Friday, May 11, 2007

Newspapers in Mis-Education

Newspapers in Education (NIE) are a wonderful idea, but it's particularly important to not misinform impressionable students.

The Hartford Courant published an NIE "Geography Activity on Israel" April 26. It presented a mostly age-appropriate picture of Israel, but unfortunately contained several factual errors and information that could easily lead to false inferences.

For example, it called jihad, intifada and Hamas "yiddish words;" they are, of course, taken from Arabic, with Hamas being the transliteration of the Arabic acronym for the terrorist Harakat Al-Muqawama Al-Islamiya fi Filistin, or Islamic Resistance Movement in Palestine.

The activity included the true but misleading statement "the Palestinian refugee camps have been in place for decades;" one would naturally but incorrectly infer those camps are in Israel; all the camps for Arab refugees, which today actually have very few refugees but have millions of descendants of refugees, are either in Arab countries or were set up by Egypt and Jordan in the disputed areas when they occupied them. Whereas the Palestinian Arabs who left what is now Israel were treated as unwanted guests by their Arab brethren and forced into refugee camps, those who remained became citizens of Israel.

Finally, the statement "Israel has grown eight-fold in population since 1948 and its territory has expanded due to conquest and annexation from various wars of recent times presents an extremely distorted impression. The only additional territory incorporated into Israel after 1948 was some parts of its capital of Jerusalem and Israel actually shrank when it transferred territory to Jordan in connection with the peace treaty signed a decade ago, while the population increase has come through immigration and natural growth.

These, and a few other less significant errors and distortions, mar an otherwise well-conceived NIE resource. The Courant is to be commended for its Newspapers in Education program while realizing extreme care must be taken to accurately present information to impressionable children.

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