[ProgressiveEd] Fwd: [rsct] teaching about Iraq -- NYT article and resource

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I think this is an interesting article and might be useful for some of us. 
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Subject: [rsct] teaching about Iraq -- NYT article and resource
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Dear friends,
In today's New York Times there is an article that looks at teaching 
about Iraq. It is the first time I heard about the web site 
www.choices.edu from Brown University that has lots of teaching 
ideas/resources about public policy issues, including the "Crisis with 
Iraq." There are lots of interesting links with articles on Iraq and a 
few lesson plans oriented towards high school students. I have not 
carefully examined the quality of the lesson plans, but they appear to be 
worth checking out. 
Below is the NYT's article.
Bob Peterson
New York Times
March 7, 2003
Schools Seek Balance as Students Join War Debate
NORMAL, Ill. -- Alex Oswald, a high school freshman here, recently argued 
the hard line.
   "It's our duty to attack Iraq and eliminate their weapons of mass 
destruction," he said.
Another freshman, Anthony Hamer, went further, saying, "We should just go 
in and assassinate Saddam." 
But those arguments did not sit well with other freshmen, including 
14-year-old Morgan Farrington.
"There are lots of dangerous dictators out there," she said. "Are you 
going to remove them all?"
The debate at Normal Community High School was one of thousands that have 
played out in schools from Connecticut to California in recent weeks. 
Many of them, as in Kelly Keogh's World Studies class here, have been 
organized by teachers. Others have been spontaneous, sometimes 
threatening to turn into brawls. 
In classroom after classroom, teachers are confronting the possibility of 
war with Iraq, struggling to maintain academic decorum while encouraging 
students to discuss events that they know from experience are dividing 
adults. Some teachers are grappling with students eager to stage an 
antiwar play. Others are weighing whether grisly battlefield images on 
live television should have a place in the classroom. 
"Everywhere I've been over the past months, the key question for 
educators has been, How do we teach the controversy?" said Charles C. 
Haynes, of the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va.
The answer has varied widely, and the political stances have, too. 
In Maine, for instance, Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat, admonished 
teachers to maintain neutrality recently after the National Guard 
complained that teachers, in their classrooms, were calling the military 
"unethical." In an Omaha district, students said in interviews that a 
teacher had been playing Rush Limbaugh tapes in class. 
But in San Francisco, the Board of Education voted to oppose war in Iraq, 
and superintendents in Los Angeles and Chicago urged principals to give 
students time to air their views, even if critical, of the government.
"During the Vietnam War, students across the country fed the call for 
withdrawal and forced the government to rethink its plans," Arne Duncan, 
the chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools, told students on Feb. 
21, opening a day of discussion on Iraq in the city's 600 public schools. 
"I urge you to find your voice." 
On the other hand, some educators have done their best to keep the 
subject out of their classrooms, horrified by the injection of current 
events even before the war starts.
"The purpose of schools is not to turn our 10-year-olds into policy 
wonks," said Chester E. Finn Jr., a former assistant secretary of 
education. "Students should be learning the multiplication tables and the 
Declaration of Independence."
Mr. Finn said it might be more appropriate for schools to address the 
Iraqi crisis if war started.
But high demand for ways to teach about the conflict has already created 
a cottage industry in Iraq-related curriculums. One of the most popular 
is "Teaching with the News: Crisis with Iraq," an Internet outline 
(www.choices.edu) of policy choices on Iraq that has framed debates in 
some 4,000 American schools in recent weeks, said Susan Graseck, a senior 
fellow at Brown University's Watson Institute whose staff wrote the 
curriculum last fall as the conflict built momentum. 
"We try to provide tools that can help students analyze current history," 
Dr. Graseck said. "That can bring it alive."
Teachers at the Metropolitan Learning Center, a public school in 
Bloomfield, Conn., tried to bring the Iraqi crisis alive for students 
through a satellite television linkup, which recently allowed the 
students to discuss rock music, adolescence and fears of war with 
English-speaking Iraqi students at an elite high school in Baghdad.
"Our hearts are with you in everything you're going through," Alex 
Stegmaier, a Connecticut student, told the Iraqi teenagers at the 
beginning of the videoconference. 
Amar, an Iraqi student. replied, "We're all excited to meet you guys." 
The Iraqi students asked questions about Hollywood and Disneyland, and 
when an American student asked what the Iraqis would do if they could 
visit the United States, an Iraqi boy referred to a rap musician. "The 
first thing I'd do is go to a Dr. Dre concert," he said, to whoops of 
approval from American students.
Were the Iraqis frightened of an impending war, an American student asked.
An Iraqi student replied: "When you wake up in the morning and hear that 
5,000 people will be killed in a day, you don't wonder about your future. 
You worry if you will be one of those killed people."
In Michigan, Superintendent Jim Ryan of the Plymouth-Canton district 
announced to parents that students would watch no live television 
broadcasts at school if war broke out, partly because he said he had 
decided that after Sept. 11, 2001, students had seen too many horrific 
televised images.
The teachers union said that Mr. Ryan's decision violated academic 
freedom and that it might file a grievance. 
"Live television is a teaching tool, and a national emergency is a 
teaching moment," said Charles Portelli, president of the Plymouth-Canton 
Education Association.
Educators in Chicago said they recognized a teaching moment recently when 
students asked to perform "Lysistrata," Aristophanes's antiwar play in 
which women vow to abstain from sex until men abstain from war, at Walter 
Payton High School. The principal, Gail Ward, consented, but insisted 
that the performance be followed by a panel discussion involving people 
with other viewpoints, including a staff member who is a military 
"We wanted to give kids this theatrical experience, but we had to provide 
balance," Ms. Ward said.
Gabriela Acevedo, an 11th grader who was among those who organized and 
participated in the Lysistrata production, said she learned the 
importance of hearing various opinions.
"I feel very strongly against the war," she said. "But when antiwar 
people say, `The military is terrible,' I say, `Give them a break -- 
their job is to defend us.' "
Maintaining balance has been a priority for Sarah Roeske, who teaches 
Global Issues at Stafford High School in Falmouth, Va., where many 
students' parents work at the Quantico Marine base and hold other 
government positions. Ms. Roeske recently organized a debate in which 
four high school boys defended a policy toward Iraq they called ruthless 
aggression, while three girls urged peaceful diplomacy. Ms. Roeske 
refereed, often by playing devil's advocate.
"I push them to make their own decisions," Ms. Roeske said. "If my kids 
ever know my views, then I've failed as a teacher."
In California, after hundreds of students walked out of classes at three 
Los Angeles high schools in Febuary in spontaneous, unrelated protests of 
a war with Iraq, the school district urged the city's 900 principals to 
offer students opportunities to speak out about Iraq during school time.
"If students don't have the opportunity to express their views, they'll 
just walk out," said Willie Crittendon, district administrator of 
operations and safety. "Our policy is to defuse that situation."
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