Teachers and terrorism

Posted: Aug 23, 2002 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Maybe I'm taking it too personally. Earlier this week, I was informed that a terrorist kingpin who had targeted my family and me for assassination was killed in Baghdad. Abu Nidal -- real name, Sabri al-Banna -- apparently died of multiple gunshot wounds, probably at the hands of his Iraqi hosts. It was welcome news. But before I could even notify my offspring, I was handed a copy of the National Education Association's teacher's guide on how to "Remember Sept. 11." The document offers teachers and parents "more than 100 age-appropriate lesson plans" on how young people should recall what happened last year when 3,052 people were murdered in little more than an hour by 19 Islamic radicals who had hijacked four U.S. airliners. The NEA lesson plans landed like a wet blanket on the relief I was enjoying for having a threat removed. One lesson titled, "Tolerance in Times of Trial," explores "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." While students "brainstorm a list of descriptors that come to mind when they hear the word 'terrorist,'" teachers are to "note how many times 'Arab,' 'Middle East' or 'Muslim' get mentioned," before asking the students if they think "this characterization is fair" and whether it compares "to the characterization of Japanese-Americans and German-Americans during World War II." This is where it gets personal. When we were forced to evacuate our home and hide out on a military base because Middle Eastern assassins were coming to kill my family, it never occurred to me to tell my kids that the threat resulted from America's miserable human-rights record. Do the nice folks who prepared the NEA lesson plans really want the widows and orphans of those who died in last year's unprovoked attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon or aboard Flight 93 in Somerset, Penn., to think that radical Islamic terrorists aren't responsible for 9-11? Not once does the NEA-sponsored syllabus refer to the Sept. 11 events as an act of war against the United States. Instead, the union representing 2.7 million teachers wants the first year anniversary of this travesty to be turned into a "teachable moment" about "coping, healing and growing." If only Osama and Saddam benefited from an NEA-inspired education! Unfortunately, the loony lesson plans the NEA proposes for Sept. 11 are just the beginning. This summer at their 2002 convention in Dallas, the teacher-activists endorsed a laundry list of failed programs, ranging from Earth Day and school-based "health clinics" to affirmative action, socialized medicine, "family planning including the right to reproductive freedom," open borders and, of course, gun control. In a plank devoted to "peace and international relations," NEA delegates offered these nuggets of geopolitical wisdom: "The Association urges all nations to develop treaties and disarmament agreements that reduce the possibility of war ... that such treaties and agreements should prevent the placement of weapons in outer space ... that the United Nations furthers world peace and promotes the rights of all people by preventing war, racism and genocide." This level of political sophistication ranks somewhere between kindergarten and first grade. The platform also notes, "The development of self-esteem" is central to education, provided that it is "presented as part of an anti-biased, culturally sensitive program." The NEA's ideological targets, on the other hand, range from home-schooled youngsters to President Bush. "The NEA believes that home-schooling programs cannot provide the student with a comprehensive educational experience," the delegates declared, before demanding that home-schoolers be denied access to extracurricular activities in public schools. Never mind that courts in many states have backed the right of privately educated students to utilize the public school services for which their parents pay. When the Supreme Court ruled on June 27 that vouchers are constitutional, NEA president Bob Chase lashed out against "the voucher crowd" for spreading "the big lie" that "public education has failed." Despite the $26.5 billion in new educational spending that Congress passed as part of President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" act, Chase insisted that the "Bush tax cut" left "no new money ... for public education and struggling schools." Like his fellow delegates in Dallas, Chase desperately needs a reality check, not to mention some help with basic addition and subtraction. Instead, the NEA offers a one-two punch of enlisting leftist teachers to "become politically involved and to support the political action committees of the association and its affiliates," while condemning "extremist groups" that are "inimical to the ideals of the association." Which begs the question: If "extremist groups" like the terrorist organization run by Osama bin Laden which killed over 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11 isn't "inimical to the ideals of the association," who is? Home-schoolers and Republicans? The NEA -- and other 9-11 Deniers -- cannot be trusted to "Remember Sept. 11," when they refuse to forthrightly acknowledge what really happened on that terrible Tuesday morning. Wouldn't it be nice to have a teacher's union that didn't want to blame America first?