Jesus--that's J-E-S-U-S...
April 21, 2005 6:22 PM   Subscribe

Early Readers or Proselytizing? ...Her father apparently agrees. "There is so much history here for Christians to enjoy," he says. "It's hard to believe that Egypt is a Muslim nation." Dr. Ibrahim asks his daughter what she thinks of Christianity. Sana replies, "I want to know why Allah let my mother die."--From Escape From Egypt, one of the Accelerated Reader series of books put out by Renaissance Learning, Inc., and in many many public schools around the country. A review of Escape From Egypt says this: ... In addition, to promoting Protestant Christianity, Morgan advocates home schooling. The story addresses the strengths of "home schooling" as opposed to public school instruction. ...Escape from Egypt is an addition to a multicultural curriculum as long as the reader understands the religious biases of the author and publisher. The publisher: Bethany House, whose purpose is to help Christians apply biblical truth in all areas of life--whether through a well-told story, a challenging devotional, or the message of an illustrated children's book.
Public elementary school students across the country are getting rewards and prizes for reading this book on their own, without teacher supervision or involvement and taking Renaissance Learning's reading comprehension quiz on a computer, again without any teacher involvement. +
posted by amberglow (12 comments total)
A sample Quiz question:

Why was Fouad running from the authorities in charge of Egypt?

a. Someone had seen him with Annie's hat.

b. He had been telling others about Jesus.

c. He had been asking everyone to read the Koran.

d. The black cat had run across his path.
posted by amberglow at 6:23 PM on April 21, 2005

From the rewards and prizes link:
Front of the Line Priviledge

Is priviledge a neologism for the edge of a privy? I reserve the privelege of being nitpicky when an elementary school screws up the spelling of a word.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:45 PM on April 21, 2005

NOW used in half the school districts in the United States, the Accelerated Reader program has no shortage of advocates. And like anything that gains widespread fame and approval, it has its share of critics.

And from that page, in a response from Renaissance: Over 50,000 schools and 400,000 teachers and librarians use Accelerated Reader...

and from my main link, they're not just anti-Muslim, they're anti-Buddhist too.
posted by amberglow at 6:57 PM on April 21, 2005

I'm not all that upset about religion creeping into the fringes of classroom instruction. It's when it becomes part of the core curriculum and teachers are required to teach it that I start to worry. However, what I find loathsome here in the Egypt story is the idea that bad things happen to people strictly because of their religious outlook. "Why did Allah let my mother die?" Why not the equally (in)valid "If your Jesus exists, why did my mother die?" There seems to be a pervasive attitude among the more wacked out zealots (mostly but not always of Christian variety) that bad things happen only to bad people, and that if good things are happening to you it's because you are righteous and God loves you. Did they elide the book of Job from their bibles or something?
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:09 PM on April 21, 2005

In PUBLIC schools? With public money? They've got to be kidding. I'd want equal time for a reading curriculum from the Atheist Association.
posted by davy at 7:27 PM on April 21, 2005

Warning: Non-American comment follows.

The Evangelical urge of some Christian groups combined with the "think of the children" meme so popular make this an unsurprising development. "Get em while they're young" is a common enough strategy for any type of long term marketing|brand loyalty. I suppose that make it the job of the rest of us to be ever vigilant for this in general sort of strategy in the public school system no matter who the source is. So I guess I say thanks for the heads up about it.

So, on to the solution... Lobby your local school board to make sure a more balanced reading program is chosen. Give worthy books to your local school library. Run for the school board [I understand they are elected officials in the US?]. Anything else anyone wants to suggest? Perhaps a good children's book about multiculturalism and religious pluralism?

I guess my final comment is to urge parents to get their kids to read outside of school. If you can get them to read about ideas and concepts you approve of then maybe that will offset the influence anything they are picking up at school that you don't approve of.
posted by cm at 7:28 PM on April 21, 2005

that was so reasonable it had to be Non-American, cm--well said : >

I saw this story and then remembered all the outcry over Heather Has 2 Mommies and other books with gay characters, or the removal of the Harry Potter books from school libraries---and this is what they're supposed to read?
posted by amberglow at 7:31 PM on April 21, 2005

The book is not simply available, but on a special shelf of books that kids get a sort of "extra credit" for reading and answering questions about.


I have asked that my daughter's school remove this book from its shelves, [...]

Also bad.
posted by prak at 9:38 PM on April 21, 2005

          My kids have this program in their school and I was not happy with it even before I heard about this possible proselytizing.
          One thing that really bugs me is that the school only has so much money and can only buy Accelerated Reader tests for some books. By having this program in place and putting so much emphasis on it, the students are completely focused on meeting their next AR goal - to the point that kids will not read anything that they won't get points for. My wife has volunteered in the school library and has heard this exchange several times - librarian: "Well, if you liked that book, you would probably like these books, too." student: "No, I'm not going to read those, they don't have a dot on them." (Dots are placed on all the books that the school has purchased AR tests for) The school is now starting to only buy books that have AR tests available, and buy the book and the test at the same time.
          So then, to me a big question becomes, who at Renaissance Learning gets to decide which books have tests created for them and which ones don't. Because if half the schools in the US are using this, and schools aren't buying the books that don't have tests - the people at Renaissance Learning could start to have a lot of influence over what books even get published.
          Another thing that bugs me is that kids are only given points for books within a preset reading level. So again from the point of view of that school librarian - "Here's a great book, if you haven't read this one" - student "No, I can't read that book. It's a 3 (3rd grade level) and I'm supposed to be reading 4s (4th grade level)"
          While the AR program is popular for the results it generates among reluctant readers, I'm not sure that this is a good program for kids who are above average readers. At least at our school, as kids get to the top of the reading list, the pickings get very slim. All three of my children really enjoy reading and read at or above grade level and I just hope that being in this program isn't taking the joy out of reading for them.
          Sorry for the long rant, but I just wanted to let you know that this isn't the only questionable thing about this company and product, and if this stuff is being used in your local schools, you might want to start taking a closer look and then letting the teachers/principals/boards know that you don't approve.

posted by rjd at 10:54 PM on April 21, 2005

I see that the reading list at the Fletcher Hills school which you cite also includes Captain Underpants .

So I wouldn't get my knickers in a twist!
posted by IndigoJones at 4:42 AM on April 22, 2005

removing is a bad thing, but why are these books even on the lists?

rjd: what does the librarian and school and board say? have you spoken to them?
posted by amberglow at 5:24 AM on April 22, 2005

And yet another hole is shot through the supposed wall between religion and government.

American Taliban, coming soon to a neighbourhood near you.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:52 AM on April 22, 2005

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