Blame America first and last

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.

About Joanne


  1. Considering the fact that, on a historical scale, we’re still too close to the 9-11 attacks to make any large scale judgements on why they happened, the fact that these lessons plans are not presenting multiple theories and opening debate is shameful. A lesson plan on 9-11 which says “it’s all America’s fault” is shameful. A lesson plan which says “it’s all the Muslims’ fault” would be equally shameful.

    IMHO, a lesson plan on this should include the reasons to blame the Muslims, the reasons to blame America, and relevant parallels from history as a bare minimum. In addition to that, I would examine how Muslim children are educated in states like Saudi Arabia. Finally, I would examine interventionist policy by America, looking at the effects it’s had in different places around the globe.

    The problem with a lesson (really more of a unit) like that is that it would take the honesty to present students with evidence which may contradict the teacher’s own viewpoint.

    The teachers who wrote the lessons mentioned seem to be of the opinion that it’s all America’s fault, thereby making it unnecessary examing what blame should be assigned to the terrorists and Muslim states. Their students have been deprived a wonderful exercise in critical thinking, namely weighing the contradictory evidence about the causes of 9-11 and coming to a conclusion based upon a sound, rational thought process. Instead, they’ll be forced to regurgitate their professors’ ideology as fact, and will be most likely be trained to call that “critical thinking.”

    (This is a phenomenon I’ve found often happens in schools. A prof will acknowledge that a student has great critical thinking skills only if the student arrives at a position the prof agrees with. The idea that reasonable people can disagree, a rudiment of debate, is completely ignored.)

  2. “A lesson plan which says “it’s all the Muslims’ fault” would be equally shameful.”

    From where I stand it is the fault of several Muslims, but not all Muslims.

    “MHO, a lesson plan on this should include the reasons to blame the Muslims, the reasons to blame America, and relevant parallels from history as a bare minimum.”

    Um yeah because the murdered people on 911 are to blame for their murders… Us policy in the ME isn’t perfect, but to imply that there are reasons to blame America when it comes to 911 implies that the murder is justified.

  3. lindenen, I believe you missed my entire point. I’m saying that all sides of the argument should be presented, so that they can be weighed. There are valid reasons to blame the US, but do they carry any weight when trying to explain the murder of 3,000 people? I certainly don’t think so, but I’d like to allow the students to arrive there through examination and debate. The September 11th attacks only happened three years ago, which means we don’t have enough history between them and us to make definitive historical judgements, which is what the people who crafted the lessons in the story did.

    As for what I personally believe on the 9-11 attacks, I don’t think al-Qaeda is justified to exist, let alone murder people. When I look at Islam, I see al-Qaeda, and the Wahhabi philosophy it’s based upon as a perversion of that religion. I also think that the reasons to blame the US are mostly rendered invalid by the fact that al-Qaeda has also attempted to attack Europe, parts of which have been enablers of Wahabbist states.

    The point is with current events, teaching only one view is detrimental to students since they have to be able to weigh contradictory evidence and do so in a rational way. Also, my approach would not be used with elementary school students, something I should have made clear in my first post. I would teach 9-11 in a just-the-facts manner, keeping with the who’s, what’s, how’s, and when’s, and leaving out the controversial why’s. This is, of course, IF I taught it at all. I don’t think this really belongs in an elementary school curriculum, considering all the controversy there.

  4. Richard Nieporent says:


    There are valid reasons to blame the US, but do they carry any weight when trying to explain the murder of 3,000 people? I certainly don’t think so, but I’d like to allow the students to arrive there through examination and debate.

    Is this the same way you would teach about slavery and the holocaust?

    The point is with current events, teaching only one view is detrimental to students since they have to be able to weigh contradictory evidence and do so in a rational way.

    I won’t mince words. The kindest thing I can say about you is that you are a fool.

  5. John from OK says:

    Anything that helps Michael Moore, Jimmy Carter, and Al Sharpton get front row seats at the next Dem convention is a good thing to me.

  6. John from OK says:

    The lesson plan, that is, not the terrorists.

    IMO a good followup plan would be to examine the death of Nicole Brown Simpson in light of her other romances: “Why did he hate her?”

  7. Jack Tanner says:

    ‘University of Massachusetts professor’

    pretty much says it all. Wnenever I see my state taxes withheld on my pay stub I know it goes to such wizardry.

  8. All I call for is an examination from BOTH SIDES, which is something both lindenen and Richard Nierpont choose to ignore as the denounce me as another left-wing idiot. Fine, whatever. But if you call me a fool for wanting to present both sides in an effort to see which one is correct, then you’ve got your heads rammed up your ***** just as much as the idiots who wrote the lesson plans described in Joanne’s posts.

    You’re not going to prove that your argument is correct by beating up on the other side as idiots and fools, but by picking apart their arguments point by point, by looking at whether their premises are valid or just fantasy, and by comparing contradictory pieces of evidence to see which ones hold more truth. But you can’t do that if you ONLY PRESENT ONE SIDE OF THE BLOODY STORY!!!

    If you compare the two sides, the “blame America first” crowd looks awfully stupid. But without examining what the “blame America first” crowd is saying, the emptiness and absurdity of their premises and logic can’t be found.

    Instead, you two advocate saying “I’m right, deal with it.” That approach removes the responsibility of having to explain why your view is right, and the “blame America first” crowd is wrong. Are you afraid that your position won’t stand up on its own two feet? You shouldn’t be, it most certainly will, especially when compared to the incoherent drivel provided by the far left to explain 9-11.

    It’s all about debate. Without both sides of the story, debate can’t happen. Without debate, we can’t find the truth.

    Moreover, it’s more important than ever for student to be exposed to bad arguments and ideas so that they can learn to recognize sloppy, incoherent thought when they see it. If you present the far left view against the view held by most Americans in a fair way, it’s gonna sink faster than the Titanic. It’s got HUGE holes in it. 99% of students are going to have a fair number of professors, especially in college, who peddle exactly this kind of far left bull as orthodoxy, so equiping students with skill to compare it to other viewpoints and find the holes in it is giving them an invaluable skill. Just presenting the non-left view of things is to deny them that.

    With regards to teaching slavery and the holocaust, I would teach the a single view because we’ve had decades to debate the events and find the truth. Also, we’re not in the immediate wake of the events where our emotions are overriding our ability to objectively examine those events. Remember we’re talking about an event that happened only three years ago, one that brings up visceral reactions in each of us, some of which can be seen in these comments.

    So, to summarize, I’m calling for as impartial a lesson plan as is humanly possible, I’m NOT advocating for far left position. Those who see even introducing those views into a lesson are myopic, since examining them and seeing their holes will teach much more than hiding them. You can say you’re right, or you can examine the contradictory evidence and then PROVE you’re right. Your choice.

    Oh, by the way, Richard, if you can’t disagree without an insult, you should *really* keep your mouth shut. It’s proof of a closed mind, and from what I’ve seen you post on here previously, not a level I thought you’d stoop to.

  9. Steve LaBonne says:

    Any liberal who contends that there are “two sides” to what happened on 9/11 clearly needs to go reread that good old liberal warhorse- William Ryan’s _Blaming the Victim_.

  10. Richard Nieporent says:

    Adrian, it is really too difficult for you to understand that certain actions that are done in the name of a cause are so egregious that there is no other side? When a group, without warning, kills three thousand people, then it is really too late to start a dialog about its grievances. What I would have liked to have heard from you is a denunciation of the activities of these American-hating academics who are willing to use this despicable act as an excuse to spread their hatred. Instead we get this “intellectual” argument from you that it is necessary to examine all sides of an issue.

    Yes,Adrian, I understand that you are not defending the other side. However, in some ways your argument is more infuriating than the idiocy that is espoused by the hate-America crowd. You are confusing the search for the truth with the ability to recognize evil. If one has to argue that the murdering of innocent people is unacceptable by a civilized society, then we are really in bad shape. If one has to make such an argument, then that means that there are people who don’t believe it. Unfortunately there are no ideas that are too crazy that you can’t get a group of people to believe them. For example, how else can you get people to believe that Scientology is a religion?

    In other words if we are living in a civilized society then there are some basic moral principles that we have to live by that are self evident and do not have to be debated. I’m sorry. I don’t believe in post-modernism where we make our own truths. I have this atavistic concept that there is something called evil and in the words of Justice Potter, we can recognize it when we see it. Only an “intellectual” would argue against this, and frankly I’m sick of hearing the fetid garbage that spews from their lips.

  11. On this Veterans Day, I think of my grandfather, who fought in World War I. I came across his French Croix de Guerre a while back while digging through some old boxes. I still remember him sitting in his chair smoking his cigar. It struck me how it’s too easy to think that this war was so long ago and far away. How could it have any meaning in our modern age? Then, I think of his grandfather, who was born in the late 1700s, and his great-grandfather, who fought in the American Revolution. I realized how little time has passed since the birth of our nation and how little things have changed.

    Is it arrogant to see the US as the biggest beacon of hope for democracy and freedom in the world? Are we so ignorant and far from the past that we cannot know true hate and evil when we see it? Why is it so difficult for some people to not mix up George Bush with Usama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, or Stalin, or Hitler? Some things are worth fighting for and the past is not that long ago. You may argue over policy choices, but please do not argue over evil and hate.

  12. Richard, it’s my belief that the arguments of the far left have to be presented to the classes because they are so weak. Also, don’t confuse the way I would present it with what I believe. I believe that what happened on 9-11 were horrifically evil acts for which there is no explanation short of the depravity of those who planned them and carried them out. There is NEVER an excuse for murder.

    However, there are many on the left who don’t see it as murder, but rather they see it as a justifiable act based on realistic grievances. Students have to be exposed to this, and have to see the absolutely idiotic nature of these ideas. I think the fact that people could take the far left seriously with their view is incredibly troubling.

    Unfortunately, moral relativism has become the moral standard in much of academia, and teaching a lesson which just said that the 9-11 attackers were evil, bloodthirsty thugs who did something for which there can be no justification can be easily sidestepped later by some lefty academic who teaches his students that the morals of the attackers were just as valid as ours. (Yes, I have actually heard that argument made!!!) If students are exposed to both views at the same time, the students will see the horrible flaws with the moral relativist (far left) view, and they have an intellectual defense against it.

    So yes, I have to admit that the way I would teach 9-11 is colored by the far left, but not in the way you may think. When operating in a world of no morals, namely academia, making a moral argument just won’t work. The best you can hope to do is present an impartial lesson, and for 90% of students, the truth will be clear. (The other 10% will have already succumb to the pernicious concept of moral relativism, sadly.) Again, this is how I would TEACH 9-11 in an *academic setting*, not what I BELIEVE about it.

  13. Richard Nieporent says:


    Thanks for clarifying your post. Clearly we are both on the same side of this issue. It is just that you have more faith than I do in the ability of people to recognize evil when it is presented to them. Unfortunately, when given a choice between good and evil, many of them will pick the wrong answer!

  14. Richard, the sad thing is, when you’re playing in the academic world, there *is no good and evil.* Students are discouraged from recognizing the obviously derragned and inhuman acts of people like Hitler and Stalin because their morality was just as valid as our own. If you’re operating in that (very scary) world, the common sense, natural concepts of good and evil are no longer useful, so you have to find another way. It is a truly terrifying state of affairs to me.

  15. This blame-America-first attitude made Democrats un-electable. As I’ve written:

    Today’s left forgets that lambs that sleep with lions risk vanishing before break of day. Three-thousand vaporized victims wasn’t enough to teach the left to recognize, much less confront, evil. “Oh when will they ever learn?” Probably not before these sheep are devoured by Islamic lions.

  16. No, we lefties arn’t blaming America first or last; we are putting the blame for the Iraq fiasco where it belongs; on Mr Bush.

    9/11 had nothing to do with Iraq. 9/11 wasn’t carried out by Iraq or any Iraqis that we know of; it was carried out by Saudis.

    You can blame the Saudis for 9/11.