When the teachers are more stupid than the kids you really have to wonder about the educational system.
My last name is my husband's, and although it's Lithuanian, it sounds vaguely Turkish. (Ends with a J-A-N, which is often a Turkish form of the Armenian ending of I-A-N.) Total coincidence that this name sounds so Middle Eastern -- he could have just as easily been named something that sounds Polish. Most Americans recognize Polish names as belonging to either Catholic or Jewish families. But this name's just odd.
My first name is Persian. I was named for a Persian fairy-tale character.
Neo's first name is Armenian. She was named to honor my grandfather's relatives and my aunt.
When you see Neo's name on paper, and you see her dark eyes, thick eyebrows, and dark wavy hair, it is easy to see that she has some Middle Eastern heritage in her somewhere. But here's the thing. My father's family has a lot of Italian blood, and her last name is from a family of Lithuanian Jews, and her father has thick, dark wavy hair. So really, in the American melting pot, she could be anything.
The seventh grade History class is studying the Five Pillars of Islam. At the very beginning of the unit, before the class has started reading the textbook, the teacher calls Neo and one other girl (whose father is Saudi) up to the front of the class. "Now then. Tell us something about Islam."
This is a kid that HATES being made the center of attention in a classroom, and now she's being asked about ISLAM? WTF?
She told me in the car later, yelling in frustration, "I didn't know what to say! I couldn't embarrass the teacher, but I mean really! Papa Arthur left the Middle East because he was CHRISTIAN! Armenians aren't MUSLIM! Your whole family is Christian. I don't even know much about Christianity. Forget Islam, I hardly know anything about religion as it is! What the hell was I supposed to do?"
Actually, that was all really well said. There's a part of me that wishes she had said such a thing to the teacher, but I think you have to have left Middle School before you can successfully turn into a brat.
Then there's the awful racist part of it all. Do we ask black kids to come to the front of the class, unprepared, and ask them about slavery? Or about Voodoo? Or Santeria? Good God, that would be decried on the national media. This smacks of: "Look class. We have a strange being in our midst. It may very well be a turban head. Let's ask them about the Muslim religion. Because it's all so Different and Odd and Weird."
The POINT of having a unit on Islam is so that children will come to recognize that there ARE other religions and cultures in WORLD HISTORY. Is this not obvious? Even I can see this. Are the Chinese kids going to be called to the front of the class and be asked to explain Taoism? Wouldn't you be assuming an awful lot to think that all American children with "Far Eastern" heritages all practice one religion?
So now I have to call the teacher, and this one's a sub, so she's going to be hard to track down, and call the VP, etc., etc., etc.
I'm thinking that the teachers responsible for the World History curriculum need a little more training.