Friday, October 26, 2007

Japanese-American Internment Lesson Dropped From BI Curriculum -- for Now

This from the Kitsap Sun, October 24, 2007:

Japanese-American Internment Lesson Dropped From BI Curriculum -- for Now

By Tristan BaurickFor the Kitsap SunWednesday, October 24, 2007


A controversial sixth-grade lesson on the World War II internment of Japanese-Americans was cut from the Bainbridge Island School District this year, but it may take a new form for other grades.

"We're in the process of refining what we teach," said Deputy Superintendent Faith Chapel. "Certainly, some of the issues (taught) in that curriculum will continue, but it doesn't fit our format now."

Taught since 2003, the "Leaving Our Island" unit was initially celebrated for its comprehensive exploration of Bainbridge history and domestic wartime policy. Later, the curriculum drew national media attention after two island parents derided the unit as biased against the internment and modern government policies, including the U.S. Patriot Act.

"Leaving Our Island" focused on the more than 200 island residents of Japanese ancestry who were forcibly relocated to camps during World War II.
Chapel stressed that the four-week unit was not cut from sixth-grade studies to satisfy critics.

Instead, the move is part of a districtwide reformatting of social studies curriculums to meet upcoming state benchmarks and to match curriculums in other state schools.

"Our state, in terms of social studies, is developing a menu of basic class assessments," she said. "We want to match the state's framework and also match the (curriculum) sequences in other schools in the state of Washington."

The district replaced a sixth-grade focus on U.S. history with a new emphasis on world geography and ancient civilizations.

U.S. and Washington state history, including lessons on the internment, will likely move to fifth, eighth, and 11th grades, Chapel said.

"The Leaving Our Island" unit was developed by longtime Sakai Intermediate School teacher Marie Marrs with a $17,000 grant from the Washington Civil Liberties Public Education Program.

Lessons included student discussions with Japanese-Americans who lived in the camps, visits to historic island sites, videos, biographies and other related texts.

James Olsen, who led much of the opposition to "Leaving Our Island," declared the unit's removal from the sixth-grade curriculum a victory for students and parents.

"The sixth-grade students are the clear victor, getting back a huge chunk of time to study the events mandated in the state curriculum," said Olsen, who often spoke passionately at school board meetings, decrying the unit as propagandistic and inaccurate. "The message for other parents here on Bainbridge and elsewhere is that perseverance can pay off — you just might have to endure stonewalling and obstacles before you see results."

Chapel disputed Olsen's comments attributing curriculum changes to the critics.

"That's not an accurate perception at all," she said. "There's a great deal of support for teaching this unit. It's not certain it will take the same form, but aspects of it may pop up in other grades."

Friday, October 12, 2007


I offer some observations on this issue but I ask that my comments not be used with attribution. I stand by my comments and can verify them but to use my name tends to work at counter purposes to my good wife's efforts in this matter. I also offer these observations of my own volition.

Mary is one of the most accomplished "artists" on the island with poetry awards and a film body of work running on local stations here and in other places. In addition she is a smart, professional and focused individual who is more than capable for performing volunteer services for local groups, churches or organizations. She has been doing these types of volunteer and historical endeavors for many years. It was Mary's hard work and drive that had Fort Ward and many of the buildings places on the Washington State Historical register.

Now Mary sees a public advertisement for docent volunteers at BHS and responds to the solicitation. First, Mary also has donated many books and movies to BHS and worked closely with Ms Varga, previous director to Ms Cosgrove (you also might dust off the info on the circumstances of Ms. Varga's abrupt departure since it is very related to the issues Mary raised). Mary responds but hears nothing for months and months. She follows up and hears nothing for another long period of time. Finally she gets a cryptic invitation to meet Ms. Cosgrove and another BHS trustee at a local coffee shop. Mary has filled in those details.

We know the story ending thus far. My observations on this are as follows:

1) Mary is on a BHS black list -- similar to the ones in effect during the McCarthy era back in Hollywood. All attempts by Mary to get appointed to any board or group through the Mayor's office have been denied. Mary raised the issue with the Mayor and got a flippant answer. Mary's sin is that she is a smart conservative who has championed balanced history on this island. I guess Mary's other sin is any association with me. My sin is similar to Mary's except I am even more determined to break down barriers to free speech and intellectual honesty on our island.

2) On the face of it the claim that Mary could not serve as a docent because she has opinions is outrageous. On the BHS board is Mary Woodward and a number of extremely vehement supports of BHS full commitment to the "Japanese Internment story." Mary Woodward and the other trustees have had no problem writing or speaking in public on their agenda. Yet my wife gets boxed out because she writes a letter to the editor calling for the Pledge of Allegiance. What an insult.

3) Mary contacted COBI with questions on issues of discrimination. You have to look carefully at what Ms. Briggs wrote back. Interestingly Ms. Briggs spends a great deal of time stating COBI and BHS are not related. However, I know there are financial, business, and "partnership" ties between COBI and BHS. Both are "partners" on the Japanese-American Memorial according to the Public Law that is funding the NPS. To suggest that COBI and BHS are unrelated does not pass the smell test. BHS gets funding support, advertisement and probably some staff support from the BIAHC, which is all COBI public monies. Funny thing is -- a very telling -- when Mary asked Ms Cosgrove where here promised written response as stated at their meeting, Ms. Cosgrove said Mary had "her answer" in Mary Jo's letter. Cosgrove has revealed she lets Mary Jo speak for her organization yet Mary Jo says they have no relationship. When pressed on the letter, Ms. Cosgrove had a melt down and hung up. Also promised was a letter from the Board at BHS but note they refuse to answer also.

4) Public organizations cannot get away with blatant discrimination and lying about it. Some of the documents produced by BHS or COBI in answer to Mary's complaint still had the ink wet on them as they were created to cover their behinds from a charge of discrimination. COBI would not tolerate a black woman being denied admittance to COBI supported organization. COBI would not tolerate a denial of a gay person from membership or volunteer work. However if you are a white female conservative, COBI and BHS have no problem denying access on the most outlandish pretenses and then thinking they can get away with it.

5) BHS has set up a "whisper campaign" that Mary is not professional enough to be a docent. Yet BHS will have the most rabid other members on their board and not give it a second thought.

6) Mary was told -- interestingly enough by Cosgrove -- that an independent study done on behalf of BHS -- told them to knock off the previous over-the-top coverage of all things Japanese internment. You will notice in their releases and I am told in their displays all the EO-9066 memorabilia is now somewhatt muted. Yet when a volunteer comes forward to help out she is discriminated against because she has produced intellectual property on the matter. Yet BHS, by their consultant's own report, was guilty of over-emphasis and pushing an agenda.

Mary is hard working and this kind of rank unprofessional character assassination is not deserved. If these organization think they can run over good people with impunity, they should know better. You are well aware of the censorship that BIAHC engaged in on this subject and the consequences that befell them.

You have covered a number of these issues to your very great credit. I believe wholeheartedly that organizations that breach the public trust when accepting public funds must be called out. The public is the only group that can demand BHS act in the interest of all Bainbridge citizens and not just a select few who are very afraid of open and full discussion of history on Bainbridge.

Frankly all of this speaks loudly about our "dysfunctional" city government and the agencies who spend the taxpayer money (BIAHC and BHS). With both BHS and BIAHC, the groups function without clearly stated rules of behavior on funding or volunteer criteria. It is only after challenged do these organizations create after-the-fact documents to attempt to deflect charges of bias and discrimination. It in not coincidental that these organizations use vagueness to enforce a local orthodoxy. If you challenge this orthodoxy, you invite rebuke, shunning or outright discrimination.

Again, no attribution to me but any ideas are free for the taking once you verify them.

Regards, Jim Olsen