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LFOA Analysis

Not surprisingly, when analysing text under the Otoom mind model the same principles apply as when observing human behaviour.

This time the thought structures applicable to Western and/or Australian culture on one hand and those belonging to the Islamic mindset are deconstructed at the moment of one set interacting with the other's.

Thought structures - systems in their own right - are behind the behaviour humans enact which in turn impacts on their environment which then flows back to humans in the form of feedback. Therefore the ultimate viability of a society depends on how congruent that entire process can be made in relation to the respective environmental conditions, be they social, political, derived from knowledge vs ideology or provided by nature itself.

The following analysis plus what it finds are part of Otoom.

See a similar treatment given to a review of "Learning from one another".

How "peaceful" or otherwise is Islam really? See Excerpts from the Koran.


Education or Indoctrination?

A cognitive analysis of "Learning from one another"

1. Introduction

A teachers' advisory manual, "Learning from One Another: Bringing Muslim perspectives into Australian schools" [1], has been written against the background of rising numbers of Muslims in Australia. It is intended as a guide to familiarise primary and secondary school teachers with the needs of their Muslim pupils. What follows is an analysis of the text from the view point of cognitive dynamics. But first a brief outline on the latter's main aspects that are relevant here.

The human mind is a processor of information. How this is done depends on the data themselves and to what extend they are able to relate to pre-existing knowledge. Learning is enhanced when the input 'makes sense' but becomes more difficult when the necessary bridges are missing.

The absence of these bridges becomes an issue in the case of a broader audience who cannot be expected to possess a ready-made relationship with some content. Links have to be created to establish an affinity between speaker and listener, or writer and reader, or between advertiser and consumer.

In terms of cognitive dynamics people can be grouped into clusters that are defined according to their subject matter, where the degree of belonging can be compared to a pyramid with its rising scale of interest in the subject towards the top. The many members with their more or less peripheral interest, becoming less in number as the interest intensifies around the middle, with the very few representative of something akin to obsession at the peak, form the shape. Yet they all belong to the same framework.

Society contains many groups and therefore many such structures, with necessary overlaps. Communication becomes productive between members of two pyramids provided the transmission occurs at respective levels that are low enough to ensure a certain commonality without being interfered with by more focused perspectives.

For example, parliamentary members of the Liberal Party would not participate in formulating Labor policies but would support a pay rise for politicians in general. Their level of cooperation decreases as their concern gets closer to actual party lines.

Cognitive pyramids not only exist laterally across society, they also exist in a vertical sense in terms of the groups' knowledge and experience. Children within their configuration will have more in common with any of the adult pyramids towards their bases simply because they have not yet reached the higher levels of focus that eventually differentiate the groups from one another.

The phenomena of affinity and degree of focus can be made use of when it comes to changing people's minds, so much so that one's conscious will to change hardly matters.


2. "Learning from one another"

The following page references are taken from the pdf version of the document (available at http://www.nceis.unimelb.edu.au/school-education/resources-teachers/learning-one-another-resources).

The text is meant as an introduction to Islam for the guidance of teachers of pre-tertiary sector pupils. As such the quote from the Quran at the very beginning (p. iii), directly representing as it does a form of ideology in an authoritative manner, sits at odds with the stated purpose. An introduction is not a command calling for submission to what is presented.

2.1. LFOA - Foreword

The apparent purpose of the text is emphasised at the beginning of the Foreword (p. v), written by Professor Shahram Akbarzadeh from the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne, where we read it offers "Australian teachers some very practical ideas to ensure the continued engagement of Muslim pupils". From that it could be inferred that what follows represents an attempt at making it easier for Muslim pupils to relate to the Australian classroom.

In the next paragraph however we learn that Australia's culture "celebrates the rich inheritance of its inhabitants - new and old - and fosters mutual respect and understanding", without however hinting at the possibility that some of this inheritance may disagree with the host culture. Still, the paragraph ends with us remaining "committed to the humanist value system".

That last rider is left aside however in the next sentences where a "vibrant cosmopolitan society" has moved beyond tolerance and respect and embraces diversity which is understood as "breaking the barriers that separate us". It opens the door to synthesis, we are told. For this two-way process to be facilitated our teachers play a "critical role" and thus "shape the future of our society".

Tolerance and respect have to be earned through the open display of actions that seek to find an agreement with the observer. Jumping over that important step and embracing everything that is different through a breaking down of barriers which would allow conscious choice is in effect an exercise in brainwashing. Synthesis does not happen between two disparate concepts; only when the differences have been pared away can the two become one. Furthermore, the humanist value system [2] does not agree with religious tenets in many important aspects. A synthesis is only possible after a considerable modification of either and, as the text clearly states, it is our teachers who are meant to be used for that purpose.

2.2. LFOA - Introduction

The Introduction makes the not unreasonable observation that due to the sheer number of Muslims in Asia and particularly on Australia's doorstep it has become important to understand Islamic culture (p. 1). The Australian Federal Government provides funding to "promote the understanding of Islam and Muslims" and a three-university consortium strives to accomplish just that. Its name, the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies (NCEIS), suggests a university-standard examination and analysis of Islam. The present document is supposed to supplement the endeavour.

Yet the "inspiration for the title" (ie, "Learning from one another") comes from the Quran: "People, We created you from a single man and a single woman, and made you into nations and tribes so that you should all get to know one another". Therefore, a handful of universities undertake an analysis under the leitmotiv from a primitive age to which no comparable institution would relate under other circumstances.

Summarising the approach of LFOA we are told - warned? - that when it comes to the translation of Arabic terms, "linguistic accuracy is not the goal", and sometimes Arabic terms were avoided altogether. Any document that treats expressions specific to its subject matter in such a cavalier fashion does not inspire much confidence.

Described as the main goals of this resource we read,

1. provide avenues for teachers to introduce Islam and Muslim related content in their classrooms
2. equip teachers with the skills to meet the needs and expectations of Muslim students and their parents in education
3. facilitate a whole-school approach to supporting healthy relationships and engagement with Muslim students, parents and communities
4. offer teachers a greater awareness of the diversity of Islam and Muslims, nationally and globally
5. develop an appreciation of Muslim history and cultures in Australia. (p. 2)

Note the order of priority. First comes the introduction of Islamic material in classrooms; then comes the training of teachers in Islam-approved ways to synchronise with the expectations of Muslim students and their parents; thirdly the entire school gets modified to ensure the relations with Muslims remain "healthy" (although no mention is made of which side's health is actually promoted); next the teachers are brought into line to accommodate the diversity of Muslims everywhere presumably so that sectarian strife can be avoided (as reality proves, a tall order); and finally, cement the appreciation of Islam within the minds of pupils lest their own background interferes.

In their closing paragraphs the authors recommend the above strategies "regardless of the number of Muslim students in attendance" (p. 3).

2.3. LFOA - Part A - Islam and Muslims in the classroom

2.3.1. LFOA - English

The first issue addressed in Part A is English. While acknowledging that speaking the language of their host society is important, teachers are nevertheless exhorted to observe Muslim sensitivities when speaking on certain subjects. Examples where Muslim pupils and/or their parents might take exception are,

Assuming there are subjects relating to the general conduct in society taught in primary and/or secondary schools (quite apart from the parental home), the above would be exceptions that fall outside the societal norm. If they are exceptions, does that mean there is one set of rules for Muslims and another for the rest?

The statement "Islam is a complete way of living, governing all aspects of spirituality, personal conduct and social regulation" (p. 7), offered as the reason for the exceptions suggests an innate incompatibility on behalf of Islam with Australian standards.

Proposed strategies and content to introduce the extra-national framework include The Red Camel for primary school pupils and Does my head look big in this? for teenagers. Material attractive to the respective age group is used to build the conceptual bridge between local and foreign values across which the latter can be imported.

For older students teachers are advised to use the poem Allah as a literary means to search for the Islamic god (p. 8). If teachers are supposed to be selling a religion to Australian secondary school children then at the very least the idea ought to be identified as such. Hiding behind a seemingly innocuous introduction to other lands the action becomes subversive. Again, the conceptual bridge is made by having the class discuss the poem's content in terms of what they are familiar with already, in order for the importation to become feasible.

An interesting example of a manipulative exercise is the proposed activity involving three keywords, jihad, hijab and sharia (p. 9). Individuals who, because of their age, do not possess the critical faculties of more experienced adults, are cajoled into mental efforts to reinterpret the connotations of those key words. The grim and brutal conceptual environment of daily life is replaced by spiritual concepts that change the meaning for all practical purposes. As a means to modify a hitherto unpalatable idea into something more acceptable it is nothing new - ideological regimes do it all the time. In the present document the practice is referred to as 'positioning the reader'.

2.3.2. LFOA - Science

The very first sentence in this section reads, "The exploration and advancement of science has been one of the hallmarks of Muslim civilisation" (p. 11). Further on that initial statement is somewhat modified to become, "The Muslim philosophy of science is based on the idea that God is the creator of everything, and from this perspective the foundation for science is the Quran", and later, "Scientific exploration among Muslims has traditionally been driven by the Quran, Sunna (Prophet Muhammad's traditions) and religious requirements". In the West, one example of a philosophy of science can be found in the work of Karl Popper where he investigates, broadly speaking, the relationship between evidence and deduction in order to produce objective conclusions [3]. Another would be Wittgenstein's treatment of the situatedness of language forming conceptual frameworks that give rise to our perception of the world [4]. What connects these works is the juxtaposition of questions of meaning against objective evidence, in other words, interpretation vs observation. Bertrand Russel is worth quoting:

Philosophy ... is something intermediate between theology and science. Like theology, it consists of speculations on matters as to which definite knowledge has, so far, been unascertainable; but like science, it appeals to human reason rather than to authority, whether that of tradition or that of revelation. [5]

For the authors of LFOA to explain that Muslims "see science and religion as complimentary" and "in medieval times, Muslim scientists were also experts in theology and Islamic law" (p. 11) may seem impressive to young minds, but for an educator to express such contradictions in terms is questionable.

Although it is not openly stated as such, the reservation by some Muslims to be taught about evolution or to view diagrams of the naked human body should be seen as a warning to stay away from such subjects. After all, it was deemed to be sufficiently important to have been included in this manual (p. 11).

I leave the following items listed as representative of Islamic contributions to science (p. 12) to the experts in their respective fields; suffice to say that the wording is somewhat amorphous and does not furnish any precise detail. In any case, the latest year mentioned there is 1248 (p. 13), a relatively early chapter in the history of scientific evolution.

2.3.3. LFOA - Maths

In line with the overall purpose the Islamic contribution in this area is again highlighted, but once again lacks precision. To point out that "'zero' comes from the Arabic word 'sifr' [is] of particular interest" (p. 14) does not mean that the concept emanated from Islamic and/or Arabian thought, a semantic detail probably lost to the average pupil.

The Muslim scholar Alkhwarezm is presented and his equations (p. 21). While certainly interesting from a historical point of view, his work dates from the early 9th century. To somehow delineate from those times to a contemporary status of Islamic research as being significant for today's school students does nothing for the currency of their curriculum.

2.3.4. LFOA - History

The first sentence here, "Since the advent of Islam in 7th-century Arabia, Muslims have shaped world events politically, economically, religiously and intellectually", is adjoined by the next one which states, "Even in modern history, Muslim politics powerfully influence international relations the world over" (p. 22). The first radiates conceptually towards the second, that is to say the positive message of the former influences the latter, especially since events in the distant past no longer have the same impact as their contemporary counterparts. When separated however the meaning of Muslim politics being a powerful influence in world affairs would have a far more negative ambience (eg, the uprisings of so many Muslim separatist groups, Muslim incursions into neighbouring countries, Muslim militias operating globally, Islam-driven terrorism). Since even secondary school pupils would not have a deeper grasp of politics and warfare the above represents the use of a conceptual simplicity to misleadingly configure information.

The next paragraph states, "Muslims have their own version of history that needs to be acknowledged and appreciated. Providing students with only a Euro-centric version of history denies them the opportunity to evaluate different perspectives on past world events - a skill necessary to form a more nuanced view of the world as it is today".

To say that Muslims have their own version of a material that, at least in the West, is constantly subjected to investigation and debate, puts them at considerable odds with a practice determined by ongoing critique. In the West even history as a topic itself has not escaped modern analysis, one of the first being Hegel's Philosophy of History [6] from the early 1800s.

The statement, "A constructive approach to differences of opinion on history involves the teacher and students learning with and from each other. This is particularly the case in a multicultural and multifaith classroom" confuses the paedagogic status of primary and secondary schools. It is true that teacher and students learning together is a viable concept, but one which requires a commensurate level of intellectual dexterity on both sides. It has been elucidated by Wilhelm von Humboldt who saw university education as

Just as primary instruction makes the teacher possible, so he renders himself dispensable through schooling at the secondary level. The university teacher is thus no longer a teacher and the student is no longer a pupil. Instead the student conducts research on his own behalf and the professor supervises his research and supports him in it. [7] (my italics)

The Humboldtian model has become the standard for the modern Western university. For the authors of LFOA to declare, "Effective history teaching encourages a culture of enquiry and active discussion about different perspectives" moves multilateral enquiry into minds that are hardly yet equipped to master objective analysis. Used as a stepping stone into adulthood it gives rise to the modern sentiment that 'everything is just another opinion', regardless of the underlying facts. Such teaching does not "encourage respect", as the authors would have us believe, but rather leads to an uncritical acceptance of anything provided it is supported by a sufficiently emotional intensity.

Confirmation of that subjectivism can be found in the sentence, "In selecting a variety of resources, a good place to start is your local community; Muslim parents or community representatives are often delighted to share their stories or perspectives with students" (p. 23). Although individuals may have their own stories, for educational purposes a more objective approach is needed. Nor is the "wealth of material freely available on the internet" a productive source; anyone can say anything out there, and teachers should not hand over their authority to potential sources of misinformation.

2.3.5. LFOA - Geography

Referring to earlier Muslim travellers the authors write in relation to this subject, "Because of this tradition, Muslims generally show a keen interest in this subject", and, "For devout Muslims, this interest can also be a reflection of a Quranic injunction to travel the world in order to appreciate the greatness of God by learning about its landscapes and its peoples" (p. 33). Yet in the next paragraph we learn, "As many Muslims in the world today are undereducated and socio-economically disadvantaged, topics such as world aid, the 'Third World' and demographics are of particular interest to them".

Leaving the religious injunction aside (which in a secular school system is out of place anyway) there is a contradiction between the supposed, religion inspired, interest in geography and the need to teach geography because many Muslims are under-educated.

Examples cited as worthy of discussion include, "Israel and Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya, Southern Philippines (in particular, ARMM, or the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao), India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as Malaysia, Singapore, Southern Thailand, Aceh and Central Asia". Every one of them represents a considerable problem in today's international and local politics spanning many issues which are far beyond the primary and secondary school curriculum. To include them in any case requires a simplification bordering on meaninglessness.

Later in the section detailed instructions are given to find Mecca for the purposes of prayer. Note that this manual is not intended for religious instruction.

The subsection "Worksheet: Get the facts" features a table listing the various religious affiliations as a percentage of Australia's population (p. 40). Islam comprises 1.7% of the total. Given that fifteen others are mentioned (including 'no religion'), eight of which have a higher percentage, should a balanced treatment of the subject not also deal with the rest in order to further multi-cultural understanding?

2.3.6. LFOA - Arts

Regarding the visual arts, the text states, "..some Muslim students and/or their parents will be uncomfortable with drawing and sculpting animate objects (people and animals). Muslim students who adopt this stance, either of their own accord or on account of parental instruction, might purposely avoid drawing living creatures in full", and later, "While most Muslims do not see any harm in drawing animate objects, some students have gone as far as defacing their works and the works of others. They base their opinion on a literal reading of the following saying of Prophet Muhammad: 'Whoever depicts an animate object then God will charge him with giving that object a soul on the Day of Judgement (sic)'" (p. 42).

As LFOA is a guide for teachers to keep relations with their Muslim charges "healthy", it seems the above manifestations of religious fervour mean that disruption in the classroom is allowed as long as the Quran approves it.

Music is another problematic area for Muslims. We read that music is prohibited except during certain festivals, all musical instruments except one are prohibited, and all types of musical instruments and singing are permissible (!?) provided "modesty, moral decency and religious rules are observed". In the West these types of constraints belong to the Middle Ages. Teachers are advised to "negotiate" with "students and their families".

2.3.7. LFOA - Health and PE

The subject of sex has always been contentious in Middle Eastern religions. From the ancient Persian religions to Manichaeism [8] to the fear of eros in the Old and New Testament of the Bible and the - still - rigid morality of Islam, the West has nevertheless not been devoid of critics (consider Marcuse's treatment as an example [9]).

LFOA acknowledges the problem (p. 51), but once again wants teachers to "negotiate". If a wider analysis of sexual attitudes and mores around the world is desired, the treatment requires a considerable scope and cannot be squeezed into compact sentiments that are designed to be nothing more than a means for avoiding religious aggression in the classroom.

No other current religion is as dictatorial as Islam when it comes to dress, especially for females. In line with the accommodating tone of the document any considerations about health, humidity and heat (particularly pertinent in Australia's hot climate and non-air-conditioned classrooms) are not entered into; rather the need to observe the dictates of their religion are placed above everything else so that teachers are put in the unenviable role of supporting a dress code objectively identifiable as unhealthy under many conditions. How that can be reconciled with the standards of a secular society is not explained.

When it comes to religious fasting and physical activity the teachers are required to negotiate with the parents the best possible options, looking to the Quran for enlightenment (p. 52). Thus teachers in a largely secular school system are pushed into the role of interpreters of doctrine.

2.3.8. LFOA - Economics and Business

We are told that due to the Oil Boom "the Muslim world has become an important player in the global economy", and "Some of the wealthiest people in the world are Muslims" (p. 53). These glib statements hide the ultimate source of that wealth which can be traced to Western technology and standards of living. A more balanced view would have incorporated the wider picture. Since it hasn't, LFOA is not a balanced document.

Nor is the Muslim practice of ritual slaughtering entered into. Teachers are merely meant to mention that halal food exists and has become an important import and export commodity.

Pupils are instructed that under Islam the charging of interest is seen as a "form of oppression" and "[Muslims] argue that it makes the rich richer and the poor poorer", but also "that many Muslim communities live in poverty". The inherent contradiction is not entered into, preventing the intended audience from considering the implications.

2.3.9. LFOA - Cross-curricular Perspectives

Issues such as "Stereotypes, prejudice, ignorance, misinformation, misconceptions, racism" (p. 57) are indeed worthwhile topics to be discussed but require a perspective from a higher level than religious doctrine can afford. Especially when Muslims' "allegiance to Australia has been questioned" it is necessary to point to the overriding dictates of their religion which allowed others (and not just in Australia) to question their real allegiance. The text makes no mention of this.

In this context it is interesting to note that in subsection "Worksheet: What's in a name?" the results of a study by researchers from the Australian National University are listed which showed how many more applications were required using a Chinese, Middle Eastern, Indigenous and Italian name to get the same number of job interviews when using an Anglo-Saxon name (p. 62). According to the CVs in the test all the applicants had completed high school in Australia. Obviously, stereotyping played a role in the results, but the conclusion would be that despite the intended equalising influence of the school system the perception by the employers did not follow through. How much more justified would employers be in their assumption if schools made a point of nurturing cultural differences?

2.4. LFOA - Part B - Achieving Positive Outcomes for Muslim Students

2.4.1. LFOA - Engagement and Identity for Muslim Students

In the subsection "Engagement in learning" the authors discuss the difficulty many migrant children face in the classroom because they are used to a different education system (p. 65). In the case of Muslims they believe teachers "are meant to be authoritative and trusted figures whose job is to impart as much of their knowledge as possible to their students", and therefore the role of a student is to listen carefully and learn as much as they can. Their method is posited against the constructivist approach used in Australia which requires discussion and active participation.

The authors could have mentioned that in Australia too the modern way is quite recent. Since part of the change has been due to the influence of feminism in the second half of the 20th century and its ambition to change the methods to those more agreeable to girls, one symptom, the decline in academic standards in boys, has even been the subject of a House of Representatives enquiry [10]. The male-oriented culture of Islam has remained with the traditional model. However, instead of appreciating the latter teachers are advised to make their pupils recognise the "merits" of "oral presentations, class discussions, debates, journals and projects" (p. 66).

On the subject of discipline and respect the authors understand the need for further explanation since the "open and friendly way in which students and teachers interact in Australian schools may also come as a shock to some Muslim students and their parents", seeing it "as a lack of respect as opposed to a fun learning environment". According to the text "Australian schools still emphasise the fundamental value of respect". On the other hand, in January 2010 the Queensland State Government saw it necessary to form a consortium of several school-related associations called the Queensland Schools Alliance Against Violence with the purpose of stemming violence in schools [11] and their "fun learning environment". Interestingly, in both of the above cases the authors, although addressing the issues, do not touch upon the possibility that more traditional learning systems could be better - an attitude that could be expected given the conciliatory attitude elsewhere in the document.

A similar treatment can be found in the subsection "Parental expectations and rebellion" (p. 68). Concerns such as lack of discipline shown by Australian children, not enough homework, or disrespect for teachers have been expressed to researchers on that subject. "..some of these concerns are not unique to Muslims" is the only nod given to a much wider problem in society.

2.4.2. LFOA - Facilitating Religious Practice and Customs in Schools

Any religion interferes with the general conduct in a secular society due to its innate idiosyncrasy. The more particular one's way of life under a doctrine, the greater the possibility of clashes. In today's environment within advanced nations the detailed rules of Islamic piety run against many customs, be they personal or organisational. No wonder that for Muslims prayer, fasting and the attendance at their festivals represent an issue in schools (p. 70 onwards). Especially with children the granting of exceptions and/or particular facilities can be problematic when in addition the pressures of school life demand the submission to a common schedule.

Before any attempts are made to involve administrative authorities in cumbersome and sensitive efforts to bend the rules, the question should be asked to what an extent such modifications are feasible. It comes down to the fundamental choice of what is more important - rejecting religious whimsy and integrating into a wider society or insisting on one's customs and choosing another society. It is clear the authors could not bring themselves to get even close to that central point.

One of the more basic behaviours of humans is eating, and again the pervasiveness of Islam causes pressure points through its insistence of halal food. From the type of animal to the method of slaughter its diversion from secular priorities does not make for harmony. A sentence such as, "..using a sharp blade so as not to torture the animal" (p. 73) would suggest that only slicing one's head off with a blunt blade constitutes torture. How far children would make that distinction is debatable, but considering that Sharia law requires the condemned prisoner's head be cut off with a sword places the above remark in interesting company.

LFOA makes no attempt to address the disparity between Islam and Western sensibilities but stipulates the need to make room in the general school system for practices that are based solely on belief. In the text the onus rests with the teachers to ensure the correct version of food is made available to their classes (p. 74).

Concerning dress, the subsection refers to the hijab only, leaving out the burqa. The accompanying picture of two women, one clearly smiling and the other's face hidden except for the eyes and a small part of the forehead, represent the mollifying symbolisation of an issue that in real life is far more confronting (p. 74).

In Australia a Liberal senator caused "outrage" from the Muslim community when he called for a ban on the burqa [12], and a recent survey found that only 26.4% of Europeans in general agree with the wearing of the veil, while in Spain the figure is 28.1%, in Germany 15.0% and in France it is 16.6% [13].

Explicit rules coming from Muslims and cited in LFOA, such as the garment

do not lead to an appreciation for mutual tolerance on behalf of their host society.

When co-curricular activities require girls to travel for more than a day and a night without an Islam-approved guardian the clash between cultures becomes once more apparent (p. 76). Since there is no other religion that bans it adherents from such normal activities as camps the exceptional status of Muslims presents another problem for teachers. The text does not offer any solution apart from an implied acceptance of idiosyncrasy as fact. Even such ordinary acts as a handshake are brought under the guise of "desire". In a Western context educators would view such impositions as a form of sexualising children.

2.5. LFOA - Part C - Wide World of Muslims

Much of this section concerns itself with a summary of religious detail (p. 77 onwards). A study of religion in a secular system should concentrate on ascertainable facts that have been collected by independent observers, otherwise the explanation deteriorates into doctrinaire teaching. It is doubtful whether primary school children would benefit from such a course, and for secondary schools the subject would have to be integrated with the overall exposure to history and geography, and ideally with psychology. Religions have always influenced history, sometimes with devastating results. In LFOA however there is no opportunity for the students to consider the wider ramifications stemming from the spread of Islam, nor are they exposed to the psychological issues surrounding someone who hears a god.

2.5.1. LFOA - A Very Brief History of Islam

It is brief indeed. So much so that it could be considered as a sugary adjunct to religious teaching, since as a history course it is virtually meaningless. The growth of Islam is taken out of the very real context of warfare, submission and revenge. That context forms an integral part of any study of history and therefore leads to the ongoing debates on this or that ultimate correctness. In its absence the authors would have done better leaving this section out altogether.

Notable is the mention of the Crusades as an example of distrust between Islam and the West. We read, "Often, this mistrust is caused by, and/or coupled with, ignorance and prejudice" (p. 95). What the authors do not mention is that such ignorance and prejudice is a symptom of ideological perspectives (including medieval Europe), religions being the spiritual version. Yet the entire document explicitly reiterates the religion of Islam throughout its pages.

2.5.2. LFOA - Muslims in Australia

What has been said about the overall history of Islam applies here as well. For example, references to unemployment, ie, "Muslim unemployment figures are generally higher than the national average" are partly related to "underlying discrimination and prejudice towards non-Europeans" (p. 98), leaving out the lack of integration on behalf of Muslims. A following sentence is telling, "But Muslims should not be seen as a separate social entity when we talk about contributions to society. They do not deserve special treatment or scrutiny" (p. 99). After 98 pages containing one extra consideration after another that sentiment is rather disingenuous.

2.5.3. LFOA - Misconceptions and Stereotypes

This section represents the usual custom of religionists selling their own beliefs. A detailed description of ideological thought structures goes beyond the scope of this analysis; suffice to say that subjectivism will always grate against the view from the outside simply because the latter is able to discern the former's incongruence with reality. The - Western - history of science and indeed the Age of Reason is testimony to the serious efforts by notable individuals to overcome the impediments of captured thinking.

On the practical side a comparison between nations in terms of their religious composition shows that the higher the degree of intensity the lower the standards (measured were, average life expectancy, infant mortality, literacy and GDP per capita, and their respective religion) [14]. As the tables demonstrate, Islamic countries consistently feature on the lower rungs due to the pervasive nature of their religion.


3. Conclusion

For most purposes the nature of cognitive dynamics are sufficiently understood to impart information in an attractive, even subversive manner. Although the ethics would often be questionable, at the very least those attempts exist in the realm of adults who are receptive to argument and counter-argument. To apply the techniques to children without regard as to their general intellectual and curricular development is an act of authoritarianism that has no place in a liberal and open society.

LFOA applies such techniques throughout its pages. Religious doctrine is presented as acceptable fact, contentious issues are left aside, or, if touched upon at all, are compacted into word-bites that prevent the target audience from discerning the very real implications behind them.

In line with the text's ideological aspect even more positive aspects (such as respect for teachers) are dismissed in favour of the desired standard to which the current school system is exposed.

The document "Learning from one another" is an example of the continuing trend to shift complex issues towards younger and younger age groups while at the same time reducing the former's complexity to the latter's lower cognitive levels. Thus it works towards the infantilisation of society.


4. References

1. Hassim, E., and Cole-Adams, J., Learning from One Another: Bringing Muslim perspectives into Australian schools, National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies, The University of Melbourne, 2010.

2. Humanism, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanism, accessed 6 June 2010.

3. Popper, K., The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Routledge, New York, 1999.

4. Wittgenstein, L., Philosophical Investigations, Blackwell, Oxford, 1998.

5. Russel, B., History of Western Philosophy, Routledge, London, 2000, p. 13.

6. Hegel, G.W.F., The Philosophy of History, Prometheus Books, New York, 1991.

7. History of European research universities, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_European_research_universities, accessed 6 June 2010.

8. Widengren, G., Mani and Manichaeism, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1965.

9. Marcuse, H., Eros and Civilization, A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud, Routledge, London, 1998.

10. Boys: getting it right - Report on the inquiry into the education of boys, House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Training, The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, October 2002.

11. http://www.cabinet.qld.gov.au/mms/StatementDisplaySingle.aspx?id=68587, accessed 26 April 2010.

12. Burqa ban is 'un-Australian' say Muslims, news.com.au, http://www.news.com.au/national/burqua-ban-is-un-australian-say-muslims/story-e6frfkvr-1225863357698, accessed 4 June 2010.

13. European Mindset: BBVA Foundation study on the Identity, Views and Values of Europeans, Fundación BBVA, Madrid, 2010, p. 27.

14. Wurzinger, M., Demographic orientations, http://www.otoom.net/demographicorientations.htm, 2008.

15 Jun 2010

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