Oakland and San Francisco Teachers Organize Teach-Ins on the War
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Thu Jan 16 10:05:09 MST 2003
Following are two reports on teach-ins on the Iraq war held across the
Oakland school system at the initiative of the local school board, and
similar moves developing in San Francisco. The first is a letter sent to
the Portside list by an Oakland teacher, the second is a AP: dispatch on the
events and the controversy around them. The right-wing argument that the
bankruptcy and decline of the Oakland school system should inspire teachers,
students, and admisnistrators tp go along with government plans to pour
megabillions into killing Iraqis and occupying their country has a charming
Oakland and San Francisco Teachers Organize Teach-Ins on the War.
1. Letter from a teacher
Yesterday's teach-ins on Iraq sponsored by the Oakland
Unified School District and Oakland Education
Association were an enormous success! We had about 75
presenters and about 200 presentations all throughout
Oakland. San Francisco School Board passed their
Resolution to hold teach-ins!! and amazing, amazing
things happened throughout our District. I think many
of us remembered why we became teachers, to change the
world, to build a better future, to awaken a sleeping
country of materialists and individualists, and help
people see the beauty and power of community and
working to make a better world.
I am so inspired by everyone I worked with and
everything I learned. The most powerful moment of an
absolutely memorable day was, as we were cleaning up I
was approached by an Arab-American presenter, she said
to me "Thank you for what you did today. There is
hope. There is hope." I am inspired and awed and hope
many, many people will join us in Oakland and around
the country to build upon what we did.
2. AP article
Oakland, Calif., schools hold teach-in against possible
war in Iraq
MICHELLE LOCKE, Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, January 14, 2003 ©2003 Associated Press
(01-14) 18:17 PST OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Oakland's
schools hosted a daylong teach-in Tuesday on the
possible war with Iraq, an event that drew criticism
for its largely anti-war tone and from those who say
the system should focus on its own glaring problems.
No one on the list of speakers supported the Bush
administration's assertion that war may be necessary to
remove Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Critics also
maintained that Oakland's first priority should be
fixing its low test scores and multimillion-dollar
But organizers defended their efforts as a timely
exercise in critical thinking for the district's 53,000
"Our teachers and our students here in Oakland are too
smart to be victims of propaganda," said Dan Siegel, a
member of the school board that authorized the teach-
in. "Our goal is to do education and to have people
make up their own minds."
A similar effort stirred debate in San Francisco, where
the school board was scheduled to vote Tuesday night on
authorizing a day of public education on war with Iraq.
Sponsors of that event had toned down their strong
anti-war wording, but parents and the local PTA
complained the event remained one-sided.
In Oakland, organizers said they tried to get different
points of view, but couldn't find any pro-war speakers
willing to appear.
During a morning session at Oakland High, speakers
denounced military action, saying bombing Iraq would
kill innocent civilians as well as U.S. soldiers and
decimate the U.S. domestic budget.
"People are really missing the big part of this," said
student Mohamed Mohamed, who has relatives in Iraq.
"I've been to Yemen and Arabia and I saw innocent
people with no education. All the education they have
is the news they see on America, and all the news on
America is all bad ... And all the news we have on Iraq
is bad things about them."
The event raised little public opposition in Oakland,
home of Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., famous for her lone
vote in September 2001 against authorizing the
president to use force against terrorists.
But elsewhere, a San Francisco Chronicle columnist
blasted the school boards of both cities, and a policy
analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation in
Washington, D.C., called the teach-in "yet another
bright idea from the teachers of Oakland."
Oakland made national news in 1997 with the school
board's assertion -- later retracted -- that ebonics
was the primary language of some black students, and in
1999 with a teach-in on death row inmate Mumia Abu-
This year, officials say they'll need a $100 million
bailout from the state to avoid bankruptcy, and
students' test scores remain low.
"A better use of time obviously would be teaching those
things the kids need," said the Heritage Foundation's
Krista Kafer. "There's plenty of room in history class,
social studies to look at current affairs, to discuss
the war on Iraq."
But Maurice Williams, a student government leader at
Oakland High, saw the teach-in as an example that
students can rise above their circumstances.
"Here we are in Oakland. We've got so many different
problems. We've got a homicide rate that's soaring. We
got a huge hole in our education system. Health care is
a mess. And yet we can gather together like this and
say that we are concerned about something like this,"
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