Tennessee Lawmaker Calls For Rewriting Social Studies Standards On Islam

Sep 10, 2015

A West Tennessee lawmaker says he will try to force revisions to the state's social studies standards, amid complaints that too much attention is being given to Islam.

State Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, is calling for changes following controversies in Spring Hill and Bristol. Parents in both locations have protested a world history unit on Islam in the Middle Ages.

Tennessee education standards call for teaching students about the rise of Islam, the Qur'an and the contributions of Muslim scholars at the beginning of seventh grade. Holt says children should instead be taught "our own cultural identity," including the Ten Commandments.

According to the state Department of Education, Tennessee students do learn about the Ten Commandments, Judaism and early Christianity in sixth grade. Later on in seventh grade, they also study the Catholic Church and Protestantism.

The department also notes in a factsheet on Tennessee's social studies standards that they were developed by teachers and that local districts have the power to spend as much or as little time on each subject as they see fit.

School board members in Maury County are scheduled to discuss the social studies standards at a meeting Thursday night.

Holt nonetheless says lawmakers should rewrite the standards when they return in January.

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn has echoed the call. She said through a spokeswoman Thursday that the controversy highlights a "double standard" in teaching religion and that "parents have a right to be outraged."