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By Barry Rubin

Clearly the teacher is much better this year than last year regarding indoctrination. His main goal seems to be avoiding trouble. And the students even learned a patriotic song, “This is my country, land that I love….”

Yet what can you say when your child reports how his fellow eleven-year-olds constantly talk about how terrible America is and how everything is “racist”? At one point he says he remarked to them, “Who’s feeding you this crap?” But we know that don’t we?

I can’t decide whether this incident is negative or mildly positive. Students were given a reading comprehension test about the Junior Scholastic magazine that I analyzed. In discussing the Times Square bomb incident, the magazine had called–somewhat to my surprise–the would-be bomber an “Islamic terrorist.”

When students were asked about it in class, however, the “correct” answer was that he was a “home-grown” terrorist. While there are cases like that, the Time Square bomber, who was given a life sentence today, was certainly not one of them. He may have been living in America but had strong connections to the Taliban and seems to have immigrated as an agent for the group, not some average joe who just got enraged by economic difficulties.

At any rate, my son wrote accurately that he was an Islamist-motivated terrorist. The teacher would not  acknowledge this as the right answer, though it is true and what was written in the text. He responded that while this was the “wrong” answer, my son was “entitled to his opinion” and so he didn’t take off points.

In a sense, though, this was an exercise in learning to put ideology over evidence, perhaps the main theme of these kids’ education on social and political issues.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict, and Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan), Conflict and Insurgency in the Contemporary Middle Eastand editor of the (seventh edition) (Viking-Penguin), The Israel-Arab Reader the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria(Palgrave-Macmillan), A Chronological History of Terrorism (Sharpe), and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).

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