Americans everywhere were outraged to discover fifth grade students in Texas were being taught that United States foreign policy decisions helped cause the tragic 9/11 terrorist attacks. TheBlaze reported last week that students in Corpus Christi, Texas were required to watch a controversial video, distributed by digital education company Safari Montage, and then take an accompanying quiz that placed blame on the U.S., not radical Islam, for the 2001 World Trade Center attacks, which left nearly 3,000 people dead.
(Scroll down for an update to this story)
Following a firestorm over the quiz question, Safari Montage pulled the question from its program. However, the company has no plans to pull the actual video, which essentially teaches the exact same point found in the quiz question. The company that created the video, Schlessinger Media, just so happens to be owned by Safari Montage.
The video, titled "Remembering September 11th," was published in 2002, just one year after 9/11. The video has been taught in "tens of thousands" of schools across the country for the better part of a decade, Safari Montage Executive Editor Lori Griffin told TheBlaze in an email.
TheBlaze has purchased a copy of the video in question. Here's word-for-word what is taught in the video:
Kid: "Why would the terrorists be so mad at us anyway?"
Man: "A lot of people blame the United States for problems around the world."
Kid: "I don't get it."
Man: "America is such a big and powerful country that the decisions we make here affect other countries around the world. And a lot of people think that we don't use our power the right way. That's because sometimes the things we do here can have a negative effect on other countries. And a lot of people disagree with the decisions and policies that the United States has."
Watch the relevant portion of the video distributed by Schlessinger Media/Safari Montage below:
The video is intended for children in grades four to six. To be fair, the man in the video does go on to point out that there is a difference between political protest and committing an act of violence. Further, the video never excuses terrorism as an acceptable form of protest.
Though the term "radical Islam" is not mentioned, the little girl in the video later discusses how a lot Muslims were mistreated after 9/11. The man in the video reminds the kids that very few Muslims are "fanatics" like Osama bin Laden.
"After September 11th, I was worried that everyone was going to be mad at me personally...Well, because my family is Muslim. We practice the religion of Islam," the girl says.
"Oh, like Osama bin Laden?" the boy asks.
"No, not like that at all," the man in the video replies. "Islam is a peaceful religion. Very few Muslims are fanatics like bin Laden. Most were as horrified by what happened on Sept. 11 as we all were."
The little girl goes on to say that "lots of Muslims were treated disrespectfully after the tragedy."
Watch that portion of the video below:
TheBlaze attempted to contact a child psychiatrist to confirm that the video's subject matter, which also includes clips of the burning World Trade Center towers, is suitable for young children. However, messages left for several Dallas-area professionals were not returned in time for this report.
Here is the corresponding quiz (which has since been removed) that students were given following the video:
Corpus Christi parent Kara Sands, who first brought attention to the quiz given to her son at Flour Bluff Intermediate School, told TheBlaze in a previous interview that she felt the video was just as offensive as the quiz. Sands was given the opportunity to watch the video by school officials.
Meanwhile, Griffin confirmed to TheBlaze that "Remembering September 11th" has been used in "tens of thousands of classrooms for over 10 years." She also explained why the quiz question has since been removed and argued that the publisher of the video, Schlessinger Media/Safari Montage, does not believe that the U.S. is to blame for 9/11:
"One of the quiz questions provided with this children’s program delves into the very difficult topic of why the terrorists attacked the US. The answer as provided is that decisions made in the United States have had negative effects on people elsewhere. We now believe this concise answer to be an over-simplification which could cause one to mistakenly believe that the attacks were deserved, which was neither the intent nor the belief held by the publisher. This quiz question is being removed from the program on SAFARI Montage. We value the input from our customers on all aspects of our video streaming library and digital learning platform."
The executive producers of the video are listed as Andrew Schlessinger, the CEO of Safari Montage, and Tracy Mitchell. The person who reportedly wrote the content found in the video though is Kate Youngdahl.
Safari Montage is a privately owned company and doesn't receive any government funding, Griffin told TheBlaze. However, government funds and grants are available to schools that purchase Safari Montage programming, just as there are for other IT initiatives in education.
UPDATE: Lynn Kaylor, public information officer at Flour Bluff Intermediate School, told TheBlaze on Tuesday that the school is currently "reviewing" the 9/11 video from Safari Montage to determine whether the school should continue using the video for its lesson on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Kalyor could not tell TheBlaze when officials would make a final decision on the matter but did say that a decision hadn't been made as of Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET.
However, Kara Sands, the Corpus Christi parent who first brought the issue to light, told TheBlaze in an email Tuesday that Flour Bluff ISD interim superintendent told her that the school would no longer be using the video at a parent meeting Monday.
We were unable to contact Flour Bluff Intermediate School a second time Tuesday to discuss the discrepancy. Stay tuned for additional updates to this story.