April 19th 2003

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Iraq: winning the peace

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Foreign debt binge threatens economy

Ethanol a solution to air pollution caused lung cancers

Wider focus needed on Murray Darling water controversy

ENVIRONMENT: Federal bushfire inquiry's challenge

TRADE: Safeguarding our $800m wheat contracts

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Why shouldn't everyone have the bomb? / Strategic history / North Korean blackmail

MEDIA: Journalism becomes a commodity

LETTERS: Nationals misrepresented (letter)

BOOKS: Globalization and its Discontents, by Joseph Stiglitz

EDUCATION: Iraq: the view in the classroom

DRUGS: United Nations body slams Sydney injecting room

BOOKS: The Marriage Problem: How our Culture has Weakened Families, by James Q. Wilson

BOOKS: Tolkien's Christianity: J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth, by Bradley J. Birzer

FILM REVIEW: Ned Kelly (2003)

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Iraq: the view in the classroom

by Dr Kevin Donnelly

News Weekly, April 19, 2003
Can Australian parents trust our schools and teachers to present a balanced and impartial view of the war in Iraq?

Judged by the actions of the Australian Education Union (AEU) and its various state branches, the answer is "no". The sad fact is that, instead of presenting a fair and objective view of the war, the teacher unions promote a "left-wing", Labor Party friendly interpretation of events.

Parents only need to visit the AEU's website at www.aeufederal.org.au to see how biased and ideologically-driven teacher unions have become. The website presents a range of media releases, resolutions and bulletins all opposed to Australia's involvement.


The media release "Educators Oppose Howard's War" states that Australia's involvement is "illegal" and that the war "is opposed by the majority of Australians". Forget the counter-argument that our involvement is legal and that, according to the latest Newspoll, the majority of Australians now support our troops fighting to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

In addition to opposing the war, the AEU also suggests that teachers, in the classroom, should argue against military action on the basis that the priority must be "the avoidance of conflict by peaceful means and recognition of cultural and religious diversity".

Tell that to the Kurds who have been gassed, tortured and driven from their homes by the Hussein regime.

Not content with presenting a biased account of the conflict, the AEU also urges teachers to "Take action in your workplace and community" and "support students who take an anti-war stance."

While many parents might argue that their children should not be involved in anti-war protests, it is clear that the AEU feels that teachers have every right to influence students to do otherwise.

The NSW Teachers Federation also clearly states its opposition to the war in its media release "Teachers oppose the war in Iraq". Once again, there is no attempt to present both sides of the argument as the union states: "The NSW Teachers Federation unequivocally opposes the war in Iraq."

Teachers are urged to attend public rallies against the war and, once again in the classroom, to tell students that the war in Iraq is wrong and that "avoidance of conflict and resolution of problems by peaceful means" is the only option.

The President of the NSW Teachers Federation even goes as far as to state: "Congratulations should be sent to Senator Bob Brown, Andrew Bartlett and the French Ambassador for their stand against the war".

Forget about congratulating the Australian defence forces for putting their lives at risk or thanking the "coalition of the willing" for seeking to overthrow a dictator and bring freedom to an oppressed people.

The Victorian branch of the AEU also presents one-sided, biased view of the current conflict. The union advises teachers to "suspend normal classroom instruction to read a statement to their classes and present or undertake a peace activity".

Teachers are also told, in relation to war against Iraq, that "this action is not sanctioned by the United Nations" and that "many people in Australia and around the world think that diplomacy should be given more time".

On reading the anti-war material promoted by teacher unions, both state and national, one searches in vain for any balanced recognition that Prime Minister Howard might have a just case.

Also ignored is the argument that, such is the evil and destructive nature of Saddam Hussein's regime and the reality that international diplomacy has failed, that war is the only feasible option left.

Of course, as parents should realise, the AEU and NSW Teachers Federation have never disguised their 'left-wing' political bent. Opposition to the war in Iraq is simply the latest in a long line of politically correct, ideologically-driven causes championed by the unions.

The concern, though, is that while political activism is a good thing, it should not cross over to the classroom and students should not be used as political pawns in issues they might not fully understand.

While there are many teachers who are professional and impartial, the sad reality is that there are also many other teachers, as proven by the actions of their union, who cannot be trusted.

This 'left-wing' bias amongst teachers, on issues like the war in Iraq, the environment, gender politics and multiculturalism, explains the results of a survey carried out during the late 1990s when parents were asked did they trust teachers to teach civics and citizenship.

Some 60 per cent of parents interviewed stated that they did not trust teachers to teach impartially as, in the words of the report:

"There is widespread concern that teachers are either not well enough trained or professional enough to teach this program (civics) without bias".

  • Dr Kevin Donnelly is Director of a Melbourne-based consulting group, Education Strategies

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