Saturday, March 7, 2009

Jesus is a Palestinian: Who Knew?

I don't think that America's government schools should teach religion, in the sense of encouraging devotion to any particular faith. That's why I'm not too uncomfortable with a textbook's defining the Ten Commandments as "Moral laws Moses claimed to have received from the Hebrew God Yahweh on Mount Sinai."

America has secular public schools, so qualifiers like that may be inevitable, if not necessary.

A Little Consistency, Please

Secular schools treating religions equally is fine: as long as some aren't treated more equally than others.

And it looks like some K-12 history textbook publishers have an "Animal Farm" notion of what "equal" means:

"In 'World History: Continuity and Change' by William T. Hanes, the Quran is defined as the 'Holy Book of Islam containing revelations received by Muhammad from God.' The Ten Commandments, on the other hand, are described as the 'moral laws Moses claimed to have received from the Hebrew God Yahweh on Mount Sinai.' " (The Jewish Journal)

  • "revelations received by Muhammad from God"
  • "moral laws Moses claimed to have received from the Hebrew God Yahweh"
Not exactly a subtle difference.

I don't know how that sort of two-tier equality got into the books: but it shouldn't surprise anyone.

As a recovering high school English teacher, I've been inside American public schools, and the university system that's supposed to train teachers.

In the sixties, seventies, and eighties I learned to deal with an academic culture with very well-defined values and beliefs - which occasionally reflected objective realities. Collegiate fads like multiculturalism may not be as popular now as they were a few decades ago, but they seem to have left a mark.

Jesus is a Palestinian: Who Knew?

So much depends on how terms are defined. And used. Here's a question from "Social Studies: The World" - " 'True or False: Christianity was started by a young Palestinian named Jesus.' " Students are supposed to answer "True."

"Palestine" can mean a few things, including:
  1. A former British mandate on the east coast of the Mediterranean; divided between Jordan and Israel in 1948
  2. An ancient country in southwestern Asia on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea; a place of pilgrimage for Christianity and Islam and Judaism
    • Palestine
    • Canaan
    • Holy Land
    • Promised Land
    (Princeton's WordNet)
Using definition 2, Jesus could be called a Palestinian. Or, a Canaanite. That wouldn't be very accurate, but it could be done.
Saying 'Jesus is a Palestinian' Matters
Given what "Palestinian" means today, insisting that American students learn that Christianity was started by a Palestinian named Jesus may not be quite entirely accurate.

Actually, I think it's downright misleading.

Particularly since Palestinians are supposed to be 'oppressed' by Israel, in some of America's more sophisticated circles.

Which is a whole different topic.

Textbooks: Jesus is a Palestinian; Moses Claimed, Muhammad Received - A Quiet Little Topic

Considering how eager journalists seem to be, about reporting conflict and bias, you'd expect weirdness like this in American textbooks to be in the news.

It is, but just barely.

The issue is a month or so old, from what I've seen. It's possible that traditional American newspapers and broadcast news will pay attention to this controversy: but I wouldn't count on it.

It's one thing to expose hypocritical televangelists and pedophile priests. It may be quite another to point out that the Bible-thumping fundamentalists may have gotten something right, about America's schools.

That could be embarrassing.

Related posts: In the news: More, at "Who Knew? Assertions, Assumptions and Assorted Weirdness from All Over"

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.