You are to be forgiven if you don’t immediately appreciate how learning calligraphy plays a role in a course in social studies.
But that’s not what has parents of students at Riverheads High School in Staunton, Va., seeing red. Rather, it is what the children were given as a model of this art form. Teacher Cheryl LaPorte handed out Arabic script for the First Pillar of Islam, which translates to “There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”
District officials have countered, arguing there was no attempt to indoctrinate the children, as some parents have charged.
According to the News Leader, Augusta County Superintendent Eric Bond issued a press release in which he claimed that when students learn about a geographic region they also study the religion and written language of the region.
The students were presented with the statement to demonstrate the complex artistry of the written language used in the Middle East, and were asked to attempt to copy it in order to give the students an idea of the artistic complexity of the calligraphy….
Neither these lessons, nor any other lesson in the world geography course, are an attempt at indoctrination to Islam or any other religion, or a request for students to renounce their own faith or profess any belief. Each of the lessons attempts objectively to present world religions in a way that is interesting and interactive for students.
The article quotes one community member defending the practice on Facebook, pooh-poohing parents’ concerns and adding “We’re talking about Muslims, not witches.” Presumably the commenter hasn’t heard about the so-called separation clause of the First Amendment, which liberals cite whenever a school dares to breathe the word religion, let alone teach about it.
As for the assignment, suffice it to say that the decision to use this particular text passage is ill-advised at a time when impressionable teens are being radicalized by Islamic extremists.
*UPDATE* Yesterday, Augusta Schools closed citing communications received over this controversial assignment. The specific nature of the communications was not revealed.
The local NBC affiliate tweeted the complete statement from the school board:
— NBC29 (@NBC29) December 17, 2015