HS test ‘slams’ Christianity, lauds Islam

New York Post
Updated: Tue., Aug. 24, 2010, 3:26 PM
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HS test ‘slams’ Christianity, lauds Islam

By YOAV GONEN Education Reporter

Last Updated: 3:26 PM, August 24, 2010

Posted: 2:33 AM, August 24, 2010

State testmakers played favorites when quizzing high-schoolers on
world religions — giving Islam and Buddhism the kid-gloves treatment
while socking it to Christianity, critics say.

Teachers
complain that the reading selections from the Regents exam in global
history and geography given last week featured glowing passages
pertaining to Muslim society but much more critical essay excerpts on
the subject of Christianity.

"There should have been a little
balance in there," said one Brooklyn teacher who administered the exam
but did not want to be identified.

"To me, this was offensive
because it’s just so inappropriate and the timing of it was piss-poor,"
he added, referring to the debate over the plan to build a mosque near
Ground Zero.

The most troubling passage came from Daniel Roselle’s "A World History: A Cultural Approach," observers said.

The passage reads: "Wherever they went, the Moslems [sic] brought with
them their love of art, beauty and learning. From about the eighth to
the eleventh century, their culture was superior in many ways to that of
western Christendom."

Meanwhile, an excerpt listing the common
procedures used by Christian friars to introduce the religion in Latin
America stated that "idols, temples and other material evidences of
paganism [were] destroyed," and "Christian buildings [were] often
constructed on sites of destroyed native temples" — and built with free
Indian labor, to boot.

"I can see why some people might see
these questions as skewed," said Mark MacWilliams, a religious-studies
professor at St. Lawrence University in upstate Canton. "Why does the
exam seem to have only documents that portray Islam as a religion of
peace, civilization and refinement, while it includes documents about
Christianity that show it was anything but peaceful in the Spanish
conquest of the Americas?"

At the same time, MacWilliams
criticized the presentation of Hernando Cortes’ conquest of Mexico —
which he said portrayed him as a "choirboy" rather than a
"conquistador."

"It’s quite a whitewash," he said.

Some other religious-studies experts contacted by The Post said they didn’t see what the fuss was all about.

"[The] selections seem about equal in terms of being
historically/culturally focused, all relatively positive about the
contributions made by each religion as it was introduced into various
societies," wrote Barbara Sproul, an associate professor of religion at
Hunter College in Manhattan.

Yet Michael Dobkowski, chair of
Religious Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in upstate
Geneva, asserted that it was only Christianity for which both positive
and negative aspects were highlighted.

"Some [essays] suggest a
kind of Christian triumphalism and the desire to convert the other that
is not present in the treatment of Islam," he said. "My impression is
that there is certainly a divergence of approaches and impressions that
should not appear in a Regents exam of this caliber."

State
education officials said that every effort had been made to present
accurate historical information through the excerpts.

They said
the questions had been developed over a four-year period and require
students to use their own knowledge of social studies to produce
answers.

They added that they weren’t aware of any complaints about the exam.

The Muslim reading:

* “Wherever they went, the Moslems [sic] brought with them their
love of art, beauty and learning. From about the eighth to the eleventh
century, their culture was superior in many ways to that of western
Christendom.

* “Some of the finest centers of Moslem life were
established in Spain. In Cordova, the streets were solidly paved, while
at the same time in Paris people waded ankle-deep in mud after a rain.
Cordovan public lamps lighted roads for as far as ten miles; yet seven
hundred years later there was still not a single public lamp in London!”

Source: Daniel Roselle, A World History: A Cultural Approach

The Christian reading:

Common Procedures used by Friars in Converting Areas in Spanish America:

* “Idols, temples and other material evidences of paganism destroyed.”

*
“Christian buildings often constructed on sites of destroyed native
temples in order to symbolize and emphasize the substitution of one
religion by the other.”

* “Indians supplied construction labor without receiving payment.”

* “In a converted community, services and fiestas were regularly held in the church building.”

Source: Based on information from Charles Gibson, Spain in America

Additional reporting by Chuck Bennett


yoav.gonen@nypost.com

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