Salon excerpts a book by Linda Wertheimer abou teaching religion in a age of tolerance, focusing on an incident in which a teacher in a small Texas school district tried to teach children about Islam and the Middle East, in part, by bringing in a burqa and letting children try it on. The teacher also asked her students to look at examples of political violence around the world and decide if the agitators were freedom fighters or terrorists, in order to demonstrate that perceptions can change from person to person. The teacher had conducted the lesson for years without incident -- until WorldNetDaily found out about it:
The first story broke on a conservative blog, WorldNetDaily, on February 24, 2013. Headlined “Students Made to Wear Burqas—in Texas,” the story linked the burka lesson to a Texas online curriculum that conservatives had attacked for allegedly having a pro-Islam bias. But Peters’s lessons predated the creation of that curriculum, which provides lesson plans to teachers. WorldNetDaily, quoting unnamed students, contended Peters told her students that she was supposed to teach them to refer to Muslims as freedom fighters rather than terrorists.
Indeed, the WND article by John Griffing contains no named sources, apparently relying on the claims of a single anonymous "student in the class" to back up his claim that students were "made to wear burqas." Griffing made no apparent attempt to contact the school district, further making a mockery of WND editor Joseph Farah's laughable insistence that his reporters "are always encouraged and required to seek out multiple sources and contrary viewpoints in news articles."
Griffing tied the incident (the facts of which he got wrong) to his larger attack on a lesson plan on Islam that was used in Texas schools -- which, as we've documented, was based on a discredited, misinformation-laden chain email.
To our knowledge, WND has never corrected any of the misinformation in Griffing's articles.
Wertheimer reported that as a result of the misinformation spread about the lesson by WND and others, strangers sent e-mails accusing the teacher and the school system of corrupting children and attempting to convert them to Islam. The teacher -- who pointed out there was only one burqa, not several as WND's Griffing suggested -- felt as if her entire 39-year teaching career was under attack and chose to retire at the end of the school year.
WND seems to think it can move blithely, that the misinformation and lies it spreads have no consequences in the real world. But in Texas in 2013, it resulted in unwarranted hate mail and the end of a teacher's career.