- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2003

Area schools are handling the U.S.-led war in Iraq in various ways, including open discussion and virtual blackouts on the topic.
"School is where you are supposed to learn. I just don't think they want to scare us," said Leslie Cohen, 17, a senior at Thomas S. Wooton High School in Rockville. "We want to watch the news, [but our teacher] won't do that. She says, 'No, we have to do math.'"
Nastascia Allan, a 15-year-old sophomore who is opposed to the war, agreed.
"I think more classes should be talking about it because it's what's affecting us now," she said.
In Fairfax County, students are allowed to watch televised war coverage regardless of the subject they are studying. Sometimes the volume is on low, and other times discussion of the war dominates a class.
"We talk about it all the time in World History but not so much when we are just with our friends or in other classes," said Elyse Keno, 15, a sophomore at Centreville High School.
Phyllis Crockett, a third-grade teacher at Ketcham Elementary School in Southeast, said her class reads and discusses newspaper articles about the war daily.
But life goes on, and the priority now is developing test-taking skills in preparation for standardized exams.
"I read articles with them and let them express their feelings. As teachers, we do not give our opinions, rather we leave it up to students to draw their own conclusions. Most of the time, students will give an oral summary of the article that they have read," Mrs. Crockett said.
Jesse Nickelson, an 11th-grade teacher and chairman of the social studies department at Banneker Senior High School in Northwest, has engaged students by drawing comparisons of between World War I and the Great Depression, and today's foreign and economic policies.
"The war and the economy do cause concern, and our students are pretty thorough. They're looking at this war, and they're taking an academic approach," he said.
Mr. Nickelson said students discussed war more before it began than they have since, adding that students are watching TV news and reading newspapers critically.
"We teach our students to analyze situations and think them through. When they take a stance, they can defend it," he said.
Some students, however, feel that can't express themselves in class or to their teachers.
Keith Larkin, 16, said some of his friends at Wooton High School are not likely to speak up because of their teachers, even though the war is always on their minds.
"If you're pro-war, you're probably nervous because most of the people are against it," the junior said, adding that teachers often show bias by "asking questions that promote answers that are anti-war."
Noah Pierce, a senior at Wooton, agreed.
"I just think a great percent of our teachers are very liberal. … Even if they are provoking discussion, you can tell most of them are anti-war," the 18-year-old said. "We have a lot of bleeding-heart liberals."
Not everyone thinks all students should be talking about the war, though.
Howard Tutman, president of the Prince George's County PTA, said discussion of the war should be left out of elementary school classrooms.
"I think parents should be talking about it and putting their children at rest," said Mr. Tutman, whose 10-year-old daughter attends Woodmore Elementary.
That's what Elyse, the Centreville High School sophomore, said she has been doing.
"My dad and I were talking just the other night, and he was saying that Saddam [Hussein] is like another Hitler. If we don't stop him now, he could do a lot more damage, just like Hitler did, so it's good that we are over there," she said.
Chancia Mouketou, a fifth-grader at Ketcham Elementary, said she supports the president, too.
"I think it's good that we are in Iraq to defend and protect the people who live there," said Chancia, 11. "I agree with President Bush, and I support our solders and I hope that they return home safely."
Teachers acknowledge that it can be a difficult trying to explain a war to children, but Eunice Logan, a pre-kindergarten teacher at Ketcham, said she tries to explain it to her students on their level.
"I told them that our president made a decision and there may be consequences. For example, when they misbehave, there are consequences. I have to reach them at their level," Ms. Logan said.
Ms. Logan allowed her students to watch some of the live television coverage and said they understand that what is going on is real but not in their back yards.
"They understand that the war is far, far away. But we have to go under the desks because of possible retaliation. And we need to practice so that we will know what to do," Ms. Logan said.
Domanique Jordan, 10, a fifth-grader at John Hanson Montessori School in Oxon Hill, said her teachers have not discussed the war nor practiced drills.
"They haven't said anything," she said. "They haven't really told us."
Domanique said she wishes her teachers would talk about the war and wonders what they would do if the area near the school were bombed.
"It would help me understand," she said. "Right now, we don't know why President Bush wants us to go to war."
Wyevetra Jordan, Domanique's mother, said she has received emergency information from the schools on what to do in the event of an incident. She said teachers should be talking to students about the war because they might be surprised with what they would hear from all sides.
"I think we underestimate our children and what they're able to absorb," Mrs. Jordan said.

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