National media groups and bloggers are weighing in on a freshman AP World Geography lesson at a high school near Beaumont taught by a teacher last week. A picture of Lumberton HS students wearing Burqas in the classroom went viral.
According to Reference.com, a burqa or burka is an enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions for the purpose of cloaking the entire body. It is worn over the usual daily clothing and removed when the woman returns to the sanctuary of the household.
The criticism stems from several elements of the lesson: what some call the use of material from "C Scope" which is a resource made available to teachers from the Regional Education Service Centers across Texas. Some critics have said certain lessons are biased, even anti-American.
The superintendent says he is getting negative calls from across the country, from people he feels are getting bad information about what really happened in that classroom.
Bayleigh Smith and Noelle Davis are freshmen at Lumberton HS and say they enjoy the hands-on learning they receive in the AP World Geography class. They explain they are learning about different cultures, religions, and customs from across the world. Last week, the class spent two days learning about the Middle East.
Smith says, "We recently tried on the different types of barbs in Middle East. We were all very excited to do that."
The students say the teacher gave them the option of whether to put on burqas. Many who did took pictures. Now, the picture and the lesson are in the national spotlight.
"It's disappointing to me to see people up in arms to something that's inconsequential," Smith says.
Islam isn't the only religion the students have studied. They've also studied Judaism, Christianity, and right now they're studying the culture of South Africa.
John Valastro is the lumberton school superintendent. He says the teacher has taught the same lesson for a long time in her decades-long career.. long before c-scope was in the classrooms.
Valastro says, "Our teachers do a good job. Unfortunately, they are caught in between a struggle of what one group thinks is inappropriate and what the state is trying to teach."
Valastro says if the state wants to change the curriculum, the district will do what's necessary. In the meantime, the two students we spoke with support the lesson, the teacher, and deny she tried to influence their opinion about the Middle East, or any region they study in world geography.
State Senator Dan Patrick of Houston is looking into the lesson, and the Texas Board of Education is investigating the use of C-scope.