Lessons, American Pride, Iraqi Schools

First, toilet training. Second, disarmament. Eventually, kids will be ready to learn how to cross the street. That's Not Fair! A Teacher's Guide to Activism with Young Children urges turning preschoolers into peaceniks, writes Michelle Malkin in Jewish World Review. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which accredits child-care centers, endorses the teachers' guide.

Co-author Ann Pelo discussed the Blue Angels with her Seattle preschool students after the kids saw the planes rehearsing.

"They drew pictures of planes with Xs through them: 'This is a crossed-off bombing plane.' They drew bomb factories labeled: 'No.'

"Respect our words, Blue Angels. Respect kids' words. Don't kill people."

"If you blow up our city, we won't be happy about it. And our whole city will be destroyed. And if you blow up my favorite library, I won't be happy because there are some good books there that I haven't read yet."

According to Pelo, the children seemed "relieved and relaxed" after they "poured out their strong feelings about the Blue Angels." Or her strong feelings. Malkin writes:

On page 115, guide co-author Fran Davidson trumpets her own anti-war biases and her difficult struggle to tolerate pro-military parents' views:

"During the Persian Gulf War, I became acutely aware of how difficult it is to honor families' values when those values are different from mine. In the classroom, I emphasized peaceful resolutions to conflicts and talked often with the children about elements of peace. Most families felt comfortable, but when our conversations about peace expanded to include discussions of the Persian Gulf War, some families became uneasy. [Some] families talked about the necessity of war to overthrow oppressors and to protect and free people. This was a really uncomfortable time for me."

Preschoolers can be "activists" for more TV or later bedtimes. When it comes to military and foreign affairs, preschoolers can be cute, little puppets for the person who controls snack time. Scaring preschoolers into thinking the Blue Angels are going to bomb Seattle ...

That's not fair.

Patriotic, but ignorant

Young people say they're proud of America, writes Suzanne Fields. But kids don't know much about American ideals or American history.

... even before 9/11, American kids were declaring new attitudes of patriotism. In a survey of 2,911 ninth graders, fully 91 percent said they were proud of the United States; 85 percent they had "great love for the flag." The survey, by the International Association for the Evaluation of International Achievement showed no significant differences in race, sex or family incomes.

While the numbers demonstrate love of country and an approval for patriotic ideals, these same students nevertheless showed a woeful lack of understanding for the historical and philosophical concepts of freedom of speech, of the press, or appreciation of the crucial importance of civil rights and majority rule. Patriotism binds a diverse population in recognizing the values a society holds in common, but emotion is no substitute for knowledge.

Most high school graduates haven't read the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence or the Federalist Papers, Fields writes. Love of country shouldn't be blind, deaf and dumb.

Educating Iraqis

Iraq's new de-Saddamized schools won't educate kids to be martyrs to the state. Teachers won't report students to the secret police for expressing un-Baathist opinions. But if a new U.S.-designed education system adopts America's fads, free Iraqis won't learn much. In Education Gadfly, Chester Finn worries that Creative Associates International, which got a $2 million contract to revamp Iraqi schools, was asked to "promote child-centered, inquiry-based, participatory teaching methods."

Not only does this version of schooling run afoul of many Mideastern cultural patterns and education traditions -- it's not even very effective in the West, popular as it is amongst educationists. If dubious ideas and their purveyors end up shaping Iraq's post-war education system, it could easily turn out to be a disappointment -- and the U.S. taxpayer's money won't be well spent.

Read the newspaper, Richard

Richard Cohen must not read his own newspaper. Cohen's April 15 Washington Post column demands that Education Secretary Rod Paige explain what he meant when he said in an interview published in the Baptist Press,

"I would prefer to have a child in a school that has a strong appreciation for the values of the Christian community, where a child is taught to have a strong faith -- where a child is taught that there is a source of strength greater than themselves."

On April 10, the Post ran Paige's explanation, along with a transcript of the interview that makes it clear Paige wasn't talking about public schools; he was asked about how he'd choose, as a parent, between Christian or secularuniversities.

... Paige was asked: "Given the choice between private and Christian, uh, or private and public universities, who do you think has the best deal?"

Paige responded: "That's a judgment, too, that would vary because each of them have real strong points and some of them have vulnerabilities, but you know, all things being equal, I'd prefer to have a child in a school where there's a strong appreciation for values, the kind of values that I think are associated with the Christian communities."

If Cohen had called Paige's office, someone would have mentioned the transcript and the April 10 story. So he must have written a column demanding Paige explain what he meant without calling Paige and asking him to explain what he meant.

Update: Thomas Jefferson was a fan of Christian values too, says this fascinating essay in City Journal.

Not a luxury

Education Intelligence Agency reports on the corruption charges against the Washington, D.C., affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

Michael W. Martin became the second person to plead guilty to charges stemming from the theft of more than $5 million from the Washington Teachers Union. Martin was the hairstylist and image consultant for former union President Barbara A. Bullock, who allegedly converted members' dues into luxury items and clothing for herself and her cronies.

Martin admitted getting $480,000 over three years, which he spent on Redskins tickets, furniture, a vacation -- and private school tuition for his children. Given the state of D.C. schools, that wasn't a luxury.

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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