By Kerri Bartlett, Assistant Editor
The author of a textbook used in the Williamson County Schools district that has drawn fire from a group of parents, recently said his book, now in its 10th edition, has not previously been accused of cultural and religious bias.
James Rubenstein, author of textbook
“The material on world religions and terrorism has been reviewed for accuracy and sensitivity by a large number of geography experts as well as by religious scholars, including scholars of Judaism,” James Rubenstein, the author of “A Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography, 10th Edition,” told the “Williamson Herald.” “Concerns raised in Williamson County have not been expressed in any other school district in the country.”
The book, published by Prentice Hall, was selected from the approved state list for curriculum and instruction.
Laurie Cardoza-Moore, founder of the pro-Israel advocacy group Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, submitted a request for WCS to remove the textbook from classroom curriculum because of what she describes as “blatant anti-Semitic material.”
“The content legitimizes, through implication, that Palestinians have a legitimate right to murder innocent Israelis because the Palestinians are fighting for a political cause through suicide bombers,” she wrote on her petition for WCS to review the textbook. She has a child who attends a WCS high school.
Cardoza-Moore, who founded PJTN in 2001 in response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11, cites a specific passage involving a hypothetical Palestinian suicide bomber who targets Israeli citizens.
“If a Palestinian suicide bomber kills several dozen Israeli teens in a Jerusalem restaurant,” the text reads, “is that an act of terrorism or wartime retaliation against Israeli government policies and army actions?”
The verbiage is at the epicenter of critics’ concerns. However, some proponents of the book say critics are taking the passage out of context. Proponents say the text is academic in nature, and is designed to generate discussion upon how people from different geographic areas and circumstances view acts of violence.
WCS Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney said he has tasked a review committee to read the entire text as prescribed by policy. The committee will hold a hearing with the complainant and the affected school employees before presenting its decision whether to remove the textbook from the Advanced Placement curriculum.
“We are in the process of having the material formally reviewed as outlined in policy,” Looney said. “I am fully confident that the review process will yield a rational result.”
Rubenstein, a professor of geography at the University of Miami, Ohio, said the recent Boston Marathon bombing in April underscores the importance of the academic question his text raises.
“Our country recently endured another tragic act of terrorism. We want to know why the Tsarnaev brothers bombed the Boston Marathon,” Rubenstein said. “Understanding why they did it doesn’t mean we are justifying what they did. It’s the same thing with other world conflicts and terrorist acts.”
Cardoza-Moore said that there is more at stake than a passage in a high school textbook.
“Anti-Semitic comments are creeping into schools and universities across the nation,” she told the “Herald.” “It’s going to stop right here.”
Skip Anderson contributed to this story.
Posted on: 5/23/2013