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Related Categories: Iraq | Education & Student Activism
Oakland Schools Plan Teach-ins On Iraq Crisis
by Jonah Zern (jzern1 [at]
Friday Dec 13th, 2002 1:09 PM
Oakland Schools to Launch Teach-ins on the Iraq Crisis on January 14, 2003
Oakland Schools to Launch Teach-ins on the Iraq Crisis on January 14, 2003

Media Contact: Jonah Zern, Coordinator, Peace and Justice Caucus, Oakland Education Association 510.654.8613

Speaker and Resource Suggestions: Mary Prophet at 510.527.1222 or mlprophet [at], (people of color especially encouraged)

Schedule a Teach-in at Your School: Judi Hirsch at 510.653.0776 or judih [at] (Oakland Schools will be given priority, but any school may ask to receive assistance and speakers)

The Oakland Unified School District will launch teach-ins on the Iraq Crisis on Tuesday, January 14. The teach-ins, being organized by the Peace and Justice Caucus of the Oakland Education Association will be in honor Martin Luther King’s birthday and will come just a few days before the next major anti-war march in San Francisco on Saturday, January 18.

The Caucus is hoping to hold kickoff events at most high school and middle school sites and many elementary schools. We are working to provide age appropriate material. Here are some of the issues we plan on addressing through the teach-in; Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream for Global Civil Rights and Global Unity; War Spending vs. Social Spending; Military in Our Schools through the “No Child Left Behind Act”; Understanding Propaganda/ Media Literacy; Understanding Islam and Arab People, Stopping Attacks on these Communities; Know Your Rights and Defending Civil Liberties; Ways to Truly Make Our Community Safer; Understanding the "Crisis" in the Context of US History and Foreign Policy.

The San Francisco School Board also unanimously passed a resolution to hold teach-ins on Iraq and will also be kicking theirs off sometime in January.

Enclosed: Text of Oakland School Board Resolution
Asian Week Article from December 12, 2002
Oakland Tribune Article from November 16, 2002

Cosponsored by Dan Siegel, Board Member and Sheila Quintana, President of the Oakland Education Association, Passed Unanimously on November 14, 2002

WHEREAS, the United States government states that it is preparing to initiate a war against the nation of Iraq; and
WHEREAS, an attack on Iraq by the United States would have enormous human, financial and political consequences in the United States and the world community; and
WHEREAS, it is essential that the people of the United States be well-informed on the causes and consequences of military action by their government,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Education of the
Oakland Unified School District decrees that there shall be citywide public education at the school level concerning the background of the current crisis concerning Iraq, the options available to the United States government for attempting to resolve that crisis, and the likely consequences of a United States military attack on Iraq;
FURTHER, that the District's Division of Student Achievement shall work with the Oakland Education Association to develop a list of available resources and lessons that are appropriate for the classroom;
FURTHER, that schools may invite parents and other members of the public to participate in the educational programs; and
FURTHER, that no student or teacher who objects to participation in such educational programs shall be required to do so.

Bay Area Schools Plan Teach-ins about War
By Ji Hyun Lim | AsianWeek Staff Writer, Asian Week, Thursday, December 12, 2002
In an attempt to educate K-12 students in the Bay Area about the possibility of a war with Iraq, both the Oakland and San Francisco Unified School Districts unanimously passed resolutions to conduct teach-ins regarding the crisis in the Middle East.
Modeled after the 1960s Vietnam anti-war demonstrations, the intention of these teach-ins is to educate students about the causes and consequences of war, while making sure the information presented is grade-appropriate. Although the school districts will recommend a curriculum for instructors, the resolutions call for each school district to either integrate the subject matter in a discussion or provide speakers for older students.
Dan Siegel, an Oakland School Board member and former anti-Vietnam War activist, authored the Oakland resolution in late October and it passed in November. Oakland districts tentatively plan to conduct these teach-ins in mid-January, to coincide with Martin Luther King’s birthday.
Oakland plans to provide a program for some 50,000 students that will not be mandatory. Siegel points out that educating students from K-12 is important because the war has and will have significant impact on their lives. Because billions of dollars spent on the military budget are siphoning resources from less affluent communities like Oakland, Siegel points out that government policies will directly affect funding for health care, education and social services.
“If our government starts bombing Iraq, there can easily be tens of thousands of casualties as American citizens,” Siegel comments. “U.S. troops who will disproportionately represent poor communities like Oakland and working class, poor people and people of color will end up in the military.”
School board members and teachers agree that educating students should be a priority. Some argue that many students may not understand the scope of the crisis in the Middle East and a dialogue would provide clarity on the subject.
Teachers like Jonah Zern point out that such dialogue is often muffled by political rhetoric and media sensationalism about “terrorist nations.”
“[Students] hear about war and it’s essential that we help them understand it and stop them from developing feelings of hatred,” Zern said. “The main message is to stop prejudice and hatred.”
During a preliminary meeting to discuss the curriculum for Oakland schools, four committee members discussed the need to highlight the ramifications of war, terrorism, community safety, global unity, racial profiling and the threat to civil liberties.
Educators emphasized that students should be educated about U.S. relations with foreign countries and the history of the warring states. Board members hope to encourage students to discuss deeper issues of economics and freedom, security and safety and the conflicts that may occur as a result of a counter attack.
“We hope that our children can build a better future — one that is based on a common understanding and a common humanity rather than a winner take all mentality,” Zern explained.
Siegel points out that discussion with youth about war will be similar to discussion after the Sept. 11 attacks. However, the partially guided lesson plan will allow each school the flexibility to bring in both anti-war and pro-government policy speakers at the school’s discretion. Teachers are advised to present the materials in a way that won’t shock or upset younger children and provide a balanced and informative symposium of learning.
Siegel said: “We have to present a program that educates and allows the students and others to participate and make up their own minds. We’re not trying to indoctrinate or politicize people. We’re trying to educate them.”
The intent of the resolution is to foster discussion and allow students to understand democracy and the importance of their political voice, Zern said. Board members will encourage teachers to lead students in a more lengthy conversation about poverty, systems of violence and the funding of the military/industrial complex.
San Francisco School District is also planning a teach-in for students.
Board members Eric Mar and Mark Sanchez drafted a similar measure for SFUSD shortly after the Oakland School Board passed its resolution. Inspired by community and grassroots groups such as International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), Not in Our Name, Asian Pacific Islander Coalition Against the War and United for Peace/Global Exchange, San Francisco Board members proposed a more detailed agenda.
The San Francisco resolution tackles privacy issues and draft counseling. The proposal states that parents and students should understand their rights to privacy. In the resolution, the board argues that schools should not be required to provide names and addresses to military recruiters.
The resolution states that in accordance with the ‘opt out’ clause of the No Child Left Behind Act, SFUSD will comply with each parental request for non-release of student information and provide information about draft counseling resources.
San Francisco’s teach-ins are slated to begin in January. In the meantime, School Board members are continuing to meet regularly to discuss the curriculum. Both districts hope other districts will embark on similar measures to educate students.
Said Zern: “The major problem about U.S. schools is that they’re too removed from engaging student in the world around them. This is just one instance in how teachers should be engaging their students to see how history is not just something of the past but it’s something they create.”

Reach Ji Hyun Lim at jlim [at]

Anti-war school board plans teach-ins
By Alex Katz, STAFF WRITER, Printed Front Page, Oakland Tribune,
OAKLAND -- Students in kindergarten through 12th grade will learn about the proposed war in Iraq at 1960s-style "teach-ins," a vocally anti-war school board decided Wednesday.
School board member Dan Siegel proposed the resolution encouraging schools to set aside time to teach about the planned conflict to rid Iraq of what President Bush calls "weapons of mass destruction."
"I think the pending war with Iraq is a matter that has the most serious consequences for people in this country," Siegel said, citing the inevitable deaths of Iraqi civilians and U.S. military personnel, as well as the allocation of resources away from schools and toward war.
The teach-ins will be voluntary and open to parents. Each school site will determine when, or if, the events will happen.

Despite vocal opposition to an Iraq war expressed at school board meetings by board members, schools Superintendent Dennis Chaconas, teachers and students, Siegel said information will be presented in an impartial manner by teachers of all political stripes.
"We ask teachers to do that all the time," said Siegel, who led anti-Vietnam War protests as student body president at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1969. "We have enough integrity and respect for the students to provide them the information and let them make up their own minds."
Fifth-graders from Sequoia Elementary School spoke in favor of the teach-in at Wednesday's board meeting and read letters they had written to Bush opposing an Iraq war.
"When you go to war, you are setting a bad example for all the kids in the U.S.A.," one letter stated. "Wars and fights are not right, and bombing beautiful things is not right either."
Teacher Betty Olson-Jones said the students came up with the idea on their own.
The students invited Bush to come to a weekly class at Sequoia that teaches youngsters how to resolve problems without fighting.
"It's not fair for other people (if) they get killed, because they haven't done anything to George Bush," said student Jennifer, whose parents did not want her last name published.
Bush "is only mad at one person (Iraqi President Saddam Hussein)," Jennifer said. "We think (Bush) should come to our class on Wednesday to learn some (conflict resolution) skills."
The fifth-graders showed they understood that the United States once supported Iraq militarily.
"We think it's strange to go to war with a country you taught war to," student Emma Styles-Swaim said. "We think it's strange because, well, it's weird."
A White House spokesperson was not available to comment Thursday. One official said the students could probably expect some kind of response from the White House.
School board member Bruce Kariya voiced concern about exposing children below fourth grade to "the ravages of war."
Other board members disagreed. As school board member Greg Hodge put it, Iraqi children below the fourth grade will lose their lives in any U.S. attack, so why shouldn't children here at least know about it?
"At the end of the day, it's not going to be Bush and it's not going to be (Vice President Dick) Cheney going off to war," board member Jason Hodge said. "They make the decision and then send our young people to war."

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