Here in America, people are positively giddy over the death of Osama bin Laden. (And those of us who don’t feel like dancing in the streets are reminded of the pain caused by the Al Qaeda attacks.) But a teacher in the UK warns that even our closest allies may have a somewhat different view. Katherine Birbalsing, a teacher in inner London, has come forward with information about how the 9/11 attacks have been represented in the UK curriculum. In an effort to provide a balanced view of historical events, she says, children have been encouraged to be sympathetic to terrorists and their motives. And she worries that Bin Laden’s side of the story may have made a lasting impact on those students.
Here’s what the students got as part of their unit on terrorism:
“The material available in their GCSE unit on terrorism presented terrorists and their victims as having equal points of view.They offered a pack of 13 sources. Four of them were about Osama bin Laden, including one source that provided extracts from his own words across a range of topics, and another source that transcribed his words about the September 11 attacks. These two pro-bin Laden sources were “balanced” only by a fairly neutral biography of bin Laden and by a copy of the FBI Wanted poster for him. Of the nine other sources, two were pro-US, two were anti-US and four were broadly neutral. The final source provided 16 quotations from the world press on the third anniversary of 9/11. Eight of these came from the Islamic world and were largely hostile to the West. The other eight were from Europe and Asia, five of them critical of the US. The American press was not represented.”
These materials were part of a unit in the Schools History Project, intended to connect historical events with children’s lives. In effort to do this, the project provided resources intended to show multiple sides and motives. Birbalsing worries that these children, some of whom are now young adults, have been groomed to relate to the terrorists instead of the victims. She actually suggests that some of them might feel compelled to avenge Bin Laden’s death.
“In the face of such ludicrously biased teaching material, how can our children possibly have come to a balanced historical conclusion? And what must they be thinking now that bin Laden is dead? It would not surprise me if some of them felt outrage. After all, a freedom fighter has been killed in his line of duty. Is it any wonder that the Americans question which side of the war on terror we are really on?…I only hope they can see beyond what we have taught them. And if any of them do not, we have only ourselves to blame.”
Birbalsing is unable to provide proof of these teaching methods because, she explains, the materials have been removed from the Schools History Project source website—along with the whole unit on terrorism. Do you think hearing Osama’s side of the story could encourage children to grow up to be terrorists?
[via Telegraph UK]