Welcome to the Parents for Excellence in Newton Schools (PENS) website! We hope you will find the site informative and that what you read here inspires you to take action - an email, a phone call, or a conversation with your children - about inaccurate and biased class material used in public schools in Newton, Massachusetts and other communities.
Our goal is to ensure that material presented as factual is accurate and non-biased. We do not object to material obtained from organizations advocating a particular philosophy or point of view so long as its source and inherent bias is disclosed to students and the material is utilized as example of bias or for discussion purposes and is presented with material from a contrary view. That is not the case right now.
Links to Class Material
If you're looking for class material used in Newton schools, they are in two places. The material analyzed in the Verity Educate Report (see below) is here. The material is lettered to correspond to the Report's analysis.
Additional material not included in the Report is here.
Other material, including a grossly inaccurate and biased, Saudi-funded text called Arab World Studies Notebook and a (now defunct) hate-filled website called Flashpoints were removed from Newton schools after exposure by PENS and pressure from PENS and other residents.
The school department also agreed to 'white out' a statement in the book A Muslim Primer which claimed the Catholic church was "reconsidering polygamy as a Christian option". The History Department Chair at Newton North High School acknowledged that the statement "might be misleading".
Verity Educate Report
The education research group Verity Educate works to ensure that students have access to accurate and unbiased resources. Verity Educate is independent and non-political; it is not associated with any other organization including PENS.
In September 2014, Verity Educate published an extensive Report
analyzing twenty-six items of material used in Newton high school World History classes.
None of the material analyzed in the Report was used for discussion purposes or to compare approaches to historical events; all were purported to be accurate and neutral.
The Verity Educate Report was produced completely independently of PENS or any other organization. PENS did not commission the Report and did not pay Verity Educate for its work. Our only contribution was providing a small amount of material, sent to PENS by the Newton schools in response to a public record request, to Verity Educate.
The Report found numerous inaccuracies, overt bias, and evidence of academic dishonesty including deceptively edited primary source documents, the failure to disclose the source of material produced by extremist organizations, and the use of a handout derived from discredited sources such as a radical Islamist* website and a 1960's-era Saudi oil company public relations brochure.
However, not all the material analyzed was inaccurate or biased. Of the twenty-six document examined, sixteen contained significant inaccuracies or biases which in our opinion renders them unsuitable for student use.
Verity Educate evaluates material solely on its educational accuracy, not on the views of the author or publisher. For example, the Report notes that a book by John L. Esposito, "Islam: The Straight Path" is a "well accepted in the scholarly community" and that despite the author's personal activities in supporting boycotts against Israeli academics and defending radical Islamist theory, they do not effect this work.
The Report is available free of charge from the Verity Educate website. A summary of findings on individual texts, prepared by PENS, is here.
Update April, 2016: It is now eighteen months after the Report was published and Newton Public Schools (NPS) officials still refuse to read it. There is no valid reason for the refusal; administrators simply do not want to admit that neglecting the responsibility to review class material has resulted in the use of grossly inaccurate and biased texts.
Reports by CAMERA
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), a Boston-based media research organization, has published several articles about Newton schools. They are available here.
To all Readers
We need your help to overcome the school administration's disregard for educational accuracy and its tolerance of inaccurate and overtly biased material, including material which fails to meet the most basic educational standards. While some of this material (the Arab World Studies Notebook and Flashpoints) has been removed from use, most remains.
Other organizations including the Fordham Foundation for Educational Excellence, Jewish Telegraph Agency, The Textbook League, and American Jewish Committee issued reports about inaccurate and biased material used in Newton classrooms. These findings have been published in newspapers and magazines including the Washington Times, Metrowest News, Times of Israel, Baltimore Reporter, and JointMedia News Service.
Please email or call Superintendent David Fleishman, the School Committee, and Mayor Setti Warren and tell them that you want the History Department Chairs of both high schools to review the Verity Educate Report and CAMERA articles, and to stop the use of inaccurate, deceptively edited, and biased material. Students tell us that this material is NOT used to "illustrate bias" or for discussion purposes but as purportedly accurate "fact". Contact information is here. A 'bcc' to NewtonExcellence@gmail.org would be appreciated.
* Please note the distinction between Islamic and Islamist. Describing a source as "Islamic" simply means that it is related to the religion Islam and does not connote any type of extremism or radicalism. The word "Islamist" refers to a radical or extreme version of Islam which seeks to replace current political systems with a government based on Islamic law as practiced during the time of Mohammad. This is the goal of ISIS and similar groups.