Teach-in Truth-out

Debra J. Saunders

1/15/2003 12:00:00 AM - Debra J. Saunders
Today, San Francisco and Oakland school-board members will make clear whether they believe schools to be havens for learning or tools for leftist propaganda. In Oakland, the public schools will conduct a teach-in on a possible U.S. war on Iraq. While organizers claim that they set out to present both sides, authors of a press release for the teach-in couldn't even feign balance as they noted that fifth-graders from Sequoia Elementary wrote letters to President Bush opposing the war and invited Bush to their school, where as one student noted, he could "learn some (conflict resolution) skills." Neat. They call it a teach-in when teachers apparently have encouraged children to believe they know more than the president of the United States. In San Francisco, the school board will vote tonight on a resolution to conduct a similar teach-in, but board member Eric Mar told The San Francisco Chronicle it will no longer contain language supporting an anti-war rally. The original resolution by Mar and fellow trustee Mark Sanchez bemoaned the "horrendous loss of life and injury by noncombatant women and children as well as American and Iraqi military personnel; significant harm to the U.S. economy; catastrophic environmental and material devastation to Iraq; the threat of increased warfare in the Middle East and other parts of the world; the erosion of the international coalition to fight against terrorism and for global justice; and the isolation and ostracism of the United States in the world community." If there's a teach-in, complained San Francisco parent Lenore Naxon, it won't be educational, it will be "inflammatory." When I asked the Oakland Education Association for a list of speakers, in light of the teach-in sponsors' claims that they sought balance, the teachers' union sent me a flyer that listed not speakers, but these sample topics: "the effects of war on youth; education, racism and poverty; the U.S. Constitution, civil rights and civil liberties; the history and culture of Iraq; ... registration for Selective Service and CO (conscientious objector) status; military spending; and peace and conflict resolution." Sure, they tried to represent viewpoints that aren't knee-jerk and anti-war. It's ironic that the board members of these two districts are troubled that war with Iraq would tarnish America's image with, as the San Francisco resolution called it, the "world community." If they cared about image, you'd think the boards would not further degrade their reputations as incompetent, intolerant busybodies more interested in leftist politics than teaching poor children the skills they'll need as adults. Oakland's school board, for example, is best known for the ebonics fiasco. Other low moments include the district's 1999 teach-in defending convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal and the news that board spending policies have bankrupted Oakland schools. San Francisco trustee Sanchez told The San Francisco Chronicle editorial board in 2001 that he would oppose a public school run by the private Edison Schools Inc., even if the school did an appreciably better job of teaching students, because he is "philosophically opposed to a corporation running a school." Politics before progress. Board members, of course, brought up the racial inequities of war -- even though there are huge racial inequities in the area of government they've been elected to supervise that they've failed to remedy. In the school year that ended in 2001, only 30 African American males graduated from Oakland Unified with the courses needed to get into a California state university. That's less than 10 percent of black males graduating. Why do the Oakland and San Francisco school boards act as if they have both the leisure and the moral authority to weigh in on American foreign policy?