Wed 23 May, 2007 07:34 pm
That statement (subject line) was made by a 3rd grader in the class I was subbing in today. His neighbor said something about Iraqis (I think it was completely innocent). He responded with, "Iraqis? Iraqis!?! IRAQIS!?!?! You know what Iraqis are? They're terrorists!"
Ok, class, "Who thinks Iraqis are synonymous with terrorists?" A few people raised their hands.
"They flew planes into the towers."
I followed up with a little chat about how the men who flew planes into the towers were not all (if any were) Iraqis. I said that there are Iraqi terrorists, but that they are a small number of the whole population of all Iraqis. And that there are terrorists from many other nations. By this point I was losing my audience so I let it go.
I told them that I was saddened and surprised to hear that sort of comment.
How did I do? What should I have said? Were it my class, I probably would have scrapped the current project to discuss it more in depth. Or, I'd make room tomorrow for further discussion. What would I discuss?
Go home and find the nationalities of the high-jackers. Do I get into details about the international quality of terrorists in Iraq? How about the terrorists in Spain and Ireland - or America, for that matter?
Re: Iraqis are Terrorists
I followed up with a little chat about how the men who flew planes into the towers were not all (if any were) Iraqis.
As far as we know, none of them were. 15 out of the 19 were from Saudi Arabia; a few were from the United Arab Emirates and I believe one was from Egypt.
What a crazy situation. It sounds like you handled it pretty well, Littlek.
That's a tough subject to handle with third graders. I wouldn't think they would be ready for such a discussion.
They were very frank. I decided to go with it. I mentioned that the hijackers were mostly Saudi, but I wasn't sure. Some of the kids offered Afghanistan as a source. Sigh. So much to say and so little time.
Maybe you should have told them that whoever told them that Iraqis are terrorists is wrong, and left it at that.
That way they could ask their parents, and either they'd get better information, or not. Either way, I don't think they should be getting into that stuff in a third-grade class.
But I could be wrong.
Hmmmm.... not in 3rd grade?
I dunno. I think misinformation needs to be corrected when it becomes apparent. Otherwise, the person who is misinformed continues to be misinformed and that misunderstanding becomes more and more cemented. Also, that person spreads his misinformation. Nope. I became a teacher to educate people. If it comes up, they are already thinking about it. They will get the earful. I didn't talk about people jumping out of 100-story windows or building collapsing.
Not that what you said was wrong. It's good that you corrected them, and good that you didn't get deep into it.
I don't think they'd really understand.
Instead of dwelling on the terrorist aspect why not try and find some Iraqi kids that might want to be email pen pals with your kids. That way they can gain understanding from a primary source about what an Iraqi might or might not be.
Hmm. They would be 9 years old. That's old enough to start understanding what generalizations are and that they are usually not fair if applied to people. I think it's a good lesson. I'd go with it, too.
That's a good point. I don't think I'd have a problem telling a 9-year-old that not all blacks are gangsters or that not all Jews are greedy, so I shouldn't have a problem telling one that not all Iraqis are terrorists.
There is the wee problem of being political in a classroom. Got to figure out the edges of that. Certainly I'd do what you did. Not sure how much further. (But I've not background in teaching, other than design, so just musing.)
Apropo of this, did anyone notice, hmmm, maybe in the Washington Post, well, who knows, I lose track, an article about Penelope Hobhouse (the English garden book writer) taking a group on a garden tour of Iran? to Isfahan, etc. They expected to be resented as americans and english folk, and instead ran into curiosity, a lot of interest and savvy. People sooooo aren't their governments. If I run across the link I'll post it.
Mmmm... so. A social Studies quickie on Iraq. Maybe talk about the Salt Arabs (hook), the seat of civilization... Iraqi pen-pals sound great.
Osso - as to being political - I think one can go a long way on this subject without becoming political.
It sounds like you did fine. Kids pick up a lot of things from adults around them and I think just echo them until someone sets them straight. For instance, I've had to warn Duckie not to say "George Bush is an idiot" in class, or anywhere for that matter.
In short, I think you did fine.
Freeduck - I've had to do the same with my niece. The **** she comes up with is sometimes shocking.
Gardens in the Axis of Evil, in Slate, in case this link doesn't get there -
I agree you can go a long way without getting political. Might not always be easy.
Osso - nice one. Shades of Alhambra.
I just Googled "Iraqi American Children Pen Pals" and this article popped up:
Iraqi Children Pen Pals
Greenwitch - I was just doing the same thing! Came up with many website where American students pen-palled with US soldiers. A few where US students pen-palled with Iraqi students (and those from other nations). I guess I would have to pre-read all the letters both coming and going. This is still sounding great.