossil fuels, pro renewable energy.” – 912 Project TN president, J. Lee Douglas, 10/8/13
“The majority of the current crop of teachers and administrators are already subjects (victims) of the systematic indoctrination that has been inflicted on our education system for decades.” – Textbook activist and 912er Jackie Archer in an 8/30/14 opinion piece
“I am hearing more of this from parents. Especially 7th graders here in Williamson county. Any parents or teachers noticing this anti-American, pro-Islam bias in their teaching materials?” – School Board member Beth Burgos, 11/29/14 “…it only takes a few bad apples. And in our universities they are a majority. It’s also in textbook companies like Pearson publishers. If your child comes home with one of their books then beware. I wouldn’t spend any money on one of their books.” – School Board member Beth Burgos, 11/30/14
American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ)
American Center for Law & Justice is a national organization based in Washington, DC. It was founded in 1990 by evangelical minister Pat Robertson. ACLJ is a trade name for its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, nonprofit, religious organization Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism, Inc. (CASE), which is “specifically dedicated to the ideal that religious freedom and freedom of speech are inalienable, God-given rights.”
ACLJ is a very powerful national group with a Williamson County connection. In 2011, Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of ACLJ, split his time living between Franklin and Norfolk, Virginia. There is a ton of information available on ACLJ and Jay Sekulow. Here are a few articles:
Fearmongering for dollars
The ACLJ was quick out the door with a fundraising letter in response to the allegations that Tennessee seventh grade social studies teachers were indoctrinating children into Islam. In mid-September, ACLJ began an email campaign against “Forcing Islam” and started a petition to “Stop Islamic Indoctrination in Our Schools.” The emails contain three links to make a monetary contribution to ACLJ. The petition page has two prominent “Donate” buttons.
ACLJ states on its website and fundraising emails:
“children are being forced to learn how to convert to Islam”
“Their assignments actually explain how to convert to Islam.”
“Schools are censoring Christianity and proselytizing Islam.”
The ACLJ wants some info, yeah a lot of info.
On September 16, ACLJ made a public records request of all 146 public school districts in the state of Tennessee. The request is very broad and includes every communication “concerning any world religion” including emails between parents and teachers. It also includes detailed lesson plans and all tests, quizzes and assignments from every teacher who touches upon “world religions.” They also want the name of every single teacher who teaches the classes.
Chuck Cagle, an attorney representing almost 80 districts, said:
“I’ve never seen a records request that has asked for this volume of information in 25 years of practicing law.”
“On the front end, this could cost school boards hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars to respond to this request.”
As of September 29, many school districts including Williamson County Schools had denied the request because ACLJ is a DC-based organization and not a Tennessee resident. The Tennessee Open Records Act requires that certain public records be made available for “personal inspection by any citizen of this state.”
We assume ACLJ will reissue the request and get a Tennessee resident to make the request on their behalf.
But irrespective of the legal questions about the request, our question remains the same: what’s really going on here?