Dickinson College, in partnership with the Smithsonian, sponsored a contest for 9-11 lesson plans. Winners for the elementary school, middle school, high school, and college level share a common theme, says Front Page: It’s our fault.
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.”
But not “left 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.
According to David Commins, a Dickinson history professor, all the lesson plans submitted explained the 9-11 attacks as a result of U.S. foreign policy. Other views would not have been considered.
“If there had been lesson plans that presented the point of view that these people were rabidly anti-American, and who would carry out attacks no matter what, I would not have included it,” Commins says.
All these people consider themselves open-minded.