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Share Resources for Teaching the True History of the Iraq War With a Teacher You Know

Liz Dwyer

Ten years after the invasion of Iraq, social studies textbooks read more like Pentagon propaganda than the truth. They connect the 9/11 attacks and Saddam Hussein, never use the word "occupation," and neglect to mention anti-war protests. Help America's social studies educators teach "the reality of war with honesty and compassion" by sharing Rethinking Schools' resource, "Teaching About the Wars."

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  • Kara Wynn

    Great article! I appreciate the respectful dialogue Jeff and Bill have going here. As a parent, I've experienced this type of frustration with history textbooks. I home-educated my children for many years, so I would typically add my own "other side" to whatever was being presented, whether I agreed with the opinion of the author or not. We should be teaching our children how to look at history, as well as current events, from a variety of angles rather than just one.
    Thanks for sharing your views and the additional resources. I'm excited to check them out.

  • jeffg2020

    I guess unless it slams the US, it's "propaganda," eh?

    • Liz Dwyer

      If we're going to teach kids that the search for WMDs was justified, yes, that's propaoganda.

      • jeffg2020

        Strongly disagree. The UN - not the US, the UN - found WMDs after Gulf War I. So you can't say he never had them - he gassed the Kurds, for heaven's sake. Does that justify an invasion? I'm not saying that. But to glibly say, oh, the whole WMD thing was propaganda is itself propaganda - yours. You want accurate history? Physician, heal thyself.

          • jeffg2020

            Thanks, I did. Despite some worthwhile observations, it's a deeply biased article, but I'm guessing that doesn't strike you, b/c its bias is the same as yours. Anyone who quotes Naomi Klein and Howard Zinn as calm, dispassionate thinkers is off his nut. Of course, they and the author are entitled to their point of view - but don't tell me that's an objective analysis. On the contrary, the unexamined assumptions clutter up the joint: everything is laid at the door of "capitalism" and "corporations." People are welcome to their assumptions, but assuming isn't analyzing.

            • Bill Bigelow

              Hi Jeff, Thanks for weighing in on this. No, I would never claim that either Howard Zinn or Naomi Klein is a "calm, dispassionate thinker." But that's not actually an argument against any of their ideas. It seems to me that you ignore the analysis of my article. Here is the textbook, Modern World History, for the only high school class that most of these students will take on world affairs, and the section on the Iraq war: includes no quote from a single Iraqi, no discussion of casualties of the war, not a single mention of the massive anti-war demonstrations leading up to the U.S. invasion, nothing about U.S. economic or military strategy following the invasion, and (something I did not include in my article) nothing about the lingering health effects of the use of depleted uranium and white phosphorous, and the staggering rate of birth defects today -- see today's interview with Dahr Jamail on Democracy Now: And to top it off, the only "critical writing" activity asks students to imagine they are a speechwriter for George Bush and write about the U.S. "victory" there. As I say in the article, this is not history, it's propaganda. It leaves young people ill equipped to think critically about the uses of U.S. military power in the world.

              • jeffg2020

                Bill, I appreciate your temperate response. And I don't disagree that, if the texts are indeed as you describe, they may well qualify as propaganda. But I think these things are very complex. For example, in teaching WWII, should we teach the firebombing of Dresden as a "war crime"? Then in that case what about all the rapes by the Red Army? Is it propaganda to suggest that the imperative of defeating Nazism should take center stage? After all, there were anti-war demonstrations and massive casualties back then too. This is only by way of suggesting that the "neutral POV" wikipedia talks about is very hard to strike. I'm all for debate, but to be undilutedly against the government position, so to speak, can in its own way become propaganda. Beyond that, I know you know I was hardly, in the context of brief comments, trying to engage w/ Klein and Zinn.

                • Bill Bigelow

                  Jeff, I think we might be able to find common ground on this. You ask whether we should teach the firebombing of Dresden as a war crime. It seems to me that this is not something that a teacher ought to decide for students, but to take up as a question. See my article on "What Is Terrorism?" in the new Rethinking Schools book, "Teaching About the Wars." I ask students to define "terrorism" and then to apply their definitions to actual events in recent history. The "trick" is that I have created fictional names for countries, so students confront these situations without preconceptions. One could imagine a similar kind of activity around what is a "war crime" so that we ask students themselves to think critically about this, but not impose our opinions on them. I think that the questions you raise here are important ones -- but they are ones we should pose to our students, not decide for them. No, we needn't take an automatic anti-government position, but in a democracy, we have a responsibility to question our government and to dissent, if necessary. As Howard Zinn was fond of saying, the problem isn't civil disobedience, it's civil obedience -- there are too many who simply go along without being encouraged to question.