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Learning from the Past, Talking About the Present

Learning from the Past, Talking About the Present

I was a high school senior in Dearborn, Mich., during the Gulf War in 1991. We did not talk about the war at school. I remember feeling confused about why the war was happening, but I don't remember learning what was behind it. I remember my classmates making comments like, "We have to get the Arabs" (this in a school district that is now majority Arab-American), but I don't remember anyone intervening to explain what was wrong with the hate and xenophobia in those comments.

Now the United States is winding down a second war against Iraq, and I am a fourth-grade teacher trying to help my students examine world events and the role the United States plays in them.

Some people think teachers should not teach about such controversial issues like war. Some principals instruct teachers not to teach about the war, and others create a school culture that convinces teachers that war and other "political" issues are taboo in the classroom.

As the United States was gearing up to attack Iraq, I had a discussion with my students to find out what they thought.

As part of our morning routine we share news from the children's lives as well as local and world news. In addition to our morning discussion time, we had spent several social studies lessons studying the crisis in Iraq, discussing what factors led to the current conflict, and listening to diverse perspectives on the impending war from people around the world.

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