War & Peace
Parent Outrage as Texas Public School Students Wear Burqas, Call 9/11 Hijackers ‘Freedom Fighters’
A class in a Texas high school that attempts to teach students empathy and understanding of different global viewpoints has come under fire from parents furious about some of the coursework.
Fox News reports that students in the advanced placement geography class at Lumberton High School in Lumberton, 15 miles north of Beaumont, were instructed to refer to the 9/11 hijackers as ‘freedom fighters’ instead of terrorists. Female students were also encouraged to wear burqas, and the class was told to call the Holocaust ‘ethnic cleansing’ instead of genocide.
The superintendent of the Lumberton Independent School District stands behind the course and the teacher, who is a 32-year veteran, and following state teaching guidelines.
“What is more dangerous, fear and ignorance or education and understanding?” Superintendent John Valastro asked during a Fox News interview, sounding more Berkeley than Beaumont. “From our standpoint, we are here to educate the kids.”
Part of that education includes attempting to teach students that there is more than one side to a political or historical narrative. Therefore, in one lesson, the American colonists who organized and participated in the Boston Tea Party were not patriots, but ‘terrorists.’
“We were revolutionaries, but on the British side of the ocean, we were destroying their content and they saw it as a terrorist attack,” Valastro explained to Fox News.
About those 9/11 ‘freedom fighters’– “The whole idea behind this particular lesson– do you call yourself a freedom fighter or an Islamic jihadist– or whatever it is you want to be called, you’ve got to put things in perspective,” Valastro said. “We’re trying to teach kids to discern for themselves that one thing can be called many different things.”
In a nation that is infamous around the world for its insularity, its ignorance, and its seeming inability to see things from divergent points of view, some observers argue that the course– especially in small-town Texas– is a valuable exercise in understanding. But many parents are outraged by the state-approved course material.
“My biggest thing is not the burqa,” April LeBlanc, who has a 15-year-old daughter in the class, told Fox News. “That was the key to opening up the rest. It’s scary how far they dove into the Islamic faith. It’s scary what they taught my daughter. Who’s in charge of this? How did our superintendent let this slip through the cracks?”
“This teacher taught her that a freedom fighter is when they give their life for the Holy War, and that they’re going to heaven,” LeBlanc continued. “They were saturating these kids in Islam and my daughter is an American Christian child.”
Her daughter, 15-year-old Madelyn LeBlanc, told Fox News that she had “sympathy” for her teacher, who she said “said she didn’t want to teach it but it was in the curriculum.”
April agreed, acknowledging that she seemed to be teaching the material with a dose of sarcasm.
“Students, I’m supposed to be politically correct and tell you that the Holocaust was not genocide, it was an ethnic cleansing,” the teacher reportedly said during one controversial lesson.
When one male student expressed shock and dismay that the 9/11 hijackers were referred to as ‘freedom fighters,’ the teacher reportedly told him that “it was something we have to learn for the end of the year testing.”
“I’m sure it was very difficult for her to do,” Madelyn LeBlanc told Fox News.
Valastro said that it was important for students to understand different perspectives.
“We might see it as terrorism, but from the Islamic side, they might call it jihadist or freedom fighter,” he told Fox News.
“I do agree it was a terrorist attack,” he continued. “But in several classes across this country, you’re going to have a make-up of students from all over the world in your class. We teach it as an act of terrorism– where they are teaching it to their kids as a revolutionary event.”
One of the goals of teaching differing, even controversial, points of view is that better understanding reduces the likelihood of conflict. For example, in the United States, the narrative regarding Iran almost always begins with the 1979 hostage crisis. What Americans rarely, if ever, learn is that 1979 was the culmination of half a century of US and Western meddling in Iranian affairs, interference which included the American overthrow of the nation’s wildly popular and democratically elected prime minister and his replacement with a brutal monarch who employed torture and repression to maintain his rule, all with Washington’s approval.
Regarding terrorism, almost all Americans know that Islamic terrorists killed nearly 3,000 people on 9/11. But it is considered almost treasonous in many circles to mention that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda brethren attacked America in retaliation for US policies and actions in the Islamic world, or that US-led invasions and occupations have resulted in far more terror and death in the countries where they occur, with more than 100,000 innocent civilians– more than 30 times the number murdered on 9/11– killed so far in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. To Pakistanis– citizens of a country with which the US is not even at war– terrorized by constant drone strikes that kill hundreds of innocent men, women and children, the United States is indeed perceived as a ‘terrorist’ nation and those who resist such attacks are widely viewed as ‘freedom fighters.’
Back in Lumberton, April LeBlanc seemed more concerned with the religious aspect of her daughter’s class.
“I wondered how it was okay for them to go so in-depth into a religion from the other side of the world,” she said of Islam, apparently ignoring the fact that Islam and Christianity both originated in the same region, “but it was not okay for them to be like that with Christianity,” she told Fox News.
“They can talk about how important Mecca is,” she added, referring to the holiest city in Islam, “but why aren’t they talking about how important Christianity was to the founding of the nation?” she asked.
“I try to stay open minded,” LeBlanc told Fox. “I don’t want my daughter to be ignorant about the world. My kids watch the news with us. We make them aware. I don’t even mind the high school teaching these things.”
But LeBlanc, and other parents, said they feel betrayed by the school.
“We trusted these people,” she said. “It scares me. I feel like our school is being infiltrated. How can this not be a sign? We’re talking about Lumberton, Texas. We’re talking about a small town with Christian churches on every street corner. Right in our small school this is going on.”
Tagged 9/11, April LeBlanc, burqas in Texas high school, Islam infiltrating America, John Valastro, Lumberton High School burqas, Lumberton High School Texas, Lumberton Independent School District, students call 9/11 terrorists 'freedom fighters', teaching Islam in public schools