Oakland and San Francisco Teachers Organize Teach-Ins on the War

Fred Feldman 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
Fred Feldman

 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,"
 he said.

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