Jody Sokolower was teaching 9th grade social studies on September 11, 2001. “Progressive teachers at my school and around the country were deeply involved in figuring out how to engage students in critical thinking and social justice issues raised by 9/11,” she pointed out.
“The same was true before the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and then Iraq. We had meetings, we planned curriculum, we talked with students about going to demonstrations,” Sokolower said.
Sokolower is the editor of a new curriculum, Teaching About The Wars, published by Rethinking Schools to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Rethinking Schools is a nonprofit, independent publisher of educational materials and curricula with a strong emphasis on equity and social justice.
What inspired this collection? Sokolower says that as the wars in the Middle East ground on, she noticed a deafening silence.
“Teachers who wouldn't dream of ignoring the Underground Railroad or the Spanish American War weren't teaching their students about the roots of the U.S. wars against Iraq or the current use of drones in Pakistan and Yemen,” she said. “It's almost as if we have accepted endless war as inevitable, as part of the wallpaper.”
Teaching About The Wars also counters the ways textbooks are addressing the U.S. War in Iraq. Bill Bigelow, Rethinking Schools’ Curriculum Editor, authored the article, “Ten Years After: How Not to Teach About the Iraq War,” that examined one of the textbooks commonly used in school districts around the country, Holt McDougal’s Modern World History.
“The section in Modern World History on the U.S. war with Iraq might as well have been written by Pentagon propagandists,” Bigelow writes.
“In an imitation of Fox News, the very first sentence of the Iraq war section places the 9/11 attacks and Saddam Hussein side by side. The book presents the march to invasion as reasonable and inevitable…”
Bigelow told War Times that textbooks like this are “one of the many ways that students are mistaught the realities of war and fed the myth that the United States is a force for justice in the world – already planting ideological seeds for future wars.”