As concerned Muslim parents, we - not the schools - have the ultimate responsibility for our children's education, and we cannot afford to abdicate this responsibility. With this in mind, there are several things we can do to protect our children against false information.
Public Schools: The great Melting Pot
Statistics say that people of various ethnic and religious groups melt into the American system in just a few generations and become just like other Americans. No doubt, the public school system contributes greatly to this socialization process. Unless we constantly communicate with our children and their teachers and unless we constantly keep an eye on their books and an ear open to what they are saying about school, the education that we are so concerned about giving them may cause more harm than good.
The loss of their Islamic identity is a terrible price to pay for their learning to read English, add two and two, and attend public school in America.
Western propaganda against Muslims
I still vividly remember a picture of British soldiers in the Sudan machine-gunning hundreds of Sudanese Muslims dressed in long white robes and turbans. The caption in my Western Civilization book went something like this: "British soldiers defend against fanatical Sudanese Muslims"
Alhamdulillah, I was in college at the time and old enough to see the fallacy in this statement. These armed-to-the-teeth British were not in Britain defending against Sudanese Muslims. They were in the Sudan on the offensive attacking the poorly armed Sudanese who were defending themselves and their land with whatever they had.
But could a small child understand this inconsistency? Or would a picture of fanatical Sudanese Muslims attacking the peace-loving British be permanently implanted in his mind? Would he, a Muslim, forever see Islam as barbaric and uncivilized?
Guidelines for parents in educating their children
Muslim children in a non-Muslim society are in danger on two fronts. On the first, they may be fed negative images of Islam, and on the second, they may be fed attractive pictures of non-Islamic activities. How can they distinguish between true and false?
Read your children's textbooks to see what they are being taught.
If you discover any misinformation or anything that disturbs you, put your objections, along with the appropriate corrections, in writing. Arrange a meeting with your child's teacher and the Director of Curriculum to discuss the problem. Always be polite and present yourself as someone who wants to help, not as a critic. They may or may not agree to implement your corrections. If they agree, thank them for their consideration. If they reject your corrections, you should seek additional help from an Islamic organization that deals with these kinds of issues. One such organization, CAIR (The Council on American-Islamic Relations). Another organization that might be able to help is The Council on Islamic Education.
Teach your children the Islamic view of the "holidays," and the proper relationship between the sexes to counter what they might learn at school.
Develop a close relationship with your children, and encourage them to confide in you if anything at school concerns them.
Recognize that your children are not only learning from their teachers, but also from their friends.
If your child begins acting in un-Islamic ways and talking about girlfriends or boyfriends, try to correct him or her as early as possible. Take your children to the masjid regularly, and encourage friendships with Muslim children.