Muhammad who? Tennessee plan could mean fewer lessons about Islam

Textbooks are seen stacked in a hallway at East Hamilton Middle/High School in Chattanooga.

KINGSPORT, Tenn. - Seventh-grade students in Tennessee would no longer spend as much time learning about the history of Islam by 2019 under a proposed draft revision being developed by state educators, a newspaper reports.

A section on Islam currently taught in social studies classes has been removed from the state Board of Education's draft, which went online for public review Sept. 15, the Kingsport Times-News reported ( Most of the sections involving Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions have remained in the draft in some form.

With the proposed deletion of the "Islamic World, 400 A.D./C.E. - 1500s" section, students would no longer be learning about the Quran or the differences between the Sunni and Shiite branches of the religion, the newspaper had reported.

Laura Encalade, director of policy and research at the State Board of Education, said the proposed draft revisions to social studies standards still would cover all the major religions in accordance with current state standards.

An emailed statement sent via the State Board of Education emphasized that the draft revisions are part of an ongoing process of an educator task force in reviewing all K-12 social studies standards. It added that the educator advisory team accepts and welcomes public input and added that the proposed changes "reflect a consistent approach to what students across grades and courses should learn about all topics, including religion."

"This is still an ongoing process," the statement added, noting the team is continuing to receive public comments as part of a multi-step process in the coming months.

The proposed revisions would be more manageable and "age-appropriate," said Encalade.

"It's still part of history," Susan Lodal, the Kingsport Board of Education Vice President, said of Islam. "We're just not teaching it to our children."

Some Muslim history remains in the seventh-grade draft standards, including in the "West Africa: 400-1500s C.E." section, where students would be expected to learn about Malian king Mansa Musa and his pilgrimage to Mecca, the newspaper reported.

The Department of Education is not involved with the new standards proposal and will not be involved until new standards are adopted, said spokeswoman Chandler Hopper. At that point, the department will put out guidance to school systems on the new standards, he said.

Following the open period for public comment, a Standards Recommendation Committee would make the ultimate recommendation for new social studies standards to the board for a vote in January 2017.

Any final revisions approved would be implemented in the 2019-20 school year, the paper said.