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misguided guidance

misguided guidance

I was reading comments - and posting some of my own - over at Little Green Footballs yesterday in regards to the NEA's suggested curriculum for September 11th. (See here and here)

It is the plan for "Tolerance in Times of Trial" that bothered me, as well as over one hundred people who left comments on LGF.

You know if you read my site on any kind of regular basis that I am a proponent of racial and ethnic tolerance. I am not a conservative by any means and I embrace multi-culturalism as a way to make this country a sum of its parts rather than a fragmented society.

But there is a time and a place for everything, as well as a correct way to approach ideas.

September 11th should not be a day to examine blame for a tragedy that killed thousands of people.

From "Teaching Tolerance":

To explore the problems inherent in assigning blame to populations or nations of people by looking at contemporary examples of ethnic conflict, discrimination, and stereotyping at home and abroad"

The page then links to a PBS: America Responds, which is a part of the Teaching Tolerance lesson.

From that page:

8. Examine how the media portrays people of Arab descent, through an analysis of movies like The Seige, True Lies, and the upcoming Tom Clancy thriller, The Sum of All Fears

Has anyone thought of how this would make any Arab children in the classroom feel? Many of the suggested lesson plans examine stereotypes. I know in my school district, there is a pretty fair percentage of children of Middle Eastern descent; they might feel just a bit uncomfortable with the day's agenda.

It is my belief that September 11th should be a day to remember those whose lives were lost. Nothing more. Reading through both the NEA lesson plan and the PBS plan, it seems to me like they would like to turn the day into a lesson about placing blame - and part of that blame lies with America, it would seem.

This is an agenda, not a lesson plan. It does not belong in a classroom on a such somber day. This trivializes the death of thousands of innocent victims. Regardless of the hows and the whys of of the attack, regardless of accepting or placing blame, this does not belong in a classroom on this day.

The NEA certainly is not the only group of people who will be using September 11th to push their own viewpoints. Some people want to make it a day of flag-waving and patriotism. That's what the Fourth of July is for. This is not a day to celebrate our freedoms. This is a day to grieve and mourn and memorialize. It is not an appropriate time to stand on the ground where a travesty took place and read the Gettysburg Address. It is not a political rally, a lesson in ethnic profiling, a day to eschew your values and views.

I would be loathe to send my children off to school that day only to have them come home and tell me how their day was spent learning all the ways in which America brought this on themselves, or how many different stereotypes there are for terrorists.

What is wrong with a simple vigil or memorial service? What is wrong with just saying "Let's remember those who died. Does anyone have anything they want to share about how they felt that day?" And maybe my son or daughter would get up and talk about Pete Ganci, a family friend. Perhaps my daughter's classmate would get up and talk about the loss of his father. Maybe my son's teacher from last year - whose husband worked in the World Trade Center - would relate how she felt when she heard the news. They could discuss their ideas for replacing the towers. They could discuss ways to deal with all the emotions that come with anniversary of that date. They could read a little bit about some of the people who died that day. Or they could just have a moment of silence and proceed with their school day.

It's not just the schools or the NEA I'm concerned with. Anyone who turns September 11th into a day to push political or social agendas or a chance to wave their flag in a show of misplaced patriotism has got it all wrong.


I know I'm pretty unique in the environment I was schooled in as it contained kids from Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia, England, the US (east coast, west coast, all over), Beirut, Japan, Spain, France... the list goes on, we were like a classroom of minorities. All this during the Gulf War too in the building that had formerly been the Iraqi Embassy.

Bomb scares were a great way of finishing early.

The thinking pattern is skewed, there shouldn't be "good nations" and "bad nations" but "good people" and "bad people".

Amen. (And I still like the name of the holiday from Feral Living)...

That name now has its own website

I'm not so sure about some of the other issues you stated, (I'm not so sure how the anniversary should be handled) but I am an American with Arab blood. My dad is Syrian, born in that country and came to the US as a child. He is an American thru and thru, and cannot understand the violence that arab nationals constantly choose to commit. I think that children raised as Americans, no matter what ancestry they have, do not consider themselves targets of stereotypes - unless of course, others point to them specifically as bad examples (and I can't say that there are not people out there that will do this... people suck sometimes). I'm proud to be an arab - especially in these times - because I'm representing the good part to offset the bad part that the media and stereotypes show. I'm not the writer you are, so I hope this makes some sense.

i agree with michele that the day should be one of remembrance, and that schools in general should be about education and not indoctrination. but how do you do that, in the end?

Maybe instead of the Gettysburg address (and I fail to understand the relevance of that, anyway) there should be a reading of some of the obits the NYT published in that remarkable "Portraits" series. It's enough that the politicians want to have an agenda; why does the NEA feel a need?