Amid Stir Over Israel Bias, Boston-Area Mayoral Candidates Back Putting School Texts Online
JNS.org – The two candidates running for mayor in the Boston suburb of Newton, Mass., the site of a years-long controversy regarding bias on Israel in curriculum materials, are pledging to put high school textbooks online for public viewing.
Newton City Council members Ruthanne Schwartz Fuller and Scott F. Lennon are running for mayor to replace Setti Warren, who is not seeking a third term. Residents go to the polls Nov. 7.
Fuller, who is Jewish, told JNS.org she is “committed to having all our textbooks available online for our parents and the public to see. It will be a priority of mine to convince the schools committee and the superintendent to make sure our books are available online.”
Newton’s mayor sits on a nine-seat school committee that makes decisions for the school district.
“It’s disturbing to have antisemitic actions here in Newton, and I’m committed to making sure this is a welcoming city,” Fuller said. “I care deeply about any actions or words that are hateful to our community whether it’s by religion, race, country of origin, sexual identity, or by gender or by political party.”
Lennon told JNS.org he favors total transparency for school curriculum materials and has no objection to making that information available online for the public.
Earlier this year, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) published a 108-page monograph describing how beginning in 2011, Newton’s high schools have used biased texts, such as the Arab World Studies Notebook.
While school officials said the Arab World Studies Notebook had been removed, an investigation a year later revealed it was still in use. Newton has not yet listed its curriculum materials online, a practice many school districts have adopted nationwide.
Further, some Newton educators use unvetted material to teach about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to CAMERA, a number of textbooks, maps and handouts routinely downplay or omit the Palestinians’ repeated refusal of Israeli peace offers.
One example is an eight-page timeline taken from the PBS website that omits any mention of Arab terror attacks inside Israel during the 1970s and 1980s, and fails to mention Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s wave of suicide bombings in the early 2000s.
“There are many other biased, inaccurate materials still in the system spreading false information to our kids,” said Andrea Levin, CAMERA’s executive director. “We’ve documented it extensively and the public deserves to know what [Newton’s] school committee is going to do.”