Advertising is what you do when you can't go see somebody. That's all it is.
~Fairfax Cone, born 104 years ago today
One of my kids' teachers told him today that Iraqis just want to blow themselves up so they can be with God; that the WMDs were there, but hidden when we weren't looking; that Iran and Syria are supplying the weapons they're killing our troops with; that God is on our side, and that bringing the troops home before we win the war would be a sin. I got so upset about this that my wife had to reassure our son that he wasn't in trouble. He and I actually had a great conversation about history, politics, and how human beings can make stupid decisions when they're angry or upset. The school district is going to hear all about this bullshit.
My nine-year-old proudly read me the letter he wrote to the President at school today:
Dear President George W. Bush:It's a good thing that my wife was there to let him know that he wasn't in any trouble, because I about went ballistic. "Where did you get these ideas???" I demanded.
I am a 9 year-old, 4th grade citizen writing my complaints on this piece of paper. It an honor writing to you. I hope you think my handwriting and grammar is at its best.
Syria and Iran are giving Iran weapons and they are teaching Iraqians [sic] how to make bombs. I do not like that because Iraq is basically blowing themselves up.
You can probably send troops to Syria and Iran to try and make peace, of course after the war if we win.
Thank you for reading my letter. It is an honor for you reading my letter.
"From TIME For Kids," he answered, more than a little scared. "They handed it out to us in class, to help us write the letter."
"Let me see that, that..."
"Sammy, you're not in trouble," my wife interjected.
"Yes, of course," I agreed. I took a deep breath and said, "Sammy, I'm really proud of the way you wrote this letter. I just--I don't agree with the ideas in it."
I went on to explain that there are people in Iraq who are just like us, that they've lived in their homes like we have, that they don't want to blow themselves up, and that they just want to live their lives in peace. I went on to explain that
He brought me the TIME For Kids handout, and not a single idea from the letter he wrote was in the article. There's a summary here, but it's way shorter than the article, which included a handy pie chart and geographical representation of Sunni and Shiite populations.
It's the teacher. Sammy told me what she told the class:
- Iraqis want to blow themselves up because they believe that this is how they can be with God
- The weapons of mass destruction were in a building bigger than a Wal-Mart, and that they were moved before we could find them
- God is on our side
- It would be a sin for us to bring the troops home before we win God's war
This is going to be tough. This teacher has been recognized multiple times by the school district, and she came up with the meta-curriculum to coach the kids to pass the No Child Left Behind tests.
So I'm calling the district tomorrow, and I'm getting a meeting. If there's not a policy to handle this [understatement in 3... 2... 1...] bullshit, there will be, very fucking soon. I think it would make an excellent topic for the next Teachers' Workday. I'd be happy to present it myself.
On the bright side, I got to have a great talk with my son. I explained that politics in the classroom is tricky, that history sometimes gets interpreted in different ways by different people. I pointed out how sometimes everyone is really sure that one thing happened, and then new evidence shows up and people realize that they were wrong. I asked him, "Who knows exactly what's going on in Iraq?"
"They do," he said. "The Iraqis."
Man, I felt proud. We talked about how human beings say things they don't mean, don't believe, don't stand by when we're upset. I'd already established with all three of my sons that anger/upset limits blood flow to the brain.
I'd like to think that I'm raising him and his brothers to be critical with important things. Like war, and politics. Fourth grade seems a little early to be teaching him to take what the teacher says with a grain of salt. Then again, they're probably telling him that you can't divide by zero.
I hope I have the presence of mind to convince the school district to cover this at every teachers' workday. It was pretty damned inappropriate to present something like this to 4th graders, in my opinion. And I'm more than a little curious as to why the January 19th issue was used, especially when several issues since then include the State of the Union address, Bush's "plan for the nation" (twice), and Condi's Middle East tour.
Surely this is just a poor decision by one person, i.e., the teacher. There just can't be a conspiracy behind this. No way. It just can't be.