Featured Letter: Concerns are really about religion

11/21/2013 6:00 AM |

To the editor:

The recent article and letters regarding the banning of the book “Nasreen’s Secret School,” which was being taught to local third-graders, have not, as some suffolktimes.com commenters claim, been just about the developmental appropriateness of the emotional content of the book.

I appreciate that there is frustration with the Common Core, but the conversation has been hijacked and injected with what amounts to discriminatory, ignorant and shameful speech that individuals feel compelled to express in the guise of “protecting children,” starting with the comments of school board member Scott DeSimone and including the recent letter by Kathy Izzo.

Pointing to the ethnicity and religious beliefs of the characters as being a valid justification for banning the book is not only evidence of intolerance, it is dangerous. The last time I checked, we live in a country founded on the concepts of tolerance and freedom, and not only should we accept diversity in our education system, it would behoove us to know something about the cultures and religions of the world, whether through direct study or indirect appearances as characters in our lives.

The simple appearance of the name Mohamed in a math problem should not frighten a parent, let alone a presumably educated teacher’s aide; it is a name common to a culture, no more scary than Paul or Joseph or Isaiah, and does not automatically mean the message of a math problem is religious. And how is a book that quotes the Koran or shows a girl praying to Allah any different from one that shows details of Christian or Jewish or Hindu practices, unless you consider all Muslims to be evil? We should support our teachers in encouraging the investigation of other ways of life, other religions and at very least helping kids to become familiar with names and concepts they would not otherwise be directly exposed to in what Ms. Izzo refers to as “our town.” This is the very nature of education, and by equating teaching with indoctrination, we endanger the validity of academic instruction itself.

Christopher Fanjul, Mattituck

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