After complaints, Williamson school board appoints secret committee to review textbook

Friday, June 7, 2013 at 12:47am
By Emily Kubis, City Paper correspondent
060713 Williamson County textbook topper.jpg
(Emily B. Hall for SouthComm)


A Williamson County Board of Education committee has been formed to review a textbook after a parent filed a complaint against the geography textbook, telling officials it contained “blatant anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

But Laurie Cardoza-Moore — who filed the protest at Centennial High School where her son is a student — says the school board is not following its policy by choosing to deal with the situation out of Franklin High School despite no one filing a written formal complaint there.

The textbook titled A Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography, 10th Edition, was written by James Rubenstein, a geography professor at Miami University in Ohio. It is used in a class called Human Geography, a college-level Advanced Placement course that is an international elective open to all high school students.

Critics take particular issue with a portion of the textbook that discusses terrorism and political violence. The author uses the Israeli and Palestinian conflict as an example of how violence is interpreted differently under varying political circumstances.

“If a Palestinian suicide bomber kills several dozen Israeli teenagers in a Jerusalem restaurant,” the text reads, “is that an act of terrorism or wartime retaliation against Israeli government policies and army actions?”

In the petition, which has 297 signatures, Cardoza-Moore asks the Williamson County school board to remove the text due to its “genocidal anti-Semitic rhetoric, inaccurate historical information relative to the Middle East and the inaccurate classification of terrorist groups.”

“Competing arguments are made,” the textbook reads, “Israel’s sympathizers denounce the act as a terrorist threat to the country’s existence, whereas advocates of the Palestinian cause argue that long-standing injustices and Israeli army attacks on ordinary Palestinian civilians provoked the act.”

Cardoza-Moore said the passage leads students to view Israel’s supporters as irrational and goes beyond prompting students to discuss different circumstances of warfare.

“I have no problem helping kids use critical thinking skills,” she said, but added that critical thinking should still align with Judeo-Christian values.

“Whether it’s an international course,” she asked, “why would we teach our students values that go against our Western values?”

School board policy regarding the reconsideration of instructional materials and textbooks says efforts should be made to provide texts that present many points of view, and “censorship of instructional materials will be discouraged in order to maintain the school’s responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.”

Carol Birdsong, communications director for Williamson County Schools, said a complaint first arose at Franklin High School during a December meeting between school board members and parents to discuss concerns about the book, and would be dealt with under that jurisdiction.

Five months after the original meeting, Cardoza-Moore filed a complaint through Centennial High School and created a petition against the textbook through the pro-Israel organization Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, of which she is founder and president.

“We are following policy,” Birdsong said in reference to hearing the Franklin High complaint first.

In the event of a formal complaint, the president of the involved school’s parent organization is required to sit on the book’s review committee.

Several parents expected the review to take place through Centennial High School, including Darla Spears, the 2012-2013 president of Centennial High School’s parent association.

Spears expressed disappointment that she was not asked to sit on the committee. Gini Langham, the president of Franklin High School’s parent association, was instead asked to review the textbook.

“My concern is the level of secrecy that is covering this situation,” Spears said, also saying she was uneasy about how the United States was portrayed in the textbook.

“There was an original meeting at Franklin, but there was never an original form filed at Franklin,” said Cardoza-Moore. “I do not have a parent representative representing my concerns at Centennial High.”

But Birdsong said the paperwork for the formal complaint did not include an associated school.

Formal complaints against educational materials are not common, Birdsong said.

“It has happened before,” she said. “Maybe a parent doesn’t want their child reading a certain book, and they go through the process, and the teacher selects different material.”

“We’ve had fewer than five formal complaints over the past 10 years,” Birdsong said.

According to policy, in addition to the parent representative, the committee will also include a director, a high school principal, a board of education member, and a teacher representative.

Committee members have not been made public, Birdsong said, in order to preserve the integrity of the process. The committee will meet at an unnamed date in June. The meeting will not be open to the public.

Cardoza-Moore also said she had been denied the opportunity to meet with the committee members privately, as they would be voting on the textbook.

“I have a right to lobby the school board members to express my concerns over an issue,” she said.

Opponents of the text are concerned that Christian students were questioning their faith and discussing the concept of a Zionist agenda after studying the geography unit.

Rubenstein said tension between globalization and local diversity underlies this issue and other world problems that geographers study.

“Modern communication and technology have fostered globalization, pulling people into greater cultural and economic interaction with each other,” he said.

“The passage of concern serves as a transition from the long-standing disputes in the Middle East that students already learned in Chapter Six, Religions, and geographic perspectives on terrorism that follow in Chapter Eight, Political Geography,” Rubenstein said.

But the Proclaiming Justice to the Nations petition calls it propaganda and disinformation that “has no place in our public discourse and it certainly should not be taught to our future leaders.”

According to the Nashville-based group’s website, PJTN was formed in 2001 as a response to 9/11, which is also mentioned in the petition against the textbook.

“If we apply the same logic articulated in the textbook,” it asks, “legitimizing terror attacks against Jews in Israel … then what should we deduce from 9/11 and the Moslems who murdered almost 3,000 Americans on that horrific day?”

Rubenstein told the Williamson Herald that understanding the reasons behind a terrorist attack is not the same as justifying the attack. But to Cardoza-Moore, teaching the political circumstances that often prompt warfare and terrorism is the same as validating the violence.

When discussing 9/11, she asks, “If these people have a legitimate gripe against the United States because of our policies, are these people now justified?”

“We trust that our school board is taking our kids in the right direction,” Spears said. “It should represent our best interest by teaching a fair and balanced curriculum that is historically accurate and unbiased.”

Spears said she expected children to be taught how to think, not have them indoctrinated with what to think.

But the attempted removal of the textbook and the controversy surrounding the legitimacy of Palestinian issues highlights the very question the textbook asks students to consider, offering a local lesson on how geographical and political perspectives shape opinion.

13 Comments on this post:

By: JeffF on 6/7/13 at 5:33

"anti-Semantic" really? I'm not one to put out grammar and spelling typos but that one made me since and laugh.

By: TennesseeJed on 6/7/13 at 5:52

“I have no problem helping kids use critical thinking skills,” she said, but added that critical thinking should still align with Judeo-Christian values.

If thinking has a set of pre-conditions, as Ms. Cardoza-Moore requests, then it's not critical thinking. Williamson County's AP Human Geo students should be permitted to come to their own conclusions.

By: TennesseeJed on 6/7/13 at 6:27

"A Williamson County Board of Education committee has been formed to review a textbook after a parent filed a complaint against the geography textbook, telling officials it contained “blatant anti-Semantic rhetoric.”

Dr. Rubenstein is Jewish. Anti-Semitic Jews are a rarety. Maybe he's a sleeper agent working for the PLO.

“Whether it’s an international course,” she asked, “why would we teach our students values that go against our Western values?”

Banning well-respected textbooks that offer balanced views of issues goes against our Western values.

By: HamBoneHamBone on 6/7/13 at 6:36

"When discussing 9/11, she asks, “If these people have a legitimate gripe against the United States because of our policies, are these people now justified?”"

HOLD ON. HOLD ON FOR A SECOND. Laurie Cardoza-Moore just asked the same exact question that is in the textbook. Is she asking us to think critically about that question?

Because that MUST be anti-Something or other!

She has now offended me and should be taken out of the schools!

By: truthseeker53 on 6/7/13 at 8:32

The problem is pubic "education". School is reading, writing and arithmetic. The rest is propaganda.

By: budlight on 6/7/13 at 9:15

A secret committee? Made up of Muslims and anti-Americans.

By: mars on 6/7/13 at 2:13

To not view the war acts of the Israeli army as acts of terrorism is a pervision of reality. They are clearly terrorizing the Palestinians. In fact they are currently being brought before the world court at the Hague. This effort by Ms. Moore is is another attempt by the Israelis to suppress any adverse opinion of their constant land stealing and genocide.

By: pipecarver on 6/8/13 at 6:42

"The Nazi book burnings were a campaign conducted by the German Student Association of Nazi Germany to ceremonially burn books in Germany and Austria by classical liberal, anarchist, socialist, pacifist, communist, Jewish, and other authors whose writings were viewed as subversive or whose ideologies undermined the National Socialist administration."

Source: Wiki, Internet

By: Badbob on 6/10/13 at 4:20

"anti-Semantic", yes, certainly in parts of Williamson County, but much more common in neighboring Rutherford County.

By: cityjvtao on 6/10/13 at 8:24

Like Sarah Palin, Rev James Hagee, and other Christian Zionist, Ms. Moore’s support of Israel has underpinnings that go way beyond banning a single textbook. Cardoza is a Christian Zionist who uses support of Israel to validate her hatred for Muslims.

The belief in the rise of the Anti-Christ, the second coming of Jesus Christ, and the destruction of the forces of evil in the final battle of Armageddon comprise their founding principles. Nazis began book burning in part to eliminate all works by Jewish authors and any support of Judaism. Now comes the Conservative Right in America with a hatred for all things Muslim and the push for the removal of any support of critical thinking with regards to the problems in the middle-east. These are the initial stages of tyranny.

By: amyinsparta on 6/10/13 at 7:14

OMG! a secret committee to review a book because a crazy woman who wouldn't know a critical thought from a hole in the ground is making noise? This very thing is why I quit teaching. People don't want their children to think critically. They want them to follow the prevailing ideas of their parents without thinking-period. This parent and those like her are as dangerous to this country as any enemy or even more dangerous because she wants to curtail what has always made this country great-the freedom of every person to think for him/herself. She doesn't want freedom for anyone except her own kind. Yeah, lets just do what the Nazis did and the Communists did-rewrite the textbooks to reflect whatever crazy idea is vogue at the moment. And I predict that secret committee will find in favor of the parent because that is what they always do because they are all cowards.

By: Loner on 6/11/13 at 4:07

We got hit on 9-11 because we armed, bankrolled and defended the brutal oppressors of the Palestinian Arabs....Bin Laden explained that; why would he lie about his rationale for the attack?

Israel is a nuclear-scofflaw pariah nation that we should disassociate ourselves from.

Ms. Cordoza-Moore and her buddies should all make aliyah to trips....let them put their own hides on the line for apartheid Zionism and ethnic cleansing.

The US should disengage from Israel's eternal holy wars, while there is still time.

By: Elmer Gantry on 7/25/13 at 6:38

Laurie Cardoza-Moore and her non-profit Proclaiming Justice to the Nations cash cow: - PROCLAIMING JUSTICE TO THE NATIONS INC
Annual Revenue & Expenses Additional Information
Fiscal Year Starting: Jan 01, 2011
Fiscal Year Ending: Dec 31, 2011
Total Revenue $465,795
2011 IRS Form 990 Return of an Organization Exempt from Income Tax
2011 Compensation for Laurie Cardoza-Moore's 60 hour work week for PJTTN: