Teachers try to address war with tact in classrooms

With war in Iraq looming, local teachers recognize that history is happening around them and want to make sure their students do too.

Students in Liane Davis-Kling's history and government classes participated in an exit poll as they left class at Moffat County High School Friday.

Two questions were asked of the students.

One was whether Saddam would flee Iraq within the 48-hour time frame that President George W. Bush has been given to him. To that question, a majority of the students said "no.".

The other question was whether the United States should take military action, to which a majority of the students said "yes."

Davis-Kling said she encourages her students to keep up on what's happening with the conflict and said her approach to instructing her students has not changed since the chances of war began escalating.

She said she and her students have held discussions at the beginning of class about foreign affairs off and on since Sept. 11, a year and a half ago.

Most of her students come with questions, and are quite interested in what is happening, she said.

"They're not blowing it off," she said. "They're concerned."

The conflict in Iraq is somewhat timely for eighth-grade American History teacher Elisa Townsend.

"We just started talking about the 1990s and what happened in Iraq in 1990 and 1991," she said. "We talk about what's different and what's the same. It just fit right in."

Townsend said she has to keep up on her current events so she can field questions from students when they come into class asking about the latest developments.

"There's a lot of standing up and saying, 'I heard this and I heard that,'" she said. "I have to stay up to date with things."

But she said she tries not to make a big issue out of the war in class.

"It's a delicate subject," she said. "It's possible that some of these kids have relatives there. I try not to get too much into it. These kids are still pretty young."

Gail Petch, a third-grade teacher at Sunset Elementary School, said she also answers questions from her students as they are asked.

"The big thing is to pull out a map and show them how far away it is," she said. "I try to be honest with them but I don't want to scare them either. I try to let them know they're safe here and just give them the facts."

Petch said the most frequent question students have is "why?"

"I try to put it to them as everyone has a choice and in the opinion of the United States, Saddam has made poor choices," she said. "And now he has to face the consequences. Kids understand consequences."

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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