Sep 26, 2007

IO The Children Unto Me

...and I thought the West had retired subtleties like this to some Stalinoid or Goebellsonian past or final outpost of Pyonyangian persistence. Apparently not.

History is written by the winners -- but who writes the English lessons? A teaching pack about the Iraq war for British schools commissioned by the Ministry of Defence is stirring up controversy. It comes from a company called Defence Dynamics, and is being promoted by marketing agency Kids Connections.

As reported in New Statesman magazine, the lesson plan titled ‘Promoting peace and security in Iraq’ is intended for English teachers and gives an upbeat view of the war and the occupation.
A student fact sheet states that the occupation has resulted in “Over 150 healthcare facilities completed and many more are in progress. 20 hospitals rehabilitated. Immunisation programme re-started in 2003. 70 million new text books distributed to schools. Sewage and wastewater treatment plants operating again.”

Yet this rosy picture seems woefully at odds with a report by the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq, backed by Oxfam, which states that Iraq is facing a humanitarian crisis "of alarming scale and severity". It finds that four million Iraqis are ‘food-insecure’ and that four million have fled, creating "the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world".

The pack also anticipates some resistance (often a good move) and suggests countermeasures:
It instructs classes to hold a vote on the war, and to produce a piece writing arguing for or against the withdrawal of soldiers from the Gulf.

The teachers’ notes state: "Most students will vote against the ongoing maintenance of troops. Ask students to justify their opinions."

It continues: "Throughout the lesson, students should come to understand that this activity is representative of democracy on a micro scale and by voting, they have exercised their democratic right, a right that is newly available to Iraqis."

One teacher is not impressed:
“As a lesson plan it’s insanely complicated,” says Victoria Elliott, a secondary English teacher. “The focus is not really on the skills supposedly being taught, but is instead about getting information across, which is completely irrelevant to English teaching.”

And the Guardian newspaper reports there may be a legal challenge:
... if Nick Grant, National Union of Teachers branch secretary in Ealing, London, has his way, it faces a boycott by teachers and legal action by the NUT. Grant thinks the lesson plan breaks the 1996 Education Act, which bans "the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school".
-A jacked David Hambling von Danger Room

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