Monday, August 04, 2003


We need to clean up these textbooks.
BAGHDAD - Ghada Jassen's 5th-grade students used to greet her each morning with a salute of "Long live Saddam Hussein!" as she walked into the classroom, then "Long live the Baath Party!" as she motioned for them to take their seats.

Their textbooks were filled with Saddam's regime as well: Math texts substituted S and H for the variables X and Y, reading comprehension paragraphs discussed Zionist aggression and using oil as a political weapon, and other exercises promoted joining the Popular Army as an everyday activity such as buying a music cassette or acting in a play.

"We didn't believe these things but we had to say them," said Jassen, who taught for 18 years under Saddam's regime. "Saddam was there in all the books, even the math books."

That is changing, as Iraqi teachers and parents team up with U.S. and international organizations to root the former Iraqi dictator out of textbooks and replace militaristic rote learning in Iraqi classrooms.

In the months since the fall of the regime, a panel of 37 Iraqi secondary school teachers working through the interim Ministry of Education has been reviewing the nation's textbooks, excising everything from math word problems about trench digging on the Iranian border to photos of tanks and rifles.

"They've gone through and removed Baath propaganda statements, photos of Saddam Hussein, discriminatory statements about groups," said Dorothy Mazaka, a U.S. Agency for International Development education specialist, who is working as a liaison to the Ministry of Education...

"We want to have real education, to be a progressive country," said Al Sa'ad Majid al Musowi, a businessman on Baghdad's city council, who brought up education reform as a priority at the council's first meeting.

"Education is very important to the reconstruction of our society. If you want to civilize society, you must care about education," he said.

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