By Denise Dick
A video included as a resource in the city schools science curriculum espouses creationism, and published reports claim its producer is an Islamic cult leader and Holocaust denier.
“We don’t teach creationism,” said Timothy Filipovich, executive director of teaching and learning for the Youngstown schools.
He said the video by Harun Yahya was included in the curriculum materials before Filipovich was hired by the district. “It’s really designed for [students] to learn to look at resources and determine whether those resources are reliable,” Filipovich said.
For example, students would review the evidence supporting both evolution and intelligent design and determine its validity.
“There are a great deal of publications out there,” Filipovich said. “They have to be able to determine the merit and flaws of the resources and evidence to support one argument or the other.”
The video is one of the resources students can use in an assignment to research and write a nonfiction argumentative essay.
“There are so many things out there online if they don’t learn to look at it with a critical eye to find out if it’s reliable and good-researched evidence, they’ll believe anything,” he said.
A story about the video was featured this week on the Jerusalem Post website under the headline, “Ohio school district teaching material made by Holocaust denying, Islamic sex cult leader.” A story published this week on The Daily Beast and then the Jerusalem Post reported that Harun Yahya is another name for Adnan Oktar, whom the The Daily Beast called “a creationist cult leader and Islamic televangelist who owns Turkey’s A9 TV channel.”
Oktar wrote a book in the mid-1990s, “The Holocaust Lie,” in which he denies that the Holocaust happened.
Bonnie Deutsch Burdman, director of community relations and government affairs for the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation, believes the school district should be wary of any materials produced by someone who denies the Holocaust.
“Holocaust denial is a gateway for espousing anti-Semitism,” she said.
City school students learn about the Holocaust as part of the district’s history curriculum.
“It’s important to learn the lessons from our history so we don’t repeat them,” Burdman said.
The federation has many resources schools may use free of charge to teach students about the Holocaust, Burdman said.
Filipovich said when the video was incorporated as a resource into the curriculum, no one knew its origin.
“It’s an easy fix to remove it,” he said. “That’s probably the direction that will be taken.”
Because a previous school board approved the curriculum that included the video, the board could vote to remove it, Filipovich said.
Brenda Kimble, school board president, hadn’t read the articles about the video or seen the video and said she couldn’t comment without knowing more about it.
The Daily Beast reported that on Oktar’s television program he is surrounded by women in tight-fitting clothes with dyed blond hair as he promotes Islam. The women call Octar master and he refers to them as kittens, the article says.
Dario Hunter, a school board member who also is a rabbi, doesn’t believe that whoever included the video in the curriculum did so because they support the denial of the Holocaust.
The promotion of creationism, though, he believes was included intentionally.
Hunter doesn’t buy Filipovich’s explanation.
“That to me is ridiculous,” he said. “You’re putting two things to compare and contrast into the same room that shouldn’t be in the same ballpark.”
Evolution is based on science.
“Creationism is pseudoscience at best,” Hunter said.
Comparing and contrasting the two concepts gives creationism a level of credibility it shouldn’t be given in a science course.
“I’m disappointed by this,” he said.