Some of you who live in Florida probably have heard of David Caton, but he was new to me. I got wind of him because he is crusading against a Prentice Hall textbook used in a Florida public high school. I worked for Prentice Hall several years ago, and as most of you know I was a worker bee in the textbook industry for a long time, so I nosed around.
The textbook, used in an Advanced Placement class in Brevard County, has a chapter on “Muslim civilization” but nothing about Christianity or Islam. Townhall was on the case —
State Rep. Ritch Workman told Fox News the Prentice World History textbook rewrites Islamic history and presents a biased version of the Muslim faith.
“The book has a 36-page chapter on Islam but no chapters on Christianity or Judaism,” Workman said. “It’s remarkably one-sided.”
Caton sent an email alert to his followers:
Prentice Hall’s World History text book with its biased presentation of Islam continues to be used in numerous school districts. The same company that published a high school text book which embellishes Islamists and belittles Judaism and Christianity also has ownership in The Economist, a leading advertiser on Al Jazeera America.
To which a spokesperson for Prentice Hall (currently owned by the British multinational company Pearson) replied:
In Florida, as in other states, Pearson creates custom course materials that align to the state’s specific curriculum standards. Florida’s standards split the world history curriculum into two years of study, in grades 6 and 10. The state’s standards require the sixth grade curriculum start with early civilizations and continue through to the fall of Rome (476 A.D.). In the 10th grade, the state’s high school curriculum begins with the Byzantines (330 A.D.), proceeds to the Early Middle Ages in Europe (500 A.D.) and continues to the present day.
The Florida edition of the Pearson high school World History text aligns to the state’s standards, which require that the high school course include content on the origins of Islam, while the middle school text details the earlier origins of Judaism and Christianity. The Florida Department of Education approved the Pearson World History programs for adoption and validated that the content in our programs meets the requirements and educational goals of the state.
Caton, of course, called this explanation “absurd,” and revealed that one of Pearson’s companies is a “top advertiser” on Al-Jazeera America. Islamist conspiracy!
Seriously, I know the textbook industry. Its only concern is making money selling textbooks. If the state of Florida required them to mention Mickey Mouse on every other page, they would do it.
This also exemplifies why textbook publishers are very, very leery of mentioning religion at all, because no matter how carefully one words the text, it will piss off somebody. And that somebody might be on a textbook approval committee.
But I decided to check out this Caton guy. It turns out that about 30 years ago he published a book about how he had overcome an addiction to pornography and several chemical substances. Since then he got religion and founded the Florida Family Association (“Defending American Values”!), which mostly crusades against tolerance of homosexuals and Muslims. Not surprisingly, the AFF is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Among the FFA’s past projects was trashing the television reality series All-American Muslim, which ran on the TLC cable network for one season, in 2011-2012. The program followed the daily lives of five Lebanese-American Shiia families in Dearborn, Michigan. Caton managed to pressure two advertisers, Lowe’s Home Improvement and Kayak.com, to drop their sponsorship. Samuel Freedman wrote in the New York Times,
It would be upsetting enough if a well-financed, well-organized mass movement had misrepresented a television show, insulted an entire religious community and intimidated a national corporation. What makes the attack on “All-American Muslim” more disturbing — and revealing — is that it was prosecuted by just one person, a person unaffiliated with any established organization on the Christian right, a person who effectively tapped into a groundswell of anti-Muslim bigotry.
“We live in the age of the Internet and a well-organized extreme right,” said Mark Potok, who investigates hate groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center and has followed Mr. Caton’s activities. “This little man was able to have his voice amplified in huge ways.”
Caton’s Crusade was ridiculed on the Daily Show. (Go to the web page if the clip isn’t working.)
Now David Catton is going after Al-Jazeera America, calling it “Jihad TV.” The FFA claims it has persuaded 138 advertisers to drop advertising on Al-Jazeera.
The relentless Caton also has accused the Tampa Bay police of covering up an “honor killing” The Florida Family Association Islamophobia is being documented by the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). See also the Stop David Caton & Florida Family Association Extremism facebook page, sponsored by American Family Voices.