Oakland, Cal,, school board plans teach-ins on Iraq

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Nov 16 18:35:04 MST 2002

Oakland Tribune
Friday, November 15, 2002

Anti-war school board plans teach-ins

By Alex Katz

OAKLAND -- Students in kindergarten through 12th grade will learn about the
proposed war in Iraq at 1960s-style "teach-ins," a vocally anti-war school
board decided Wednesday.

School board member Dan Siegel proposed the resolution encouraging schools
to set aside time to teach about the planned conflict to rid Iraq of what
President Bush calls "weapons of mass destruction."

"I think the pending war with Iraq is a matter that has the most serious
consequences for people in this country," Siegel said, citing the inevitable
deaths of Iraqi civilians and U.S. military personnel, as well as the
allocation of resources away from schools and toward war.

The teach-ins will be voluntary and open to parents. Each school site will
determine when, or if, the events will happen.

Despite vocal opposition to an Iraq war expressed at school board meetings
by board members, schools Superintendent Dennis Chaconas, teachers and
students, Siegel said information will be presented in an impartial manner
by teachers of all political stripes.

"We ask teachers to do that all the time," said Siegel, who led anti-Vietnam
War protests as student body president at the University of California,
Berkeley, in 1969. "We have enough integrity and respect for the students to
provide them the information and let them make up their own minds."

Fifth-graders from Sequoia Elementary School spoke in favor of the teach-in
at Wednesday's board meeting and read letters they had written to Bush
opposing an Iraq war.

"When you go to war, you are setting a bad example for all the kids in the
U.S.A.," one letter stated. "Wars and fights are not right, and bombing
beautiful things is not right either."

Teacher Betty Olson-Jones said the students came up with the idea on their

The students invited Bush to come to a weekly class at Sequoia that teaches
youngsters how to resolve problems without fighting.

"It's not fair for other people (if) they get killed, because they haven't
done anything to George Bush," said student Jennifer, whose parents did not
want her last name published.

Bush "is only mad at one person (Iraqi President Saddam Hussein)," Jennifer
said. "We think (Bush) should come to our class on Wednesday to learn some
(conflict resolution) skills."

The fifth-graders showed they understood that the United States once
supported Iraq militarily.

"We think it's strange to go to war with a country you taught war to,"
student Emma Styles-Swaim said. "We think it's strange because, well, it's

A White House spokesperson was not available to comment Thursday. One
official said the students could probably expect some kind of response from
the White House.

School board member Bruce Kariya voiced concern about exposing children
below fourth grade to "the ravages of war."

Other board members disagreed. As school board member Greg Hodge put it,
Iraqi children below the fourth grade will lose their lives in any U.S.
attack, so why shouldn't children here at least know about it?

"At the end of the day, it's not going to be Bush and it's not going to be
(Vice President Dick) Cheney going off to war," board member Jason Hodge
said. "They make the decision and then send our young people to war."


Cosponsored by School Board Member Dan Siegel, and President of the Oakland
Education Association, Sheila Quintana

    WHEREAS, the United States government states that it is preparing to
initiate a war against the nation
of Iraq; and
    WHEREAS, an attack on Iraq by the United States would have enormous
human, financial and political
consequences in the United States and the world community; and
    WHEREAS, it is essential that the people of the United States be
well-informed on the causes and
consequences of military action by their government,
    THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Education of the Oakland
Unified School District
decrees that there shall be citywide public education at the school level
concerning the background of the
current crisis concerning Iraq, the options available to the United States
government for attempting to
resolve that crisis, and the likely consequences of a United States military
attack on Iraq;
       FURTHER, that the District's Division of Student Achievement shall
work with the Oakland
Education Association to develop a list of available resources and lessons
that are appropriate for the
       FURTHER, that schools may invite parents and other members of the
public to participate in the
educational programs; and
       FURTHER, that no student or teacher who objects to participation in
such educational programs shall be required to do so.

Contact: School Board Member Dan Siegel at 510.839.1200 or
danmsiegel at aol.com

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