Pop quiz: Who’s responsible for the attacks of 9-11? If you said the United States, you”re well qualified to teach American students about the defining historical event of their lives. That, at least, is the conclusion reached by Dickinson College.
This September, in a bid to resolve the lingering dilemma over how best to broach with students the subject of the attacks, and terrorism generally, the Carlisle, Pa-based college sponsored a contest. Together with the Smithsonian Institution, the college invited educators across the country to submit lesson plans proposing creative ways to teach the subject of September 11. The four winning entries””one each for the elementary school, middle school, high school, and college level””were expected to share a common purpose. As explained by the contest’s director, Dickinson professor and former Brookings institution scholar Douglas Stuart, they had to help American students “confront and make sense of, the horrific events of that day.”
So went the official rules. But if the contest’s eventual winners are any indication, there was yet another, unspoken criterion: the lesson plans had to encourage students in the notion that the terrorist attacks, however horrific, were the direct consequence of an abominably misguided U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East.
Call it Blame America 101. Outspoken leftist activist and fifth grade teacher Bob Peterson, whose plan to teach 9-11 at elementary schools was selected as one of the four winning entries, urges students to consider the attacks “in the broader context of global injustice.” To wrap their young minds around terrorism, Peterson contends, they must first untangle the “tough questions,” such as, “Why do they hate us?” Another winner, Iowa middle school teacher Tracy Paxton, recommends a vocabulary lesson. Among the words she believes shed light on the nature of terrorism are, “Al Qaeda,” “Saddam Hussein,” “stereotype,” “Taliban,” and, ominously, “Right wing.”
Equally politicized is the lesson plan of Oregon high school teacher Masato Ogawa. A proponent of “multicultural” studies, Ogawa’s lesson teaches students about the legislation prompted by September 11, the Patriot Act. Far from a dispassionate discussion of legal issues, Ogawa’s lesson exhorts teachers to present the Patriot Act against the backdrop of the Japanese internment during World War II. Finally, there is David Mednicoff. To teach his winning course, “Explaining Terror: The U.S. and the Middle East,” the University of Massachusetts professor, a strident critic of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East who has accused Israel of backing the Iraq war in order to ethnically cleanse Palestinian Arabs, relies on a book by Fawaz Gergez. Gerges, it may be remembered, is the prominent Middle East studies professor who, prior to 9-11, downplayed the danger of militant Islam and assailed the U.S. government for “inflating” the importance of Osama bin Laden.
Just like some posters here. Read it all, please.