To remember 9/11, there were plenty of people who died because of the attacks that educators everywhere would have been well-advised to commemorate.
Perhaps they could have focused on one of the innocent people who boarded a plane or who went to work that day and never returned home. Then there were the first responders who died in the inferno or from diseases they contracted from being around Ground Zero in the days and weeks following the attack.
Instead, one New Jersey middle school teacher decided to focus on the sympathy we ought to harbor for Muslim students named Osama.
“On a day of mourning for the 3,000 people killed on Sept, 11, 2001, by Islamic terrorists inspired by Osama bin Laden, a middle school social studies teacher allegedly decided to skip that part of the discussion Tuesday and instead teach a fictionalized account of a Muslim boy being picked on because his name is Osama,” the New Jersey Herald reported.
The Vernon, New Jersey teacher taught a lesson revolving around “My Name is Osama” — a work of fiction involving a young Iraqi immigrant who faces Islamophobic bullying in class and is suspended for fighting back — to his students at Glen Meadow Middle School.
“School officials thus far have been mostly mum on the matter beyond acknowledging that it was brought to their attention and dealt with internally, but one couple told the New Jersey Herald Wednesday that they are outraged and have since had their daughter pulled out of that teacher’s class.”
“I thought it was a joke at first,” Ed O’Rourke, a former Marine, told the paper. “I couldn’t believe it.”
He says he was informed about the lesson by his daughter, who casually relayed it over dinner on Tuesday.
The story didn’t actually include any particular lesson as to why the attacks were carried out — a contextualization that might indeed be considered important in a social studies class on September 11 in front of students who weren’t alive when the attacks were carried out.
“It would be like, on a day about the Holocaust, doing a made-up lesson about a boy named Adolf being bullied by Jewish kids and saying we shouldn’t blame all Germans — or don’t pick on the poor kid named Adolf on the Jewish holidays,” O’Rourke told the paper. “It’s grotesque.”
“I know a lot of firemen and cops who lost family members on 9/11, but unlike the religious extremists who would have no problem blowing all of us up, our society is not going out blaming all Muslims,” he added.
“But there’s also an ideology of people that causes some people to want to kill us and to not respect women’s rights, and that should be taught as well. Instead this teacher was able to influence an entire class with a tainted story made up to show Muslims as victims.”
After forwarding his concerns to school officials, O’Rourke met with them to discuss the matter.
“They couldn’t have been better as far as letting me vent, and agreed that the timing couldn’t have been more horrific,” O’Rourke said.
“They said they were unaware the teacher was planning to do this and that it fell through the cracks, though when I asked if they were planning any disciplinary action against the teacher, they said they weren’t sure at this point.”
“There were concerns expressed by a parent about an article one of our teachers gave out to a class on Tuesday, September 11th,” Glen Meadow Middle School Principal Edwina McKay wrote in a Wednesday statement.
“I met with our teacher this morning to relay those concerns and then I met with the father to make sure his point of view was heard. Each meeting was civil and instructive.”
I would hope that each meeting was. I’m also not of the opinion that this warrants summary dismissal or anything of that nature. (Not that they could, what with teachers unions being what they are.)
What one would have hoped for, however, is an apology.
The statement by Principal McKay is as close to an admission you’ll get when an institution publicly comments on personnel matters that the issue at hand — such as we understand it — is being factually relayed to us.
If that’s the case, I think the least the people of Vernon are owed is an apology.
The decision to omit the facts of the attack from the lesson plan isn’t just political correctness gone awry, it’s callousness — especially given that Vernon, New Jersey is not exactly far from where the majority of the human toll of 9/11 was inflicted.
“Civil and instructive” is not “sorry” — and that word, or some close synonym of it, should have been in the school’s official statement.
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