Here’s a horrible homework assignment for a seventh grade history class:
The worksheet, Vocabulary Pictures: The Rise of Islam, listed words such as Quran, Mecca, Bedouins and Muhammad with spaces for students to draw pictures or images related to those words.
So… it was an assignment that basically told kids to draw Muhammad. (It’s not even a good assignment. Drawing images associated with Islam? That’s almost entirely busy work with no substantive value.)
Before people argue that drawing Muhammad isn’t a big deal when you’re not Muslim, remember: this isn’t a debate on whether one religion’s rules apply to everyone else. This is simply a class introducing the faith to 12-year-olds. Whoever designed the assignment clearly didn’t realize Islam forbids such images.
Unfortunately, a teacher in California’s Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District didn’t realize the issue, either. That teacher handed out the worksheet (which wasn’t part of the approved curriculum) and at least one parent complained before the media got involved.
The right response would be for the teacher and administration to apologize for the nature of the assignment, make clear that this was just an oversight and there was no anti-Muslim sentiment in play, and promise that that particular worksheet won’t be given again.
But Superintendent Brent Woodard went completely overboard in his solution:
“I have directed all staff to permanently suspend the practice of drawing or depiction of any religious leader,” Woodard said [last] Wednesday afternoon in a text message. “I am certain this teacher did not intend to offend anyone and in fact was simply teaching respect and tolerance for all cultures.”
Not only does that fail to address the specific nature of Islam’s concerns, it creates more problems than it solves.
The Los Angeles Daily News‘ Kevin Modesti has several questions for Woodard to answer following that statement:
Is he banning drawing religious figures, which would be censorship, or banning such assignments?
Is he really intent on not offending anyone, and “teaching respect and tolerance for all cultures”?
Or is he only afraid to offend the religious? What about atheists, who might be offended by kowtowing to the faithful? What about those who value the First Amendment over “sensitivity”?
Is he supporting the teacher? Does he want a teacher to tailor history lessons to avoid upsetting students? What else does he want the teacher to leave out?
By instituting a kind of censorship, the principal used a full body cast when a Band-Aid would have done just fine. There are plenty of reasons showing religious imagery in a history class would be useful — and good luck having an art class without references to God.
This wasn’t that complicated, but Woodard’s comments only made things worse.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)