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Baathist battle

National | Building a government in Iraq is not nearly as simple as turning on the water and switching on the electricity.

Issue: "Tyranny of the minority," June 7, 2003

Building a government in Iraq is not nearly as simple as turning on the water and switching on the electricity. Renovating an education system rife with Baathist ideology would seem to be more like government-building and less like electrical rewiring.

Yet the U.S. Agency for International Development's priorities for Iraqi education appear to be more about process than substance. The agency is intent on opening school doors in September, and critics worry that getting it done fast has become more important than getting it done right.

Revamping curriculum is critical, according to Meyrav Wurmser, author of a book on the Baathist influence in Syrian texts. "Schoolbooks in Iraq and Syria were intended not to educate but to destroy the individual, by capturing his mind, killing his soul, and turning his body into a tool of the state," she wrote in The Weekly Standard.

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Teacher retraining is another serious need, according to Westerners who have worked with Iraqi educators. "Many Iraqi teachers haven't been taught to think critically," says Mary Yacoubian, a teacher trainer with Classical Development Services, International. "How can we expect them to teach children to think critically?" Ms. Yacoubian has trained Kurdish teachers to work with a classical Christian school in the northern Iraqi town of Sulaymaniyah.

Jennifer Marshall
Jennifer Marshall

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