Islam School Assignment Crossword

UNION GROVE, Wis. – Pretend you’re a Muslim. That’s what a 10th grade World History writing assignment asks students to do at a Wisconsin high school.

WISN talk radio host Vicki McKenna posted Union Grove High School teacher Beth Urban’s email for a five-paragraph essay on Twitter.

It reads:

–Pretend you are:

1. Muslim male/female in U.S.

2. Give 3 examples of what you do daily for your religion and any struggles you face.

3. Again, 5 paragraphs (intro, 3 body paragraphs, closing.)

**Keep in mind we’ve been doing work and watching documentaries that have the facts needed to write the essay.

EAGnews emailed Urban to obtain more information on the assignment but she did not respond.

Specifically, we wanted to know if there were similar assignments based on other religions or just Islam, as well as what documentaries were watched to prepare for the essay.

A parent of the student who received the assignment tells EAGnews, “I feel that the purpose of the assignment is to show prejudices towards Muslims in America or to invent them or exaggerate them.”

The parent, who asked to remain anonymous, doesn’t blame the teacher for the essay’s instructions.

“I did not voice my concerns directly to the teacher because I do not blame the teacher. I believe this is a curriculum issue. The teachers are not using their own curriculum, the school boards/superintendents do generally,” according to the parent.

“I brought attention to it because I felt that it was inaccurate for World History. I would have no problem with this assignment if they were to pretend they were in the Middle East and practicing their religion. I first was bothered because it seems that if any Catholic issues are brought up attention is brought to the school and (the assignment) banned being a public school.”

EAGnews reported on another controversial lesson two years ago – almost to the day – at the same high school.

At that time, students were given a crossword puzzle that defined conservatism as “the political belief of preserving traditional moral values by restricting personal freedoms … ”

“The definitions of conservatism and liberalism make me sick,” parent Tamra Varebook told EAGnews. “I think it’s horribly distorted and it’s biased.”

After EAG’s report, the publishing company, Cerebellum Corporation, announced it would discontinue selling the “skewed” assignment.

“Although we are careful to screen the quality of our products, we are not always able to identify the problems seen in Liberalism vs. Conservatism,” Cerebellum President James Rena said in a statement sent to EAGnews.

The district said it felt that “the risk of harm to school officials and the risk of further disruption in the educational environment” left the school board with little choice but to cancel classes and extracurricular activities, and begin winter break a day early. Parents were first notified Thursday night, in a statement online.

Speaking to CBS, Sheriff Randall Fisher described the messages sent to the school district in response to the assignment as “profane” and “hateful.” The school board consulted with Sheriff Fisher before deciding to shut down the schools.

The outcry in Augusta County comes during a steady drumbeat of anti-Muslim speech by politicians and a nationwide wave of hate crimes targeting Muslims, including physical assaults and acts of vandalism and arson at mosques and Muslim-owned businesses, in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.

As part of those precautionary measures, the sheriff’s office said it would increase the number of patrols near school facilities in response to the messages.

Eric W. Bond, the superintendent of the Augusta County School District; Max W. Lowe, the principal of Riverheads High School; and Cheryl LaPorte, identified by parents and the local news media as the teacher who assigned the calligraphy exercise, did not respond to requests for comment. Parents who know Ms. LaPorte say she is not Muslim.

The district said the class included similar hands-on exposure to other religions and cultures, not just Islam. And it said that despite the outcry, it would continue to educate students about the world’s religious diversity as required by state education guidelines but that “a different, nonreligious sample of Arabic calligraphy will be used in the future.”

In an email to parents on Friday, Dr. Bond wrote that “Neither these lessons, nor any other lesson in the world geography course, are an attempt at indoctrination to Islam or any other religion.” Students were not told what the writing meant, or asked to recite it, he added, and “the scarf used in the activity was not an actual Islamic religious hijab.”

But Kimberly Herndon, a parent who has been an outspoken critic of the geography assignment, said on Facebook that the students “were instructed to denounce our Lord by copying this creed of Islam.” She organized a public forum on Tuesday at a local church, at which parents condemned the assignment and demanded that the teacher be fired.

“This evil has been cloaked in the form of multiculturalism,” she wrote, adding in a separate post that the students had been asked to write words that were “an abomination to their faith.”

“This creed is connected to jihad in that it is the chant that is shouted while beheading those of Christian faith,” Ms. Herndon wrote.

Some parents have said that any lesson that included a comparable Christian creed would be prohibited.

In an interview on Friday, Katie Reich, president of the district’s parent-teacher association, said the matter “has been blown completely out of proportion” by the people who are angered by the assignment.

“The teacher who gave the assignment probably made some poor choices in her decisions, but the real problem are the people who are threatening to riot at the schools and threatening the administration,” she said.

Laurel Truxell, a student in the class, told an NBC affiliate in Charlottesville, Va., that she at first refused to try on the head scarf, but “the teacher pushed and pushed and pushed so I did it,” she said. Her parents called the school to object after Laurel was told a picture of her wearing the head scarf would be submitted to the yearbook, she said.

“I just felt uncomfortable learning about it in a world geography class,” she told the television network. “You shouldn’t teach religion in school unless you’re in a religious class.”

Others on social media encouraged people to show support for Ms. LaPorte. “Enough with the negative and ignorant!” Rob Johnson of Roanoke, Va., wrote on Facebook. “Let’s show some common sense and support!”

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