Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Turning the page on Iraq's history

Next Previous

Page 2 of 4

About these ads

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, Ms. 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 instruct students that Iraq has a long history of being invaded by the US.

"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 Ms. al-Bable nod in agreement.

In the months immediately following 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 Mr. Hussein, a college lecturer who fled Iraq for the Netherlands in 1975. The US 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, pencils in hand, deleting all Baath Party ideology from Iraq's 563 K-12 texts.

A system with a brighter past

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.

Next Previous

Page 2 of 4

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.