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[casi] New textbooks rewrite history in Iraq through omission



The following extract shows how good the education system was in
Iraq, how it declined drastically through sanctions and how
successful the US/UK propaganda machine was in diverting attention
away from the effects of the sanctions.

Interestingly, a fairly common view from ordinary soldiers who've
served in Iraq is how shocked they've been at the state of schools,
hospitals etc in Iraq. Eg "how can they live like that". This is
before taking into account recent war damage and looting.

Is Iraq looking at 10 years before it gets back to the literacy
levels of 1990? Perhaps never for women? Will education up to
university level be free (including bursaries to study abroad)? How
can this be funded on 15% income and corporation tax?

*****extract

Hussein was returning to a very different school system from the one
he left in 1975. Early in his rule, Saddam was credited with creating
one of the strongest school systems in the Middle East. Iraq won a
UNESCO prize for eradicating illiteracy in 1982. Literacy rates for
women were among the highest of all Islamic nations, and unlike most
Middle East school systems, Iraqi education was largely secular.

But, in the decade after the 1991 Gulf War, UNICEF estimates, school
spending plummeted by 90 percent. Teachers' salaries dropped to $6 a
month, and buildings deteriorated.

The United States says Saddam starved the schools to spend money on
his palaces, but many Iraqis say United Nations sanctions are to
blame for crippling the school system  one small example of a
contentious issue history-textbook writers will grapple with.

***** end of extract

Monday, November 10, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

BAGHDAD, Iraq  For 15 years, high-school history teacher Abtsam
Jassom has dutifully taught 20th-century history according to the
Baath party. In it, America was the greedy invader, every Iraqi war
was justified and victorious, and Zionists were the cause of world
suffering.

Now, however, with the ouster of former President Saddam Hussein,
U.S. officials say teachers will finally be free to teach a more
factual account of historical events. But the question is: Whose
account will that be?

The first indicator of what a Saddam-free education will look like is
arriving this month, as millions of newly revised textbooks roll off
the printing presses to be distributed to Iraq's 5.5 million
schoolchildren in 16,000 schools. All 563 texts were heavily edited
and revised over the summer by a team of U.S.-appointed Iraqi
educators. Every image of Saddam and the Baath party has been
removed.

But so has much more. Pressured for time, and hoping to avoid
political controversy, the Ministry of Education under the U.S.-led
coalition government removed any content considered "controversial,"
including the 1991 Gulf War; the Iran-Iraq war; and all references to
Israelis, Americans or Kurds.

"Entire swaths of 20th-century history have been deleted," says Bill
Evers, a U.S. Defense Department employee and one of three American
advisers to the Ministry of Education.

The new downsized versions of textbooks underscore the political
challenge facing the primarily U.S.-backed government, and the
private, and nonprofit groups charged with everything from rebuilding
schools to retraining teachers to rewriting text. While U.S. advisers
don't want to be seen as heavy-handed in influencing the way Iraqis
interpret history, neither do they want to be in the position of
endorsing texts that could be anti-American, anti-Israeli or
radically religious.

"We considered anything anti-American to be propaganda and we took it
out," says Fuad Hussein, the Iraqi in charge of curriculum for the
Ministry of Education. "In some cases, we had to remove entire
chapters."

So until curricula can be properly revised  which could take years 
it will largely be up to individual teachers to decide either to
ignore many historical events or to make their own judgments about
what and how students will learn about their past.

Sitting in the teachers lounge in Al Huda High School in the wealthy
Al Jadriya district of Baghdad, Jassom first says she will teach that
"Americans are occupiers. They only want our oil."

A few minutes later, however, she changes her mind. "We have seen
what the old regime did  the mass graves, for example. The Americans
have freed us."

However, a mile away at Baghdad University's College of Education for
Women, Entedher al-Bable, who is studying to be a history teacher,
says she will tell students that Iraq has a long history of being
invaded by the United States.

"I will teach my students what I see: that Americans are the
terrorists. This is what I know and this is definitely what I will
teach." The circle of classmates surrounding al-Bable nod in
agreement.

In the months immediately after the war, the bulk of the attention to
Iraqi education went to the physical reconstruction of thousands of
school buildings that had been destroyed in battle or in postwar
vandalism.

Curriculum revision ended up in the hands of Hussein, a college
lecturer who fled Iraq for the Netherlands in 1975. The U.S. Defense
Department hired him to be part of the new Iraqi Ministry of
Education.

In May, Hussein visited dozens of Baghdad schools and selected 67
teachers with anti-Baath-party views. They met twice a week at UNESCO
and UNICEF offices, deleting all Baath party ideology from Iraq's 563
K-12 texts.

Hussein was returning to a very different school system from the one
he left in 1975. Early in his rule, Saddam was credited with creating
one of the strongest school systems in the Middle East. Iraq won a
UNESCO prize for eradicating illiteracy in 1982. Literacy rates for
women were among the highest of all Islamic nations, and unlike most
Middle East school systems, Iraqi education was largely secular.

But, in the decade after the 1991 Gulf War, UNICEF estimates, school
spending plummeted by 90 percent. Teachers' salaries dropped to $6 a
month, and buildings deteriorated.

The United States says Saddam starved the schools to spend money on
his palaces, but many Iraqis say United Nations sanctions are to
blame for crippling the school system  one small example of a
contentious issue history-textbook writers will grapple with.

By 2002, the U.S. Agency for International Development estimated that
school enrollment had fallen to 53 percent.

But long before the decline in spending began to hurt the Iraqi
system, Saddam made his mark on curriculum. In 1973, Hussein says,
Saddam ordered all textbooks to be rewritten from the Baath party
point of view, so lessons were intertwined with Baath Party ideology
and pro-military examples.

Now, in lifting all Baath party references from texts, some worry
that too much else is being deleted with them.

In addition to expunged references to the 1991 Gulf War, the Iran-
Iraq War and any mention of Israel (which doesn't even appear on maps
in Iraqi classrooms), some domestic issues have been erased as well,
such as Saddam's treatment of the Kurds and the ecological
destruction of the country's marshlands.

Hussein says his team is also fighting pressure from religious groups
that hope to make inroads into the school systems in Pakistan and
Saudi Arabia as well.

"There was talk that the Americans are trying to Westernize the
curriculum and move it far from Islamic values," he recalls.

Indeed, Sheikh Abdul Settar Jabber, head of the Muslim Awareness
Association, a leading Sunni group, says the entire role of schools
should be changed to one that trains students in Islamic law. He
opposes any U.S. involvement in schools.

In the months ahead, Hussein will begin organizing a curriculum
committee that represents different religious, political and ethnic
groups. U.S. officials say most curriculum decisions will be made
after the American-run provisional government leaves Iraq, and that
they will play a limited role  unless things go in a direction they
don't approve.

"We will strongly recommend concepts of tolerance, and be against
anything that is anti-Semitic or anti-West  content that would only
sow the seeds for future intolerance," says Gregg Sullivan, spokesman
for the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau of the State Department. "We'd
hope it's only an advisory role, but if something develops that's
disadvantageous to the Iraqi people, we'd weigh in on a stronger
level."

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2001787201_historyir
aq10.html

Christina Asquith The Christian Science Monitor Via The Seattle Times



Mark Parkinson
Bodmin
Cornwall



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