For those of you outside of New York State, the high school system there has a series of regent exams and milestones students can engage in, and with success, they are deemed “New York State Regents Scholars” upon high school graduation. Not all NY high school students are required to take regents courses and exams in order to successfully graduate high school in NY. This is an added distinction noting students’ scholarship and level of academic rigor experienced during high school.
I am personally a New York State Regents Scholar and Diploma holder. Albeit mine is a few decades old. My own father taught Regents courses at a public high school and administered the exams during his career. The Regents system has been in place in NY secondary schools since 1878!
You may have noticed that in the last few years, I have become increasingly critical of the curriculum in our K-12 schools (in addition to my concern over what is happening on college campuses). CRT and other cultural-Marxist agenda items are, among other things, increasingly antisemitic and anti-Zionist—inserting political agenda and leftist narratives into history, geography, and other studies that examine the nature of our world, and how we got here.
These lenses under which the Middle East is examined—its history and its happenings—are often riddled with errors and omissions leaving out a comprehensive historical context while even inserting bold inaccuracies.
At times these bits of bias are subtle, and at other times they are obvious. Reducing a study of the Holocaust into one paragraph that lists Jews far down a list of victims, and omitting the horrors of centuries of antisemitism, while lumping all Jews into the label of “white privileged oppressor,” is a malpractice of education. Courses teach that Israel was only founded because of the Holocaust and only Jews and Zionists benefits from the establishment of modern Israel.
Today I share with you some tangible truths about what narratives and biases are seeping into coursework and exams. The New York Regents exam on Geography (intended for 10th graders) included two questions that demand a biased view of the modern state of Israel and regional conflicts. The answers align with a political narrative rather than an objective examination of the complexities of the Middle East.
“The questions promoted a ‘revisionist narrative’ about the history of Israel and suggested ‘Zionists and Jewish immigrants’ solely benefited from territorial compromises.”
Thankfully, some New York State lawmakers, elected officials representing the very citizens to whom the Regents board is accountable when it comes to educating and assessing their students, have identified the bias questions and taken action.
As reported in The Forward, these questions were as follows:
“Which historical event most directly influenced the development of the 1947 plan shown on map A (1947 UN Partition Plan)?”
The answer deemed correct on the test attributes the establishment of Israel to the horrors of the Holocaust. This is inaccurate, the lawmakers say, because the modern Zionist movement began in the mid-19th century based on the belief that Jews should have the right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland.
Another question about the changes in territorial control from 1947 through 2017 suggested that the various territorial compromises in the Arab-Israeli conflict, including the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, have primarily benefited “Zionists and Jewish immigrants.”
Why are these questions and the answers student taught to choose (to get the points) biased?
The first lacks any context of Jewish experiences in Europe over the centuries and particularly the century before the Holocaust. It ignores any Jewish history as far as origin in the Middle East, diaspora, preservation of their religion and culture, etc.
And the latter is just horrifying. The entire world benefits from the existence of Israel and its contribution to stability, security, innovation, counterterrorism, and democracy as a concept in the region. The intended answer has the premise that Jews in the region are occupying colonialists (that they are new to the land and who do not produce any benefit for the people around them). This is the ultimate narrative of the left and the ultimate lie about who Israel is, and all its inhabitants (including Arab-Israelis, Druze, and more). Jews in Israel provided the innovation and advancements made in the desert bloom after 75 years of hard work and constant defense under the national banner of Israel. Keep in mind, the Jewish return to the land in the late 1800s and early 1900s brought prosperity to an otherwise desolate landscape. And all that land acquisition was done was completely legal with documented real estate transactions. All this information is left out of lesson plans and test questions.
According to the state representatives opposing the questions, (which the NY Department of Education claims go through a rigorous vetting process) the questions “lack any semblance of context, seem to be pushing a revisionist narrative and have no place on a test or a curriculum that aims to teach history to children.”
This test is literally teaching a perspective on Israel, Jews, and Zionists that is unflattering and categorically incorrect, and incomplete. And we all know that many a teacher will instruct students in such a way as to succeed on the test. This is called “teaching to the test” and is a phenomenon that has been around for decades. I taught middle school and high school social studies early in my career. It is a bad way of teaching because it circumvents critical thinking and full examination of any topic, concept, or historical period.
Can you imagine a young, Jewish student taking this exam on January 26, 2023, and having to see those answer choices and having to choose one to score a point? The student has no place to write in a disclaimer that this question is offensive and incomplete.
A similar incident in 2017 caused an uproar after the Regents exam included a political cartoon that depicted three fat, armed Israeli soldiers using an overturned table as a shield, with one of them saying, “I knew this peace table would come in handy someday.” The education department later apologized.
In addition to this group of state senators’ letter,
Members of New York’s Republican congressional delegation, led by Rep. Mike Lawler from the Hudson Valley, issued a similar letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul earlier this month, calling “blatantly antisemitic” and an “attack on New York’s Jewish community.”
We are not all privy to the questions and assessment measures our public schools are using to bend students into a submissive form of thinking under the guise of labeling them successful. We must dig for this information and when it is uncovered, share it. We must pressure our own communities to know that the education of our young people is a grand responsibility, and it must be objective, thorough, intellectually honest, and pure.
Private school and homeschooling are gaining in popularity among so many constitute groups because of this kind of teaching and testing. Let us pray for all the young students in our nation that they may be met with teaching and curricula that are seeking truth and understanding, and we need to be a part of that process whenever possible.
I am working with the Virginia Task Force to Combat Antisemitism commissioned by Governor Younkin and overseen by our attorney general Jason Miyeras. I also amplify the Virginia Department of Education’s efforts to revise and vet all Virginia public school curricula from antisemitism.
Find out what is going on in your state and act. Go to board meetings (or attend online). Support representatives who act. Voice your opposition to those who don’t. During public review periods for policies, participate by reading the shared content and commenting carefully on what works and what still needs revision or removal.
Democracy only works when an educated and honest constituency fully participates. Much blood was spilled and many wars were fought to preserve our freedoms. Our responsibility is to not let our foundations fall from within.
Shavua Tov. Have a great week.
Read the Full Article Here: NY Jewish lawmakers call for investigation of ‘biased’ Israel-related questions in state exam – The Forward