March 31st 2012

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QUEENSLAND: After the deluge: Anna Bligh's legacy

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EDITORIAL: Swan's budget surplus to depend on mining tax

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Radical green strategy to sabotage Australian coal-mines, railways and ports

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EAST TIMOR: Election swing against Gusmão government

HUMAN RIGHTS: Academics who rationalise post-natal murder

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OPINION: America: Russia's Afghan catspaw

OPINION: School textbook misleads about Crusades

WEIMAR GERMANY: Why art flourished and democracy perished


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School textbook misleads about Crusades

by Bob Mears

News Weekly, March 31, 2012

The Crusades are “topical and highly sensitive, given the recent tensions in the Middle East — and the world at large (e.g., the terrorist threat posed by some fundamentalist religious and political factions)”.[1]

This is a warning issued to Year 8 Humanities/ Studies of Society and Environment (SOSE) teachers by John Wiley & Sons Australia Ltd, trading as Jacaranda Press. However, Jacaranda’s history of the Middle Ages, Humanities Alive,[2] is biased and highly insensitive.

Jacaranda misleads children. Its textbook says: “Between 1096 and 1291, eight wars, called the Crusades, were fought between Christians from Europe and Arab Muslims in an area we know today as part of the Middle East. Although, in the end, the Crusaders ended up achieving little in battle, they brought many new ideas back to Europe….

“Muslim Arabs had controlled Jerusalem since AD 637. They and the Christian pilgrims and traders who visited the area had lived in peace for centuries. Then in 1050 a group of militant Turkish Muslims, the Seljuks, took control. They did not tolerate Christians and killed many. At that time, the only Christian city in the region was Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire.”

The truth is that, before the Crusades, Islamic crescentaders used murderous jihad to conquer two thirds of the Christian world. Immediately before 1050, the harshly taxed Middle Eastern Christians were barely tolerated, many were killed and numerous churches destroyed.[3]

The Crusades began in 1095 with a call to arms by Pope Urban II at Clermont, France. Europeans responded mainly out of selfless loyalty and compassion; many mortgaged their belongings.

But Jacaranda teaches that the Popes “were very powerful”. It continues: “Medieval Europe was a society strongly governed and restricted by its religious beliefs. People were fearful of offending the Church, as heresy and similar crimes were punished very harshly.” So, if the Pope asked for something to be done (e.g., to go and fight), not only would people have been loath to disobey, but also they believed his promise of rewards (i.e., that they would go to heaven).”[4]

Furthermore, “some Europeans who lived in a culture ruled by strict religious doctrine were motivated to join the Crusades because the Pope promised that all their sins would be forgiven, that God would be gracious towards them, and that those who died in this pursuit would go straight to heaven. The promise of stealing priceless cultural treasures from a foreign country so they could get rich quickly, and return with impressive battle stories and the instant respect of peers, could also have been motivating factors for some fighters.” [5]

The textbook’s extract of the Pope’s speech omits his appeal to restore destroyed Christian sites, especially the church of the Holy Sepulchre and to prevent further massacres and enslavement of Christians in the Middle East (e.g., Sebastea 1059-64, Anatolia c.1071).[6] An editorial in The Australian accused Jacaranda of being “more than happy to promote ignorance of these critical facts”. [7]

Children are instructed to analyse Crusader aggression by using four diagrams. They read such things as, “Comments (about 100 years later) by a Muslim writer on the Crusader attack on Jerusalem [who said that the Christians] massacred over 70,000 men, among them scholars and devout hermits…. They stripped the Dome of the Rock of more than forty heavy silver candelabra … and a great deal more booty.”

A European illuminated manuscript on the attack on Jerusalem in 1099 (prepared about 200 years later) by a Christian monk is dismissesd as a censored version.

However, it is Jacaranda’s own “history” of the Crusades that is a censored version. For example, it ignores the contemporary Muslim historian, Ibn al-Arabi, who numbered the dead at about 3,000.[8]

Jacaranda suggests that teachers “critically analyse links between the conflict of the medieval Crusades and some aspects of modern-day terrorism.”[9]

Children read in the textook: “On 11 September 2001, there was a terrorist attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. The men who flew the planes into these buildings were Muslims, who believed they were giving their lives for a religious cause. Like the Crusaders, shown below attacking the walls of Jerusalem some 1,000 years earlier, they were told they would go straight to heaven when they died.”

Questions follow, including this one: “Why do you think so many conflicts occur throughout the world in the name of religion?”

This malicious assertion is not teaching but indoctrination.

The textbook continues: “Those who destroyed the World Trade Center are regarded as terrorists. Might it be fair to say that the Crusaders who attacked the Muslim inhabitants of Jerusalem were also terrorists?” Another Jacaranda textbook stereotypes the Crusaders as “all fanatics … fundamentalist extremists — mad warriors … virtually religious terrorists.”[10]

Jacaranda warns that the 9/11 attack “is a topical issue, given the continuing threat of terrorism, and should be handled with care.”[11] Overall Islam has been “handled with care” but not Catholicism. The Australian (March 10, 2006) reported Jacaranda as saying that this question was “deliberately provocative to engender debate”.[12]

Children are conditioned by manipulated diagrams, selective text and language to affirm that indeed the Crusaders were terrorists. Apparently the “threat of terrorism” will not come from today’s Catholics so it is safe to portray their Church as being corrupt, obscurant,[13] and homicidal with parallels to modern-day oppressive communist regimes.[14] It is also safe to desecrate a crucifix, demonise and criticise their clergy,[15] use calumnies to disparage their beliefs,[16] promote the Reformation[17] and imply their spiritual ancestors did not know “the importance of reason over blind religious obedience.”

Six years ago, university professors described Jacaranda’s history as “rubbish”, “having no legitimacy as a learning tool”, “historically inaccurate” and “grossly misleading” (The Australian, March 8-10, 2006).[18]

However, Victoria’s current Liberal Minister for Education, the Hon. Martin Dixon MP, has defended the use in schools of Jacaranda’s flawed textbook as being compatible with what his department calls “education about the major forms of religious thought and expression characteristic of Australian society and other societies in the world”.[19]

Robert Mears is a former mathematics and physics teacher.



[1]     Cathy Bedson, Jo Lamont, Humanities Alive, Level 5, Teacher Support Kit (Brisbane: John Wiley & Sons Australia, 2006), p.251.

[2]     Mark Easton, Maggy Saldais, Jo Lamont and Peter Van Noorden, Humanities Alive 2 (2006).

Maggy Saldais, Ross Smith, Denis Young, Humanities Alive History 1 (2006).

Cathy Bedson, Jan Dunne, Vivienne Lynch, Humanities Alive 2 (2nd edn, 2010).

Angelo Calandra, Grace Ciavarella, Jacaranda SOSE Studies of Society & Environment (2nd edn, 2000).

Judy Mraz, Maureen Anderson, Stephen Chapman and Cathy Bedson, Jacaranda Essentials Humanities 2 (2006).

Maureen Anderson, Jacaranda Essentials History 1 (2007).

Other similar SOSE text books could be cited.

[3]     The status of Christians and Jews was barely above that of slaves in Islamic society. They were required to pay the jizya, a form of “protection money” to ensure their own survival. In 789, Muslims beheaded a monk who had converted from Islam. They then plundered the Bethlehem monastery of St Theodosius and other monasteries, killing many more monks. In 813, Christians were so severely attacked that large numbers fled. On Palm Sunday 937, Muslims plundered and destroyed the Church of Calvary and the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. In 1009, the Fatimid Caliph of Egypt, abu-’Ali Mansur al-Hakim, ordered the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and commanded that the tomb inside be cut down to the bedrock. Many other churches were destroyed.

For further details go to:

Paul Stenhouse, “The Crusades in context” (2007), available at Answering Islam: A Christian-Muslim Dialogue (Sydney: Chevalier Press, 2007).
URL: www.answering-islam.org/Authors/Stenhouse/crusades.01.htm

“The Crusades: The truth?”
URL: http://geocities.ws/aprofaith/crusades.html

[4]    Humanities Alive, Level 5, Teacher Support Kit, p.256.

Humanities Alive 2/ Humanities Alive 2 (2nd edn)/ Humanities Alive History 1, pp.56/40/156: “Faith and fear.… There was also the risk that one might be declared a heretic or a witch. This meant the possibility of horrific torture or being burnt alive. Old people who lived alone, especially women, and people who disagreed with the Church were at great risk.… Underlying [the brutal justice system] was the control of the Church. It was very serious to break a church rule or religious law, such as one of the Bible’s Ten Commandments. Offenders were often killed after enduring the most revolting tortures.… The worst thing one could be charged with before a church court was heresy. The punishment was almost always torture and death. [CD-ROM omits “almost”] … sickening deaths, such as being hung, drawn and quartered. Few escaped being tortured.… To be effective, torture had to be slow and extremely painful … smashed bones and teeth....”

[5]     Humanities Alive 2 / Humanities Alive History 1, pp.89/189: “Were the Crusades wars fought in the name of religion?”

Suggested response. Humanities Alive, Level 5, Teacher Support Kit, p.252: “Crusades were fought on the basis of ignorance and retaliation rather than religion per se. Religion was more the excuse. To understand the ongoing battles fought between different cultural groups in the world today, students need to focus on human qualities such as arrogance and aggression, and emotions, such as fear and hate. By focusing on ‘universal’ themes, they can better understand human behaviours, conflict being just one example of these.

“Religion is a socio-cultural phenomenon, and the influence of religion over people’s behaviour, be it violent or peaceful, can still remain with the individual. The influence of some religious people’s will over others has more to do with the extreme power of one individual and the powerlessness of others. Extreme behaviours are present in most cultures, and often it is a question of balance — for every bloodthirsty warrior, there is a gentle and kind-hearted person meditating or doing good somewhere else.

“History might suggest that the Crusades were fought in the name of religion, but in the end they were still armies led by men to fight a war. Perhaps we could say that the advertising campaign required to attract men to fight in other countries was based on promises that only religious leaders were in a position to make (e.g., you will go straight to heaven if you die, or Allah’s rewards will be great if you are a martyr).”

See: Thomas F. Madden, “Crusade myths”, reproduced from Catholic Dossier, January/February 2002.
URL: www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2005/print2005/tmadden_crusades_print.html

Thomas F. Madden, “The real history of the Crusades”, Crisis Magazine, April 2002, reproduced at.
URL: www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1027520/posts

[6]    Jacaranda Press has chosen to omit an impartial summary of the following from Pope Urban II’s speech:

“[Y]our brethren who live in the east are in urgent need of your help, and you must hasten to give them the aid which has often been promised them. For, as the most of you have heard, the Turks and Arabs have attacked them and have conquered the territory of Romania [the Greek empire] as far west as the shore of the Mediterranean and the Hellespont…. They have occupied more and more of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire. If you permit them to continue thus for a while with impunity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them.

“[The Muslim Turks] have invaded the lands of those Christians and have depopulated them by the sword, pillage and fire; they have led away a part of the captives into their own country, and a part they have destroyed by cruel tortures.… When they wish to torture people by a base death, they perforate their navels, and dragging forth the extremity of the intestines, … Others they bind to a post and pierce with arrows. Others they compel to extend their necks and then, attacking them with naked swords, attempt to cut through the neck with a single blow. What shall I say of the abominable rape of the women?… On whom therefore is the labor of avenging these wrongs and of recovering this territory incumbent, if not upon you?”

SOURCE: Urban II (1088-1099), Speech at Council of Clermont, 1095, Internet Medieval Sourcebook (New York: Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies).
URL: www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/urban2-5vers.html

[7]     “Teaching Bin Laden, One man’s crusader is not another man’s terrorist”, The Australian, March 9, 2006: “History may very well be written by the victors, but that is no guarantee that it will be written — or taught — correctly.… So-called ‘Muslim’ lands in much of the world, including those fought over during the Crusades, only became Muslim-controlled through very politically incorrect processes of invasion and colonisation. Humanities Alive 2 seems more than happy to promote ignorance of these critical facts.

“Not teaching these critical elements of how Western culture — of which Australia is a part — came to be to students is to in a sense cheat them of their heritage. Simply casting the Crusaders as a bunch of ignorant and bloodthirsty Europeans ignores this reality.… But this politicisation ignores the whole point of teaching history, which is to produce citizens who are well-grounded in events of the past so that they might better understand the world around them — and be able to see, however hazily, into the future. If Humanities Alive 2 is any indication of what students are learning in Victoria (or the rest of Australia), it appears they will be equipped to do little more than pull their conversational weight at trendy inner-city dinner parties.”

[8]    “Benjamin Z. Kedar (Hebrew University, Israel) says Jerusalem had perhaps 20,000-30,000 inhabitants at the time of the siege. One particular source gives the death toll as high as 65,000 souls, which is obviously beyond reason. Kedar, however, thinks Ibn al-Arabi’s conservative estimate of 3,000 is more plausible.”
URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk%3ASiege_of_Jerusalem_%281099%29

[9]    Humanities Alive, Level 5, Teacher Support Kit, p.251.

[10]   Jacaranda SOSE Studies of Society & Environment (Brisbane: John Wiley & Sons Australia, 2nd edn)p.49.

The Crusaders as terrorists? While on his way to Mecca in the early 1180s, the Spanish Muslim Ibn Jubayr traversed lands controlled by the Crusaders [Franks]. Ibn Jubayr wrote how the Crusader lands “were efficiently cultivated”. He continued: “The inhabitants were all Muslims. They live in comfort with the Franks — may God preserve them from temptation [i.e., to become Christians]! Their dwellings belong to them and all their property is unmolested. All their regions, patrolled by the Crusaders in Syria, are subject to the same system: The land that remains, the villages and farms, have remained in the hands of the Muslims. Now, doubt invests the hearts of a great number of these men when they compare their lot to that of their brothers living in Muslim territories. Indeed, the latter suffer from the injustices of their co-religionists, whereas the Franks act with equity.”

SOURCE: Amin Maalouf, The Crusades through Arab Eyes [French: Les Croisades vues par les Arabes], English trans. (New York: Schocken Books, 1984).

[11]   Humanities Alive, Level 5, Teacher Support Kit, p.256.

[12]   The Australian, March 10, 2006: “Teachers and the publisher defend it as being deliberately provocative to engender debate.”

Bill Muehlenberg, “School textbook vilifies Christianity”, News Weekly (Australia), April 1, 2006.
URL: www.newsweekly.com.au/article.php?id=2423&s=MbUhSF

[13]   Humanities Alive 2 / Humanities Alive History 1/ CD-ROM, pp.47/147: Three references to how “Robin Hood outsmarted the sheriff and the corrupt churchmen…” and two references to how “Chaucer … used satire to criticise corruption in the Church”; pp.57/157: “Many medieval church workers were honest, caring and dedicated people, who spent their lives serving the poor and the sick. Others were corrupt and interested only in themselves”; pp.106/206: “Luther was very angry at the corruption and greed he had seen in some parts of the Church.”

Humanities Alive 2 (2nd edn), p.101: Children talk “about the sale of indulgences, corrupt monks, illiterate clergy and the problem of too much wealth and power.”

Humanities Alive 2 / Humanities Alive History 1, pp.96/196: “This new philosophy was called humanism. It stressed the beauty and dignity of human beings and the importance of reason over blind religious obedience”; pp.97/197: “Why might the medieval Church have felt threatened when people started thinking for themselves?… I can suggest why the Church feared Renaissance thinking”; pp.100/200: “For people to achieve their best, humanists believed they had to learn”; pp.106/206: “From as early as the twelfth century, many thinking people were becoming concerned about some aspects of the Church… humanists were saying that people should think for themselves, not just accept what the Church said.…”

[14]   Humanities Alive, Level 5, Teacher Support Kit: p 266: “Teaching points: Although people may have had personal doubts at various times about what they may have been told, the fear of (painful) retribution outweighed all other thoughts and emotions. Even when corruption was evident and practices by established personnel within the Church hierarchy were clearly against Christian values, people still would not openly question. (At this point, you may like to draw some parallels with modern-day oppressive regimes, such as the political regimes in some existing, and former, communist countries. People in these places are also afraid to speak out for fear of negative consequences, and hence are vulnerable to the greed and/or political self interest of those in power.”

There is more.

[15]    Humanities Alive 2 / Humanities Alive History 1, pp.57/157: “[The priest of Wanestanville] plays at dice and drinks too much; he frequents taverns, … [The priest of Ruiville] is said to have many … children”; pp.59/159: “The fate of the Witch of Irongray, a poor widowed woman reported to have lived near Dumfries in Scotland during the reign of James IV of Scotland (1488–1513).…The Bishop of Galloway… caused her to be brought before him…. The wretched woman was enclosed in a barrel, fire was set to it and it was rolled in a blaze, into the waters….” [Not James IV but James VI (James 1 of England); a Catholic Bishop was not involved, as implied]; pp.78/178: “A thirteenth century priest wrote: ‘A man may chastise his wife and beat her for correction…’”; pp.85/185: “Some monks… lied about the timing of another important man’s death. Perhaps they just wanted to attract pilgrims to get money for their monastery”; pp.106/206: Church “leaders were often promoted for their wealth or social position, not their Christian character. A number of priests were more interested in drinking and gambling than godly living. Others were no longer celibate.”

Humanities Alive, Level 5, Teacher Support Kit, p.231: “Teaching points:... While many religious workers at the time were sincere and caring, not all had a true calling. Some found it a lucrative job that they could exploit. Students could consider why people select religious vocations (then and now) and whether politics should be influenced by religion.”

There is more.

[16]   Humanities Alive 2 / Humanities Alive History 1, pp.106/206: “An indulgence ‘bought’ someone forgiveness of sins (wrongdoings). The more money paid, the better the deal in the afterlife”; pp.118/218: “indulgence: payment made to a church official during the Middle Ages in exchange for forgiveness of sins or a sure place in heaven.” Humanities Alive 2 (2nd edn)/ Jacaranda SOSE Studies of Society & Environment, pp.101/71: “Indulgences were documents stating that the purchaser was free from sin.” [False and offensive definitions]; p 99/67 & 100/70: “Before Copernicus and Galileo, people were taught that the Earth was the centre of the universe and that it was still and flat. It was God’s design.… Perhaps the Earth was not flat?” [The Church never taught the earth was flat]; pp.98/66 & 100/70: “One discovery after another showed that Church teachings could be wrong. The important medical knowledge gained by physicians like Vesalius called into question the Church’s opposition to the dissection of bodies.” [The Church did not condemn Vesalius, as stated earlier or oppose dissection but encouraged it in her medical schools]; pp.100/70: “Erasmus … found great* differences between what the Church was saying and what … earlier versions of the Bible indicated that Jesus and St Paul had actually said.” [*Humanities Alive 2 (2nd edn), p.100 omits “great”]; pp.101/71: “Increased literacy meant many people wanted to read the Bible in their own language, not Latin, and interpret it themselves.” [The Church approved many vernacular Bibles before the Reformation. “Increased literacy”? Humanities Alive 2 and Humanities Alive History 1 ignore the monumental efforts of the medieval Catholic Church to educate all classes of society in schools and universities].

Jacaranda Essentials Humanities 2, p.91: “Those who disagreed with the views of the Catholic Church, risked being labelled heretics and excommunicated, or possibly being killed. In these circumstances the publication of Copernicus’ theory is remembered as an amazing achievement.… Galileo was charged with heresy in 1633, threatened with torture, excommunicated from the Church and virtually kept under house arrest until his death in 1642.” [Copernicus’s theory was not viewed as heresy; it was viewed with interest by Pope Clement VII. On November 1, 1536, the Archbishop of Capua Nikolaus von Schönberg encouraged Copernicus to publish his theory. Galileo was not found guilty of heresy or threatened with torture or excommunicated. His house arrest was relatively mild for the times].

On September 3, 2005, Jacaranda Press was informed of many of its misrepresentations. Madonna Cavalliotis, the then national sales manager of Jacaranda Press, replied: “We at Jacaranda aim to present a balanced view in our publications and are always thrilled when teachers take the time to make comments. We value feedback about our texts, whether it be positive or negative.”

There is meagre evidence of Jacaranda Press’s valuing feedback and presenting a balance view.

[17]    Humanities Alive, Level 5, Teacher Support Kit, p.266: “The things [Martin Luther] said made sense.”

Humanities Alive 2 / Humanities Alive 2 (2nd edn) /Humanities Alive History 1, pp.106/102/206: “Reformation… The time was ripe for change” from Catholic “power” to Protestant “principles”.

[18]   “Melbourne University historian Barry Collett, a specialist in medieval history, criticised Humanities Alive 2 for being “historical inaccurate” and “grossly misleading” in its depiction of the Middle Ages. He said: “The Crusaders felt they were intervening to stop the bloodshed that was already going on. I would tend to compare them with Australian troops intervening in East Timor” (The Australian, March 9, 2006).

“A textbook [Humanities Alive 2] that asks school students to compare the Crusaders to the September 11 terrorists was ‘rubbish’ and had no legitimacy as a learning tool.… Even though the Crusaders boasted about their men riding ‘in the blood of the Saracens up to the knees of their horses’, (Professor) Ernie Jones from the University of Western Australia said students should not be taught to impose 21st century morals on events of 1,000 years ago. ‘That question is imposing our viewpoint in a totally different society,’ he said. ‘One of the basics of studying history is that you are not a moral judge. It’s an utterly different society with totally different morals, customs and traditions. To put that to Year 8 students is very misleading and it’s totally inappropriate to study history like that.… Professor Jones said the starting point for the debate was wrong, and that people living in the Middle Ages had no concept of terrorism in the modern sense.’” (The Australian, March 10, 2006). [Note: men riding “in the blood of the Saracens up to the knees of their horses” is probably a biblical allusion to the Book of Revelation 14:20].

Six years later children are still being taught this “rubbish”.

[19]   Letter from the Victorian Government’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, dated December 28, 2011:

“Dear Mr Mears,

“Thank you for your letter to the Hon. Martin Dixon MP, Minister for Education, concerning prescribing particular textbooks in Victorian government schools. The Minister has asked me to reply on his behalf.

“A major strength of Victoria’s government school system is the diversity of its schools and the devolved approach to school management. This approach enables principals and school communities to make decisions about the selection of textbooks that meet their local contexts.

“The Victorian Education and Training Reform Act 2006, as you are aware, states that the government school system is secular, and open to the adherents of any philosophy, religion, or faith. It specifies the curriculum and teaching in government schools will ‘not promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect’ but may include education about the major forms of religious thought and expression characteristic of Australian society and other societies in the world.

“Schools must put into practice this legislation.…

“Acting General Manager, Student Learning Division, 28/12/2011.” 

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