Jewish World Review March 14, 2003 / 12 Nisan, 5763

Joanne Jacobs

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Consumer Reports

Iraqi Textbooks and the English language | By September, when the new school year starts, Iraqi children will have new textbooks scrubbed of Saddam worship, militarism and anti-American rhetoric, reports the Washington Post.

Look. See Saddam. See Saddam run. Run, Saddam, run. Look. Saddam is dead. Dead, dead, dead.

Just a suggestion. (You can tell I went to school in the '50s.)

Starting in kindergarten, Iraqi children learn to pledge allegiance to Saddam Hussein. They chant their wish to die for Saddam and march with pretend guns.

The education system's martyr-building machine meshes with a series of Baathist paramilitary youth groups, which recruit schoolchildren as young as 5, according to the federation report. The scouting organizations, each tailored to a particular age group, are known by a variety of names: Saddam's Cubs, the Vanguard, the Order of Chivalry, the Youth Brigade. Tens of thousands of Iraqi children have attended training camps run by the groups, which supply members to Saddam's Fedayeen.

The groups promise children money, prestige and higher school grades, which translate into greater opportunity in Iraqi society. Members wear camouflage fatigues while practicing marksmanship. They hurl dummy grenades, march in formation and take turns dashing through flames.

Children are encouraged to denounce their parents, neighbors and friends. Fatherless children are adopted by the state and trained to be Fedayeen. Now many are sacrificing their lives for Saddam Hussein, which means they're dying for nothing.

In a Guardian story on the not-so-elite Republican Guard, a captured private says the end of the regime is "like a weight off my chest."

Yet Mohamed spoke of how difficult it would be for Iraqis of his generation — they are all in their early 20s — to think themselves out of the tyranny inside their heads. Asked what he thought about Saddam, he said: "He's my father, he's my president. We didn't understand him properly. We grew up with him around so we don't know anyone else but him."

Teaching self-government to people raised to be slaves of the Baathist state will be a challenge. Still, we de-Nazified Germany after World War II, despite the Hitler Youth. There's hope for Iraq.

For the Children

Marines freed more than 100 children from jail in Baghdad. The story says the kids refused to join Baathist youth organizations.

Rejecting Success

There's great news in California schools: Mexican immigrant students are achieving proficiency in English at unprecedented rates. But the state superintendent doesn't want to credit English immersion, which is still politically incorrect. No legislator in the Latino Caucus heralded the news that one third of "English Language Learners" have learned English; some are trying to end testing. So writes Jill Stewart, who has done first-rate work on Los Angeles schools.

"What you are going to see in Sacramento is a move away from testing because the tests show immersion English works too well — we've crunched the numbers on our own, and there's simply no debate on it," said Oceanside School District Superintendent Ken Noonan.

Noonan, a Mexican-American (despite his last name), helped launch the bilingual-education movement in California and is now an outspoken convert to immersion English. "The Latino Caucus does not want to lose bilingual education for good," said Noonan. "But if these tests remain, showing how little good bilingual is doing, there may be a movement to eliminate it totally."

Five years after the voters limited bilingual education, the state education department hasn't analyzed the progress of students who remain in bilingual (with parental waivers) and similar students educated in English. They're working on it, department officials say.

Follow the Money

One third of California's "English Language Learners" test as proficient in English on a state test. So why aren't school districts reclassifying them as fluent? Lance Izumi of Pacific Research Institute looks at the perverse incentives. Schools get more money for each student classified as limited in English proficiency. Admitting students have learned English is a money loser. If schools got a bonus for each kid redesignated as fluent in English, the rate would soar.

Latinos Prefer English

English is the dominant language of American-born Latinos. The Hartford Courant reports on a church serving Latino families:

"I ask them: Do you prefer to speak Spanish or English? It's English. English. English. English," said Julio Maturana, the head of religious education at Immaculate Conception. "I think it's their friends, the television, the schools. I think they can express in English their feelings more than in Spanish."

Why? TV gets a lot of the credit. Even in Spanish-speaking homes, children prefer the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon to Spanish-language shows.

The Poor Ye Shall Send to Community College

At selective colleges, diversity is racial and ethnic — not economic. Very few students from low-income families attend top colleges, says a Century Foundation study by Anthony Carnevale of Education Testing Service. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Only 3 percent of freshmen at the 146 most selective colleges and universities come from families in the bottom quarter of Americans ranked by income. About 12 percent of the students on these campuses are black or Latino.

At the most selective four-year colleges, only 10 percent of students come from the bottom 50 percent of the income scale.

Carnevale argues that affirmative action should be based on class, basically parental education and income. UCLA Law School tried that, and found qualified students with family incomes under $25,000 a year. However:

While use of class-based preferences aided some black and Latino applicants, it brought in even more Asians and low-income whites, including recent immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Mideast, he said.

. . . In general, the minority students with the grades and test scores that under previous rules would have qualified them for admission did not come from low-income families.

Blacks and Hispanics do bring some diversity to elite college campuses, but low-income students — of all colors — probably would contribute even more to the mix. And preferences based on disadvantage would be seen as fair, avoiding the corrosive resentment generated by racial and ethnic preferences.

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JWR contributor Joanne Jacobs, a former Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer, blogs daily at She is currently finishing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. Comment by clicking here.

Teachers, hugging, text messaging 04/07/03: War talk at school
03/24/03: Watching the war
03/10/03: Classroom chaos
03/03/03: Teaching tales
02/24/03: Segregation stories
02/18/03: Writing Essays, America, Beyond Bert and Ernie
02/13/03: Size matters
02/10/03: Parental homework, cheaters and memoirs
02/03/03: Diplomas, academics, preschools and Ritalin
01/27/03: Head Start, Social Studies, Marx, Africa and Math
01/22/03: Teachers as targets
01/13/03: Big Bully's Feelings
01/06/03: School of 60's Whining and Communal Destruction
12/23/02: Teaching in
12/16/02: Chocolate city?
12/10/02: Mandatory Victimhood --- and when cleaning up a school is 'racist'
11/25/02: Multi-colored math, sensitive science
11/20/02: How to leave no child behind
11/18/02: The tummy track
11/11/02: Dysfunctional documents?
11/04/02: Why go to college? Why test schools?
10/28/02: Pride goeth before an F
10/21/02: Diversity adversity
10/14/02: Bad hat day
10/07/02: Inflated sense of worth
09/30/02: The Royal road to knowledge
09/24/02: Sierra's Club
09/20/02: Stupidity Watch
09/03/02: First, win the war
08/26/02: Out of their field, out of their minds?
08/20/02: Fun with failure

© 2002, Joanne Jacobs