Journal of Educational Controversy


Monday, September 20, 2010

A Teachable Moment: Discussing the Controversy over the Proposed Islamic Cultural Center near Ground Zero

We just learned about an interesting curriculum that we wanted to bring to the attention of our readers. It was developed by the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. We invited the center to describe its work in the post below.

Curriculum Ideas for Discussing Park51
From the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding

Park51, the proposed cultural center/mosque near Ground Zero is one of the most talked-about and volatile issues in the U.S. right now, raising questions and feelings about Islam, extremists, terrorists and 9/11.

The same information that characterizes the debate in the mainstream media will inevitably color students’ perceptions of the issue, as they inherit the media’s and individuals in their communities’ take on the debate. Tools for helping guide conversations around this issue are important. The Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding has created a curriculum to help arm teachers with the resources they need to turn this tension-filled topic into an enriching classroom experience.

Tanenbaum is a secular, non-sectarian organization committed to the vision that people of all beliefs, from the most religiously devout to the most committed atheist can live, learn and work peacefully together in a spirit of true respect. The mission of the Religion and Diversity Education program is to train educators across the globe to prepare students to be global citizens, skilled in living and succeeding in a religiously diverse society and able to incorporate coexistence into their everyday lives. We know that teachers encounter questions from students about the role of religion in their lives and in the world and offer our trainings and curriculum to help them in that work.

Using the curriculum, teachers can explore the Park51 controversy specifically, or use it as an avenue to discuss conflict generally and look at conflict resolution and mediation tools. They can look at anti-Islam sentiment across the country, and compare it to other historical “phobias” in the U.S. They can also use the conversation as a tool for having a thoughtful conversation about 9/11 and what it means for the U.S. and our relationship with the rest of the world.

You can download the Park51 Curriculum Guide and Fact Sheets from Tanenbaum’s website. If you have any questions, please contact

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