In response to criticism, the National Education Association has pulled its Sept. 11 lesson on tolerance off its web site, reports the New York Times.

No more will the largest teachers' union advise that it's wrong to blame terrorists for terrorism. But the NEA official who ran the project, Jerald Newberry, director of the Health Information Network, blames "the far right" for cowardice and bigotry. Gee, I thought blaming was wrong.

The criticism to the lessons on tolerance, Mr. Newberry said, is thinly veiled bigotry. "If you boil down the concerns of the opposition, what I would call the far right, ultimately it boils down to is: 'I am not comfortable with my child being in school with someone who's different. I want to keep my child surrounded by people who are identical to me. The world is getting too diverse, and I'm scared.' "

Apparently, nobody has a legitimate gripe about multicult mush. It just boils down to bigotry by far-right kooks.

Most of the Sept. 11 plans being pushed by various web sites emphasize emotions, the Times reports.

The curriculum developed for the New York City public schools uses "Feeling Flower Faces" to help students identify a range of emotions.

Among what Mr. Newberry called "100 gentle lessons" in the N.E.A. curriculum is one where middle school students make color wheels to relate color to how they feel.

Never let health educators write curriculum.

Be a Power Ranger

Sept. 11 should be spent teaching history or geography, discussing our political system and our values, actually learning something, argues Chester Finn. He introduces the Fordham Foundation’s series of essays on how teachers might approach Sept. 11.

The Bill of Rights Institute has a lesson plan that asks students to identify the civic values that enabled Americans to respond to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Eric Liu argues in Slate that schools shouldn't teach children what to think about the Sept. 11 attacks, whether to blame or glorify America. Instead:

Schools should teach kids not what to think but how to be: how to conduct themselves in social roles, how to make decisions in a political context, how to ask questions when precedent and analogy fail us, as they did on 9/11. If all we want from schools is to transmit facts, there are fine encyclopedias on the market. If all we want them to do is pass down ideology, teachers should assign students The O'Reilly Factor for homework.

I don't think it's possible to teach students how to make political decisions without teaching them some facts and some values.

Lisa Snell wants schools to teach children about liberty. She's got a round-up of links on the "what to teach" issue, plus her account of her older son's response on Sept. 11.

My five year old saw the live coverage of the second plane crashing into the WTC. He immediately went and found his Spiderman t-shirt and told me that he and Gavin would not be at school when I picked them up because they were going with the Power Rangers to save the world.

I'm glad we have the Power Rangers on our side. 

Pain and Resolve

The Weekly Standard's Jonathan Last endorses what I think is an excellent Sept. 11 idea for TV networks: Rebroadcast the Sept. 11, 2001 coverage. No interviews with grieving widows. No town halls. No memorials. Just the "events of Sept. 11."

New York Gov. George Pataki will read the Gettysburg Address in New York City's ceremony. A cop-out to avoid controversy, you say? Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts finds relevance in Lincoln's words.

Lincoln had it right. In the middle of our greatest peril, our greatest president journeyed to a battlefield in Gettysburg, Pa., to dedicate a cemetery.

"But in a larger sense," he said, "we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

Rather, said Lincoln, the challenge "for us the living" was to remain "dedicated to the great task remaining before us."

What was true 139 years ago is true today. It's about the choices you and I make, about what we do with what we've learned. And whether our pain binds our resolve.

Mark Steyn also writes about pain urging Americans not to “Dianafy” Sept. 11.

Look, I'm sorry if some school kids aren't feeling chipper. Tough. But 3,000 people died on Sept. 11, leaving a gaping hole in the lives of their children, parents, siblings and friends. Those of us who don't fall into those categories are not bereaved and, by pretending to be, we diminish the real pain of those who really feel it. ...

Newsweek's Anna Quindlen "fastened on," as she put it, one family on the flight manifest:

Peter Hanson, Massachusetts, Susan Hanson, Massachusetts Christine Hanson, 2 Massachusetts

As Miss Quindlen described them, "the father, the mother, the two-year old girl off on an adventure, sitting safe between them, taking wing."

Christine Hanson will never be three, and I feel sad about that. But I did not know her, love her, cherish her; I do not feel her loss, her absence in my life. I have no reason to hold hands in a "healing circle" for her. All I can do for Christine Hanson is insist that the terrorist movement which killed her is hunted down and prevented from deliberately targeting any more two-year olds. We honour Christine Hanson's memory by righting the great wrong done to her, not by ersatz grief-mongering.

It is not a time for teddy bears.

See Me Colon

High school graduates aren't just ignorant, writes Mark Goldblatt, a college professor, in National Review. (Actually, he wrote it three years ago for the New York Post.) Students don't know what they don't know. Their ignorance is "buoyed by self-esteem."

...More and more of them are arriving in my classes with the impression that their opinions, regardless of their acquaintance with a particular subject, are instantly valid -- indeed, as valid as anyone's. Pertinent knowledge, to them, is not required to render judgment.

... Several years ago, for instance, a student of mine suggested that a semi-colon got its name because it drew attention to the words around it. She thought the spelling was: "See me colon." Clearly, if she's clever enough to come up with that, she's clever enough to learn the proper use of semi-colons; it's just that no teacher ever bothered to correct her punctuation.

She, and students like her, have been robbed -- and not simply of the instruction they should have received through 12 years of primary and secondary schools. They have been robbed of their entrée into serious cultural debate.


Joanne Jacobs used to have a paying job as a Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer. Now she blogs for tips at JoanneJacobs.com while writing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. She's never gotten a dime from Enron. 

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