The Subversive Agenda of our Public Schools

What we all need to know and how we can change it.

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Robert Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch, a program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and the author of ten books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Truth About Muhammad and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (both Regnery). He is coauthor, with Pamela Geller, of The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration's War On America (Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster).

FP: Robert Spencer, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

You will be on a panel discussion coming up soon in Los Angeles about what is going on in our K-12 public schools. Tell us who will be joining you on the panel, when exactly, and what all of this is about.

Spencer: Thanks, Jamie. The panel will be Tuesday night, January 11, at 7 pm at the Luxe Hotel Sunset (11461 Sunset Blvd) in Los Angeles.

The topic is: The Subversive Agenda of our Public Schools: What we need to know and how we can change it.

It features these people along with me:

Lance Izumi – Senior Director of Education Studies at the Pacific Research Institute. He has written at length about how teacher union contracts severely limit our children’s chances of getting a good public school education.

Mary Grabar - Teaches in the Program in Democracy and Citizenship at Emory University. She regularly speaks and writes about how American education has fallen into the hands of people who are doing their best to radically alter the way we educate our young.

David Upham – Professor of Politics at the University of Dallas. Specializing in political and legal theory, he recently inserted himself in the Texas curriculum-textbook controversy and came up with some interesting findings.

Larry Sand – Retired teacher and president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network.  Realizing that so many are misled by our teachers’ unions, he writes and speaks about the unions and their ongoing battle against any meaningful education reform.

FP: Ok, so tell us a bit about what is going on in our public schools. Is “multiculturalism” being forced on students? With what effect?

Spencer: Multiculturalism, certainly, but I am particularly concerned personally with the Islamic slant of public school textbooks. Of all the arenas in which the stealth jihad is advancing, the most crucial is in our schools, where stealth jihadists have found a welcoming environment among teachers deeply steeped in the multiculturalist ethos. With the mandate of “tolerance” robbing many educators of their ability to evaluate non-Western cultures critically, teachers are highly susceptible to an organized campaign by U.S.-based Islamic organizations and their primary benefactor, Saudi Arabia, to present a view of Islam that whitewashes its violent history and intolerant religious imperatives.

Meanwhile, in America’s Islamic academies, teaching materials, some direct from Saudi Arabia, instill unequivocal hatred toward non-Muslims and a deep suspicion of Western culture. But none of that hatred appears in the material Islamic groups place in mainstream public schools – which would be positive if it represented a genuine departure from that Saudi-instilled perspective. But it doesn’t; in fact, many of the Islamic groups that vet American public school textbooks for the accuracy of their material on Islamic doctrine and history are also Saudi-funded. And they make sure that the Islamic instruction in these textbooks presents a picture of Islam that is so pristine and whitewashed that it sometimes crosses the boundary from mere pro-Muslim bias into outright Islamic proselytizing.

And so the effect is that while Muslims in the West grow increasingly more assertive in demanding that Western institutions accommodate Sharia provisions, American schoolchildren are learning a partial and rosy view of Islam in American public schools – using books that have been vetted by organizations linked to the stealth jihad.

FP: What textbooks are being used to teach students? For instance, are your books part of the curricula in schools to help students understand the threat to our civilization and to help us defend it?

Spencer: I know of no public school that uses my books as part of a curriculum to help students understand the threat. I’d be surprised to hear of any curricula devoted to helping students understand the threat.

Instead, we get a whitewashing of Islam. In a study released in June 2008, the American Textbook Council, an independent national research organization that evaluates the quality of textbooks, issued a report finding that ten of the most widely used middle school and high school social studies textbooks “present an incomplete and confected view of Islam that misrepresents its foundations and challenges to international security.” The books present highly tendentious constructions as undisputed truth, making common cause with West-hating multiculturalists to bowdlerize the presentation of Islam, denigrate or downplay Christianity and Western civilization, and transform many public school textbooks into proselytizing tracts. And this tendency has only intensified since September 11.

California seventh graders, for example, use a text called History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond, produced by the Teachers’ Curriculum Institute. Defining jihad, the book tells students that “Muslims should fulfill jihad with the heart, tongue, and hand. Muslims use the heart in their struggle to resist evil. The tongue may convince others to take up worthy causes, such as funding medical research. Hands may perform good works and correct wrongs.” It gives no idea that Muslims have ever viewed jihad as involving, in whole or part, warfare against unbelievers, or have ever waged war on that basis. Muhammad, meanwhile, far from exhorting his followers to subjugate unbelievers, “taught equality” and was a prototypical compassionate liberal who instructed Muslims “to share their wealth and to care for the less fortunate in society.”[1]

There are a few notable exceptions to the textbooks’ tendency to ignore or downplay violent jihad. For example, Holt’s Medieval to Early Modern Times approaches an honest account in defining jihad as referring not only to “the inner struggle people go through in their effort to obey God and behave according to Islamic ways,” but also to “the struggle to defend the Muslim community, or, historically, to convert people to Islam. The word has also been translated as holy war.”[2] Similarly, Prentice Hall’s Medieval and Early Modern Times at least admits that, besides spiritual struggle, jihad “can also mean waging war to spread the Islamic faith,” before it assures students that “another factor helping the Arabs” in the early Islamic conquests “was their tolerance for other religions.”[3]

But usually the textbook explanations of jihad lack any reference at all to its violent component or even deny outright that such a component exists. A typical example is Houghton Mifflin’s middle school world history book, Across the Centuries, which was at the center of a failed attempt by non-Muslim parents in 2003 to stop Islamic indoctrination in California public school classrooms.[4] It defines jihad as a struggle “to do one’s best to resist temptation and overcome evil.”[5] Prentice Hall’s high school world history text Connections to Today offers a similar take, defining jihad as “effort in God’s service,” and explaining that “Jihad has often been mistakenly translated simply as ‘holy war.’ In fact, it may include acts of charity or an inner struggle to achieve spiritual peace, as well as any battle in defense of Islam.”[6] Most egregious is History Alive!, which says that jihad “represents the human struggle to overcome difficulties and do things that are pleasing to God.” Might this struggle ever involve the force of arms? Why, yes: sometimes jihad can become a “physical struggle.” Muslims must “fight to protect themselves from those who would do them harm or to right a terrible wrong.”[7]

Who could object to that?

Very few people. But one of them is former congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO), who on the floor of the House of Representatives in 2004, starkly described the result of all this whitewashing:

“In a textbook called Across the Centuries, which is used for seventh grade history . . . the book defines the word jihad as, ‘To do one’s best to resist temptation and overcome evil.’ So now this is what children are taught the word jihad means. When this child watches a program on television and this word [jihad] is used, and it is a word used in conjunction with someone who has just blown himself or herself up, and a lot of other innocent human beings around them, this kid is supposed to think that that is what somebody is doing in order to resist temptation and overcome evil. And if we condemn jihad against the United States, then we are condemning someone who is just simply trying to overcome evil. This is what we tell our children?”[8]

FP: This is pretty bad. It can’t get worse?

Spencer: Wrong. It gets worse.

In light of the attempt of many textbooks to whitewash violence from Islam, it’s no surprise that the early spread of Islam is generally presented in benign or even positive terms. The History Alive! text is typical when it reports that Islam “spread” but does not explain how, implying that it all took place through peaceful missionary activity and voluntary conversion: “Although the first Muslims lived in Arabia, Islam spread through the Middle East.” Similarly, McDougal Littell’s World History: Medieval and Early Modern Times asserts that “there was much blending of cultures under Muslim rule. Over time, many peoples in Muslim-ruled territories converted to Islam. They were attracted by Islam’s message of equality and hope for salvation.”The American Textbook Council report notes that “McDougal Littell’s Teacher’s Annotated Edition reiterates this theme, telling instructors to stress that ‘many conquered people became Muslims [because] they found Islam’s message of equality and hope attractive.’”[9]

The experience of non-Muslims who were conquered and subjugated by the early jihad warriors, however, tells a very different story. The early Muslim conquests saw the warriors of jihad sweep out of Arabia and become the masters of a vast empire stretching from Spain to India within a century of Muhammad’s death. Islam “spread” through the Middle East when the indigenous populations in the conquered areas were subjugated as dhimmis: all they had to do to be free of the onerous tax burden and the other discriminatory hallmarks of dhimmitude was convert to Islam. And over time, they did so, in large numbers. One would think that the coercive nature of Islam’s dhimmi system would warrant a mention in these textbooks – particularly since it remains part of the system of Islamic law that jihadists are fighting, in various ways, to impose upon the West.

But no such luck. Another text, Prentice Hall’s Medieval and Early Modern Times even goes so far as to call medieval Muslim Spain a “multicultural society.” History Alive! says that in medieval Spain “a unique culture flourished in cities like Cordoba and Toledo, where Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived together in peace.”[10] Of course, this is a common historical myth today: even the conservative flagship National Review gushed in 2002 about medieval Spain as a multicultural paradise featuring “a vibrant economy and an adventurous intellectual community, ruled by a benign Islamic monarch whose Jewish right-hand man helps bring about a mutually beneficial relationship with Orthodox Christians.”[11]

But pace Dr. Goebbels, constant repetition does not make this sort of thing true, and it has no business being in a school textbook where it can mislead students about exactly what kind of society jihadists wish to establish by imposing Sharia. Even historian Maria Rosa Menocal, who has with her book, The Ornament of the World, popularized the notion of a tolerant, pluralistic Islamic al-Andalus, acknowledged in that book that Christians and Jews living in Muslim Spain had to abide by the laws of dhimmitude that enforced their second-class status. In return for a relative religious freedom, she writes, Jews and Christians “were required to pay a special tax — no Muslims paid taxes -- and to observe a number of restrictive regulations: Christians and Jews were prohibited from attempting to proselytize Muslims, from building new places of worship, from displaying crosses or ringing bells. In sum, they were forbidden most public displays of their religious rituals.”[12]

Historian Kenneth Baxter Wolf observes that, once they conquered Spain, the new Muslim rulers enacted a series of laws largely “aimed at limiting those aspects of the Christian cult which seemed to compromise the dominant position of Islam.” After enumerating a list of such laws, he adds, “Aside from such cultic restrictions most of the laws were simply designed to underscore the position of the dimmîs as second-class citizens.”[13]

A “multicultural society”? Not in the way that the students who use the Prentice Hall textbook will understand the term.

Sharia in general gets short shrift in these texts. Students learn that it “makes no distinction between religious beliefs and daily life” (Medieval to Early Modern Times), and that it “helps Muslims live by the teachings of the Qur’an,” (History Alive!), but they hear nothing about stonings or amputation or the subjugation of women and dhimmis. Sharia “is an Arabic word meaning ‘the way that leads to God,’” explains Prentice Hall, but says nothing about the fate that awaits those who, in this life, falter on that way.[14]

FP: What role are teachers’ unions playing?

Spencer: They are either clueless or complicit.

FP: Why are you participating on this panel and what do you hope it will help achieve?

Spencer: I hope by participating in this panel to raise awareness of the corruption of our public school textbooks, so that it may be reversed.

FP: Thanks Robert Spencer.

We welcome all of those interested to come attend this discussion. The panel will be Tuesday night, January 11, at 7 pm at the Luxe Hotel Sunset (11461 Sunset Blvd) in Los Angeles. For more info, Click Here.


[1] Gilbert T. Sewall, “Islam in the Classroom: What the Textbooks Tell Us,” American Textbook Council, June 2008. P. 6.

[2] Gilbert T. Sewall, “Islam in the Classroom: What the Textbooks Tell Us,” American Textbook Council, June 2008. Pp. 19-20.

[3] Gilbert T. Sewall, “Islam in the Classroom: What the Textbooks Tell Us,” American Textbook Council, June 2008. P. 20.

[4] “Judge rules Islamic education OK in California classrooms,” WorldNetDaily, December 13, 2003.

[5] Gilbert T. Sewall, “Islam in the Classroom: What the Textbooks Tell Us,” American Textbook Council, June 2008. P. 18.

[6] Gilbert T. Sewall, “Islam in the Classroom: What the Textbooks Tell Us,” American Textbook Council, June 2008. P. 18.

[7] Gilbert T. Sewall, “Islam in the Classroom: What the Textbooks Tell Us,” American Textbook Council, June 2008. P. 19.

[8] “Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo Speaks Out on Education,” Yorktown Patriot,

April 1, 2004.

[9] Gilbert T. Sewall, “Islam in the Classroom: What the Textbooks Tell Us,” American Textbook Council, June 2008. Pp. 15-16.

[10] Gilbert T. Sewall, “Islam in the Classroom: What the Textbooks Tell Us,” American Textbook Council, June 2008. P. 23.

[11] Scott Galupo, “Progress and Islam: The mini-enlightenment that was Andalusia,” National Review Online, May 30, 2002.

[12] María Rosa Menocal, The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain, Little, Brown, 2002. Pp. 72-3.

[13] Kenneth Baxter Wolf, Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain, Cambridge University Press, 1988. Pp. 9, 10.

[14] Gilbert T. Sewall, “Islam in the Classroom: What the Textbooks Tell Us,” American Textbook Council, June 2008. Pp. 21-22.