If you want to promote tolerance and respect for Muslim students, perhaps teaching children something about Islam might help. Teachers College has come out with a guide for teachers “designed to enhance understanding of Islam and promote tolerance of Muslim students.” But EdWeek’s Mary Ann Zehr points out the guide ”gives only tangential treatment to religion in favor of focusing on the culture and identity of Muslims.”
The guide doesn’t discuss, for example, the five pillars of Islam, the significance of Ramadan, or the differences between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. One of the most direct references to religion that I could find is a link to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life about the beliefs and practices of Muslims (search by “tradition”). But that survey tells you about as much about Islam as a religion as a survey of the beliefs and practices of Roman Catholics in the United States tells you about Catholicism.
In contrast, the Core Knowledge Sequence introduces major world religions in the first grade. In the fourth grade, the spread of Islam is examined along with Islamic art. One of the lessons in the TC cycle asks students to examine and evaluate depictions of Muslims and Islam in the media. Great idea. Hard to do if you’re coming to the subject cold. “There are still entrenched suspicions and profound misconceptions about Islam and Muslim culture,” the TC guide notes. And there will continue to be unless you actually teach the subject.