Story Publication logo September 30, 2007

Teaching Iraq


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"Iraq: Death of a Nation" examines how the U.S. invasion and occupation created a multi-faceted...

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Multiple Authors

Jon Sawyer, Pulitzer Center


The Pulitzer Center will be in St. Louis later this week, bringing one of our most remarkable projects into high school and college classrooms as part of our new Global Gateway education initiative. This marks a lot of hard work by some extraordinary people -- beginning with David Enders, the independent journalist we supported this summer while he and videographer Rick Rowley traveled through Iraq, Syria and Jordan.

David and Rick traveled the breadth of Iraq, sometimes with the U.S. military but more often with the Sunni and Shia militia groups that actually control much of the country. They produced a torrent of reporting -- video, print and radio -- that captures as vividly as anything I've seen the country's descent into factional fighting and the tragic displacement of nearly 4 million Iraqis from their homes. You can see their reports on our Iraq project page.

What makes David especially suited to bring this story to high school and college students, however, is that he is a teacher himself, in the New York City public schools.

David spent some 18 months in Iraq after the war began. In mid 2006 he returned to the states and joined the Teaching Fellows program, a national initiative to recruit quality teachers into the nation's large urban systems. He taught this past school year in Brooklyn and now, after spending the summer in the Middle East, is teaching at the Frederick Douglas School in Harlem. His subjects? Sixth grade English and high-school elective journalism. Who wouldn't elect that course!

The Pulitzer Center developed a pilot project for the Global Gateway in St. Louis last spring, working with public-television station KETC, the educational organization Civitas Associates, and Elizabeth Morrison, social-studies coordinator for the Parkway Schools District. The reporting project then was Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park, and we flew in reporter Stephanie Hanes from Johannesburg to share her story about efforts to rebuild a national park that had been destroyed through years of civil war. We worked with ace social-studies teacher Kristen Collins and her stellar students at Parkway West High School and also with some terrific classes at St. Joseph's Academy, Maplewood-Richmond Heights, Collinsville High School, and Washington University. We finished up with a teacher workshop at KETC, and short videos of the entire exercise.

Thanks to Nathalie Applewhite, the Pulitzer Center's associate director, we also created blogs through which students could pose questions and comments directly to Stephanie and also to Steve Sapienza, our colleague at Azimuth Media who traveled with Stephanie to Mozambique to shoot the video that we then aired on the public television program Foreign Exchange.

Now we're coming back, with Iraq, and an even larger cast of colleagues committed to exposing young people to diverse views on some of the most important issues this country faces. On Thursday we'll be at Parkway West again, working with Kristen Collins and her students. We'll also visit Soldan High School in St. Louis, for a conversation that will also include students from Crossroads, Maplewood-Richmond Heights, and Rosati-Kain. The following morning we'll be at two other schools, St. Joseph's and Collinsville. Thanks to Arthur Lieber of Civitas for the mammoth job of coordinating all these schools and people -- and also for Arthur's dazzling lesson plan that he prepared. We very much hope that other teachers will take advantage of Arthur's work and that they'll be submitting lesson plans of their own for others to share. On the Global Gateway Iraq student blog, meanwhile, you'll find plenty of back-and-forth already between the students and David.

While in St. Louis David and I will also meet with students in the International Leadership Program, a freshman seminar for students interested in both international issues and community engagement. Our kind of students! The ILP is an initiative of the university's International and Area Studies Program. We've worked closely with them on past events on campus and we hope they'll take the lead in presenting future Global Gateway projects, too. Special thanks to Pushkar Sharma, international events coordinator, for his help in making arrangements for the ILP class meeting and also for the public event at 7 pm this Thursday, Oct. 4, at the Women's Building Lounge, where David will screen his video documentary and discuss his reporting. Thanks also to Zach Dyer, Washington University '07, who interned for us this summer in Washington and continues to help out now that he has returned to St. Louis.

To make a permanent record of all that transpires we'll have the exceptional help of St. Louisan Frank Popper. Frank directed "Can Mt. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?," a documentary on the stirring campaign to fill the 3rd congressional district seat after Richard Gephardt's retirement. Frank was also once a teacher himself -- at Parkway West! We're thrilled that he'll be joining us all.

David and Rick's reporting from Iraq is precisely the kind of work the Pulitzer Center was created to support. The Global Gateway is at the very heart of our mission, to promote a more informed public debate on America's role in the world. If you're in the St. Louis area I hope you'll join us Thursday night at Washington University, to find out more. If you're following this on the web, stay tuned -- lots more to come!


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