While Tennessee’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards is being scrutinized on the governmental level, members of the Tri-Cities religious community extended that scrutiny to include a spiritual one as well, reports the Johnson City Press.
On Tuesday evening at Fountain of Life Bible Church, more than 100 people were in attendance as community and religious leaders denounced the standards as harmful and seditious to the American way of life.
“The Common Core curriculum is destroying America from within,” said Scott Parker, the church’s youth pastor. “They’re attempting to stunt the spiritual growth of our youth (and) they’re destroying the principles and values that the country was built on.”
…(M)ost of the concerns voiced were toward a section of the 7th-grade social studies curriculum that was adopted by the state board of education in June of 2013 which dealt with the Islamic World. Craig Honeycutt, whose daughter is a 7th-grade student in the Bristol City Schools system, said he grew concerned over the standards when he learned she would spend four weeks studying the Islamic world.
“Why do we need to give Islam four weeks?” Honeycutt said. “If you want to teach a few days of Islam in a historic aspect, I’m fine with that. What you’re going to find … is anything but historic It’s indoctrination, it’s religion, it’s theology, it’s philosophy, (and) it’s how to convert.”
According to the Tennessee Department of Education website, during those four weeks — which are included in the literacy in social studies subsection of the Tennessee state standards — “students analyze the geographic, political, economic, social, and religious structures of the (Islamic) civilizations.” During those four weeks, students are expected to learn the geography of the Arabian Peninsula and the surrounding area, along with some of the region’s and culture’s contributions to art, architecture, science and literature, among others.
What concerned Honeycutt, however, were the areas of study that focused on the religion of Islam, which included studying the Qu’ran, the teachings of Muhammad and the link between it and Judaism and Christianity. Specifically, he listed the teaching of the five pillars of Islam — which are five acts that are deemed essential to Muslims — as troubling.
“This makes me mad,” he said. “The first pillar of Islam is called Shahada; it is a brief prayer proclaiming the oneness of God and faith in Islam. Children … memorize the Shahada as an action which introduces them to the Islamic community. … Would you want your children doing that?
“The Bible says this, Romans 10:9, ‘If thou shalt confess with thy mouth, “the lord Jesus” and believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ Try teaching that verse and a Christian perspective in a public school and see how far you get.”
UPDATE NOTE: Columnist Pam Strickland says Parker seems, well, misinformed.
There are a few problems with Parker’s rants. First, the state’s social studies standards, from kindergarten through 12th grade, aren’t based on the Common Core. The social studies standards, as adopted by the state Board of Education in July 2013, were written by a committee of Tennessee educators from rural and urban districts. One of the educators who helped write the standards, including those for the seventh grade that Parker doesn’t like, is Judy Newgent, Knox County social studies specialist.