- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 24, 2002

The New York and West Virginia affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers are the latest teachers' unions to reject the National Education Association's suggested September 11 lesson plan that cautions against assigning blame for the terrorist attacks.
The West Virginia Federation of Teachers (WVFT) and the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) said yesterday they are urging their members to steer clear of the lesson plan, which said that no group is responsible for the terrorist attacks that killed more than 3,000 people.
"I find this curriculum to be highly inappropriate," said Judy Hale, WVFT's president. "This is insulting to our teachers' intelligence and patriotism. Lesson plans should be based on the facts, including what is undisputed about the terrorists who are to blame for this atrocity. The attacks on America are as historically significant as World War II or the Holocaust and should be presented to students in the same factual manner."
Dennis Tompkins, a spokesman for NYSUT, the state's largest labor union, shared Ms. Hale's sentiments.
"This was a day America was attacked, and we have to teach it as such," he said. "This will definitely change the way social studies and history will be taught."
Their comments come several days after a dispute arose over whether the lesson plan, developed by Brian Lippincott, who is affiliated with the Graduate School of Professional Psychology at the John F. Kennedy University in California, was appropriate for teachers to use when teaching schoolchildren about September 11, on its one-year anniversary.
Responding to the AFT's concerns, the NEA issued the following statement:
"The goals of our [Web] site are to show the history of the United States, to highlight American values such as tolerance, freedom and democracy, and to provide our members with information they might find useful as they prepare how to observe the September 11 anniversary in their classrooms.
"We have links to an array of sources, including the CIA, PBS, Fox News Channel, the White House, as well as the Lippincott piece. Our resource library pulls together a whole host of links for educators to review and to pick and choose which are appropriate for their individual needs.
"NEA has a long-standing friendship and an official partnership with the AFT. We work on many issues together and trust that we will continue to do that in the future. We don't see a major issue between the two organizations."
The NEA's Web site list includes more than 100 lesson plans teachers will be able to use to help elementary, middle and high school students integrate how they might remember the day's events through subjects such as art, drama and math.
Mr. Lippincott's lesson recommended teachers not to "suggest any group is responsible" for the terrorist hijackings. It also recommended that teachers discuss "historical instances of American intolerance," so that the American public avoids "repeating terrible mistakes." Some examples mentioned in the lesson plan were the internment of Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor and the backlash against Arab-Americans during the Persian Gulf war.
AFT officials immediately distanced themselves from the NEA document.
"On this very important anniversary in America's history, children should have a factual understanding of September 11," AFT President Sandra Feldman said in a written statement.
"Lesson plans should be based on the facts, including what is undisputed about the terrorists who are to blame for the attack on America and whose values are anathema to ours. Unfortunately, many well-meaning lesson plans avoid explicit judgment about the aims and character of the terrorists of September 11, and AFT believes that anything that implicitly seems to blame America for these attacks is wrong."
All groups also said children need to learn about tolerance, an important subject that they said needs to be taught every day.
"Of course it is totally in keeping with America's values and American democracy to air our differences of opinion and to make sure that no one group is singled out for blame because of race, religion or national origin," Miss Feldman said in the statement. "Therefore, teaching about tolerance is important year-round."
Ms. Hale agreed. "Teaching tolerance is absolutely important. But our children need to know the truth about what happened. We can't sugarcoat it," she said.
The AFT and NEA joined forces two years ago when they formed the NEAFT Partnership. According to documents, the partnership leaves the two unions "free to differ and to conduct each organization's work separately and independently," while working to advance the common goals of each membership.
The WVFT represents about 4,000 teachers and educators. The NYSUT is a federation of more than 900 local unions representing nearly 480,000 people.

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