NEA Website Missed the Mark on 9-11 Teachings, Conservatives Say

By Lawrence Morahan | July 7, 2008 | 8:29 PM EDT

( - The National Education Association's effort to educate children about the events of Sept. 11 is drawing criticism from conservatives and educators who say the NEA's teaching suggestions miss the mark.

The NEA's website, "September 11th Remembered" at, will be launched Aug. 20 and will include up to 100 lesson plans that teachers can use to help elementary, middle and high school children integrate how they might remember Sept. 11 in language, health, music and drama, said Jerald Newberry, director of NEA's Health Information Network.

"Our goal is to capture from the patriotism point of view some of the history of the United States where outstanding leaders have spoken to the issues of patriotism and freedom," Newberry said.

The site will feature speeches that will be read in New York City, including the Gettysburg Address, the Declaration of Independence, Roosevelt's Four Freedoms speech, Martin Luther King's speech from a Birmingham jail and "I Have a Dream" speech, Newberry said.

Since October, the NEA has linked to other sites to answer children''s questions on comparative religion, historic reference and prejudice, Newberry said.

Some tips for parents and schools offered through the NEA site drew fire from educators and conservative commentators, however.

Messages such as "Violence and hate are never solutions to anger," and "Groups of people should not be judged by the actions of a few" - by Brian Lippincott, Ph.D., of the John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, Calif. - missed the mark, conservatives said.

Another message suggested teachers "Discuss historical instances of American intolerance."

"Internment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor and the backlash against Arab Americans during the Gulf War are obvious examples," Lippincott wrote. "Teachers can do lessons in class, but parents can also discuss the consequences of these events and encourage their children to suggest better choices that Americans can make this time."

Newberry said the new site will continue to link to Lippincott's writings and to sites such as the American Red Cross, which also suggests tips for teachers on how to handle the anniversary.

But the new site will go "more to patriotism and what lessons one can learn bringing communities together, the role the school can play in helping educate parents, and how parents can talk to kids," Newberry said.

Walter Berns, author of "Making Patriots" and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said if he were asked to address a high school class on the subject of Sept. 11, he would emphasize that the date marked the beginning of a war on the United States unlike any other war in the country's history.

"In this particular [war] it's by no means certain we will win it, because of the character of the enemy and the weapons it possesses," Berns said.

High school students also should be told that the best defense against similar terrorist attacks is to take the war to the terrorists' countries of origin, he said.

"The only way I can suggest is to go after the potential bombers elsewhere. The necessity of doing that, I think, is clear," Berns said.

William S. Lind, director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism with the Free Congress Foundation and an expert on terrorism, said school children should be warned that the root of the problem lies in Islamic teaching.

"Children must understand that the future of war is going to include, as it has included in the past, war with Islam, that Islam ... has resumed the strategic offensive and that their generation is going to have to face the fact that Islam is going to make war on it," Lind said.

Children also need to be taught that war is part of human nature and therefore a part of life, he said.

"But the kid who stands up and tells the truth - that we are at war with Islam - will be disciplined. He will be sent to the principal's office. He'll be sent home with a note to his parents saying he's not allowed to say this or think this," Lind said.

"Overall that shows how vitally important it is that people get the kids out of the public schools," he said.

Hodan Hassan, a spokeswoman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, said that in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, educators did a lot of necessary educational work on the Middle East and took pains to educate children that there is a difference between those who perpetrated the attacks and ordinary Muslims.

A lot of the rhetoric coming from certain evangelical ministers is "quite hypocritical," Hassan said.

The verses routinely referred to in the Quran as examples of Muslim militancy are taken out of context and are no more representative of what Muslims believe than the "fire and brimstone" verses in the Bible represent what Christianity teaches, she said.

"Ninety-nine percent of Muslims understand that that was in a specific time and context and don't apply that to their daily lives," Hassan said.

"What they do apply to their daily lives are the other 99 percent of sura in the Quran, which focus on ... how to live an honorable life. If students and teachers want to learn more about Islam and what it is about the Quran that provides sustenance to 1.2 billion people, then it would be more accurate to focus on those sura," she said.

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