The controversy about how Japanese internment should be taught continued this week on Bainbridge Island, Wash.:
New and improved?
Not everyone thought so as a revised curriculum for sixth-graders on Japanese internment was presented Thursday to the Bainbridge Island School Board and sent on its way to classrooms.
Some 120 persons again packed the Bainbridge High School library as longtime curriculum objector Jim Olsen called the revisions “lip service.”
Island book seller Bob Fortner and Jack Klamm, a World War II radioman at Fort Ward, said they didn’t go far enough and that equal effort hadn’t gone into instruction about conditions at the time that led to internment.
And Homeland Security Department employee Phil McCrudden said a revised curriculum that asks children to make judgements about the Patriot Act in light of interment was inappropriate.
“This is not sixth-grade material, in my opinion,” he said.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorialized in favor of the anti-internment curriculum last fall here. The first sentence of that editorial said,
We’re not sure exactly what “context” some parents complain is missing from Bainbridge Island social studies teacher Marie Marrs’ “Leaving our Island” program about the internment of Japanese island residents in the spring of 1942.
I’ve seen the revised curriculum, courtesy of a concerned Bainbridge Island parent. Here is some relevant context that Bainbridge Island’s sixth-graders won’t be learning about:
- The Secretary of War’s concern about hit-and-run attacks on the West Coast aided by Fifth Columnists of Japanese descent (there was no analogous concern about raids on the East Coast since neither Germany nor Italy had any aircraft carriers),
- the ethnic Japanese turncoats on Niihau Island,
- the role that top-secret decrypted Japanese diplomatic messages called MAGIC played in revealing the existence of widespread Japanese espionage networks along the West Coast of the United States, and
- the role that these messages played in the development of FDR’s homeland security policies. (In 1984, John McCloy, who served as Assistant Secretary of War during WW II and was the architect of the West Coast evacuation, told Congress that during the war he had read the MAGIC messages every day and every night, and affirmed that the MAGIC cables were a “very important” factor in the decision to order the evacuation.)
When supporters of Bainbridge Island’s biased curriculum say “some things are not debatable” what they really mean is that pertinent facts such as those listed above should be withheld from students. When they say there is no need for “context” they mean that students should be provided with evidence that internment was solely the result of racism and wartime hysteria; any evidence suggesting that decisionmakers had legitimate security concerns should be withheld. Anyone who dares challenge the “official” view will be likened to Holocaust deniers and presumed to support the mass internment of Muslim Americans for the duration of the War on Terror.
Captain James Olsen of Bainbridge Island weighs in here. Julie Leung,a local blogger, discusses the controversy here and here. A tangentially-related entry about intolerance on Bainbridge Island here.
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