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Concerned Citizens of Newton

Rally in protest of the flawed and biased curriculum in Newton, MA

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CAMERA focuses on Newton schools' Arab-Israeli conflict curriculum

News article posted by
By Andy Levin
Posted Nov 21, 2017 at 10:15 AM


It's an issue that seemingly won't go away.

Discord over the way Newton's high schools teach the Arab-Israeli conflict and Islam began six years ago, when a Newton South parent, Tony Pagliuso, was made aware of a statement in an article his daughter had been assigned in a social studies class. The article, from the "Arab World Studies Notebook," claimed that Israeli soldiers had raped and murdered hundreds of Palestinian women.

There have been other curriculum-related issues brought to the public's attention since that time: a redacted Hamas charter, inaccurate maps of the conflict, and a superficial treatment of jihad among them. Critics of NPS' history curriculum say there is a gross imbalance in the way the conflict is presented. Moreover, they claim to have been brushed off and stonewalled by school officials in their attempts to find out more information about exactly what materials are being used in the classroom.

Some materials, including the "Arab World Studies Notebook," were discontinued. But the organization Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT), led by resident Charles Jacobs, and others have continued to put pressure on the school district over the past several years to release more information and make additional changes in the curriculum that would balance presentation of the conflict.

Eventually, the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch funded an ambitious public records request and received more curriculum information from NPS. That information was made available to the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), a media-monitoring group founded in 1982 that opened a Boston branch (based in Newton) 30 years ago.

The result is a monograph, published earlier this year, "Indoctrinating Our Youth: How a U.S. Public School Curriculum Skews the Arab-Israeli Conflict and Islam." The publication expands upon the previous work done by APT and analyzes the curriculum controversy in a detailed narrative.

The CAMERA book traces what it describes as "an agenda-driven history curriculum" to an incident in which Noam Chomsky, a virulently anti-Israel MIT professor, was invited to speak at Newton South in 2007. A year later (as had been reported by APT) Paul Beran, then the director of the Outreach Center at Harvard University's Center for Middle Eastern Studies, was invited by a Newton teacher to take part in a discussion about the Oslo Peace Process. At the time, Beran was a leader of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the Boston area.

In 2010, CAMERA notes, Beran led a seminar for about 80 Newton teachers, advising them on how to teach the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Andrea Levin, president and executive director for CAMERA in Newton, spoke with the TAB about "Indoctrinating Our Youth" and the ongoing controversy with the high school curriculum.

CAMERA is known as a media watchdog. Why did it become involved in a curriculum dispute?

We've been involved in curriculum matters in the past, so it was something of a natural addition. And we were approached by citizens in the city who were frustrated that they were at a standstill getting some resolution and satisfaction in terms of knowing what was [being taught] in the schools... They just wanted a complete picture and for us to do this deeper look and analysis. That's why we took it on. It was a big, year long project.

Tell us about the source material for the monograph?
Continue reading...

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