Why America's hated: all that and more from your teachers union

December 6, 2001 | G&M – Page A25 | Margaret Wente

Doug Little teaches high-school history at Rosedale Heights in Toronto. He's
also the editor of his union newsletter, which goes out to 6,500 teachers in
Toronto. This month, he and his editorial board decided to include a handy
backgrounder to current events. It is a densely printed page titled, "Why
America is hated," and it is billed as "a resource to history and geography
teachers to stimulate debate in classes." The page is presented as a factual
chronology of recent Middle East history. It starts like this:
1948: Israel established. U.S. declines to press Israel to allow expelled
Palestinians to return.
1949: CIA backs coup against elected government of Syria.
It ends like this:
2000-present: Israel uses U.S. arms in attempt to crush Palestinian
uprising, killing hundreds of civilians.

From beginning to end, the United States and Israel are depictedas the root
of all evil. There is no mention of the Oslo peace accord, or Camp David, or
suicide bombers, or anything else that might suggest that the story has more
than one side.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation has long been known for
loudmouthed leftism, and the Toronto district of the OSSTF is perhaps the
loudest of them all. In ordinary times, who cares? But these aren't ordinary
times.

"I was absolutely offended," says teacher Allen Charney. "I've typically not
been an activist, but I have to get in the ring with this one. These people
are disseminating inaccuracies and historical revisionism, and exceeding
their mandate."

I asked him whether any teachers might actually be influenced by Mr.
Little's effort to help them. "I would say that people who are perhaps not
as steeped in history are quite vulnerable to these kinds of things. It
might substantiate what they may already suspect to be true."

Mr. Little, who teaches Grades 11, 12 and OAC, picked up his "teachers
resource" from Z, an obscure left-wing magazine. He says he meant to credit
the source but forgot.

"The United States has a long history of meddling in [Middle East] affairs,"
he told me. "We thought we would present that point of view to teachers as
an explanation of why many people in the Islamic world would not like the
U.S." In his view, the account is both accurate and fair.

Not surprisingly, the Canadian Jewish Congress calls it blatant propaganda.
The CJC says it also violates the school board's policy of presenting
balance in the classroom on controversial matters.

"The main thing that bothers us is that this is supposedly distributed for
classroom use," says Ed Morgan, chairman of the CJC's Ontario region and a
professor of international law. "When you put it all together, bin Laden
himself couldn't have said it better."

Mr. Little says that he and his editorial board didn't set out to provide
"balance." Instead, they wanted to "balance" what they regard as the
pro-American, pro-Israeli line that Canadian children are spoon-fed. "It's
meant to balance the message in the main media, which is overwhelmingly the
other way: It's our boys and our crusade," he told me.

Responding to the CJC's complaint, Mr. Little wrote: "We make no pretense of
being 'objective.' We do not have a 'balance' [sic] view of the Mike Harris
regime. We do not have a 'balanced' view of oppression anywhere. We side
with the oppressed and against the oppressor. We view America, and Israel,
as its agent, as the prime oppressor in this case in the Middle East."

To be sure, so do some readers of The Globe. What's disconcerting is that
Mr. Little, a history teacher for the past 23 years, is quite sure that he
is right. His letter to the CJC concludes, "The debate should be, are these
facts in the paper untrue? . . . Try to dispute the facts of recent Mideast
history and, like we have, stay away from rhetoric or distortion."

The head of the OSSTF, Earl Manners, has tried to weasel out of this one. He
says that even though Mr. Little presented his "teachers resource" on union
letterhead and printed it with union money and distributed it to union
members, it doesn't reflect official union views. He even wrote the CJC, in
an astonishing non sequitur, that the debate provoked by Mr. Little's
newsletter "points to the need for greater understanding of all religions in
a multicultural society -- something only the public school system can
provide."

Yesterday, union executives from District 12 also declared that Mr. Little's
views are not official. But I hope Toronto's teachers don't let their union
or Mr. Little off the hook. I hope the school board doesn't, either, or the
parents.

Last spring, maybe, we could afford to be indifferent to this kind of
bigotry. But not now. Just look at the agonizing pictures on our front
pages, and you'll see why.


last updated march 2013