Monday, February 21, 2005

Some Students Need Lessons In Respecting Our Troops

PFC Rob Jacobs
Around here, freedom of the press and the free exchange of thoughts and ideas are concepts that are very dear to our hearts. But having said that, there is a such thing as self-control and consideration for others. This is what is called (disdainfully by many in this modern age) good manners. Some might think of it as respect.

Along with ourselves, both
Wizbang! and Number 2 Pencil are reporting that a group of bad-mannered students in a New York City junior high school have written a number of letters to our servicemen that are critical of the war, our armed forces, and the Commander in Chief.

reported by The New York Post:

An American soldier overseas is fuming over letters he received from Brooklyn middle-school children accusing GIs of destroying mosques and killing civilians in Iraq.

Pfc. Rob Jacobs of New Jersey said he was initially ecstatic to get a package of letters from sixth-graders at JHS 51 in Park Slope last month at his base 10 miles from the North Korea border.

That changed when he opened the envelope and found missives strewn with politically charged rhetoric, vicious accusations and demoralizing predictions that only a handful of soldiers would leave the Iraq war alive.

Most of the 21 letters Jacobs provided to The Post mentioned some support for the armed forces, if not the Iraq war, and thanked him for his service. But nine of the students made clear their distaste for the president or the war.

The letters were written as a Social Studies assignment from a sixth grade class. The teacher, Alex Kunhardt, of Junior High School #51 was unavailable for comment. The school's principal, Xavier Costello (Castelli on the school's web page) did give a statement:

"While we would never censor anything that our children write, we sincerely apologize for forwarding letters that were in any way inappropriate to Pfc. Jacobs. This assignment was not intended to be insensitive, but to be supportive of the men and women in service to our nation."
Even though these students certainly have the right to pen whatever type of letter that they may have wanted to send, the school was under no obligation to actually send the letters. Perhaps missives that were negative in tone could have been tactfully returned to the students with an explanation as how the morale of soldiers in the field could be damaged by such letters.

We don't know what teacher Alex Kunhardt's politics are, but we would be willing to bet that he doesn't support the war effort.

No matter what one's opinion of the war, our troops in the field are deserving of our support. As for the students that wrote those letters critical of our service members, somebody needs to teach these kids some manners because they sure aren't getting any instruction at home or in their school.

Update 1: One of our commentators, named "LC ima Mommy" says that she is the sister of PFC Jacobs. She says:

The soldier in the article is actually my little brother, and believe me, they could've printed worse quotes! (which may happen tomorrow in the follow up article.)Also, my dad will be on Hannity and COlmes tomorrow night to discuss the issue with the original letters.

My brother did not ask for these letters...the teacher requested his address so his class could send "letters of support." We are outraged that only 4 or 5 were truly that. There will definitely be more out about this...stay tuned...but thank you for taking the time to bring attention to the story, my brother certainly appreciates your support.

Update 2: (2/22) The New York Post has published its follow-up to the above story. The Post writes:

The city Department of Education, red-faced over Brooklyn sixth-graders who slammed a GI with demoralizing anti-Iraq-war letters as part of a school assignment, will send the 20-year-old private a letter of apology today.

Deputy Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, who has a nephew serving in Iraq, plans to personally contact Pfc. Rob Jacobs and his family, said department spokeswoman Michele McManus Higgins.

"She knows how difficult it is to have a loved one in a war zone," Higgins said.
Jacobs is stationed 10 miles from the North Korean border and who has been told he may be headed to Iraq in the near future.

The GI got the ranting missives last month from pint-sized pen pals at JHS 51 in Park Slope.

Filled with political diatribes, the letters excerpts of which were printed in yesterday's Post predicted GIs would die by the tens of thousands, accused soldiers of killing Iraqi civilians and bashed President Bush.

Teacher Alex Kunhardt had his students write Jacobs as part of a social-studies assignment.

He declined to comment yesterday on whether he read the rants before passing them along, but said he planned to contact Jacobs soon to explain the situation.

In an accompanying letter to Jacobs, Kunhardt had written that the students "come from a variety of backgrounds and political beliefs, but unanimously support the bravery and sacrifice of American soldiers around the world."

"Support" was not the word that came to Jacobs' mind when he read the letters.
One girl wrote that she believes Jacobs is "being forced to kill innocent people" and challenged him to name an Iraqi terrorist, concluding, "I know I can't."

Another girl wrote, "I strongly feel this war is pointless," while a classmate predicted that because Bush was re-elected, "only 50 or 100 [soldiers] will survive."
A boy accused soldiers of "destroying holy places like mosques."

Even one kid smitten with soldiers couldn't keep politics out of the picture, writing, "I find that many extreme liberals are disrespectful to you."

Uplifting letters from children are dear to soldiers, Jacobs said. He looks at a batch he got from a Girl Scout troop from his hometown of Middletown, N.J., whenever he feels lonely.

At the time the 21 JHS 51 letters were penned, Jacobs, who has been stationed in Korea for nearly a year, was told that he may be headed to Iraq. But no official order for deployment was given.

"If I were in Iraq and read that the youth of our nation doesn't want me to be there and doesn't believe in what I'm doing, it would mess up my head," Jacobs said.
Jacobs said he would welcome a letter from the Department of Education and the teacher.

"I want to think these letters were coached by the teacher or the parents of these children," Jacobs said in an interview from Camp Casey, Korea.
"It boggles my mind that children could think this stuff."

Update 3:(2/22) On tonight's Hannity & Comes Show (Fox News) Rob Jacobs Sr. the father of PFC Rob Jacobs, is scheduled to appear in order to discuss the incident. The show begins at 9:00 PM. (Eastern)

Update 4:(2/22) The interview lasted about 10 minutes, and was the lead item in the show. Sean Hannity was strongly supportive of Mr. Jacobs' concern about the letters, while Alan Colmes tended to downplay the importance of what the students wrote.

Mr. Jacobs said that (surprisingly) teacher Alex Kunhardt had not yet called him to express his regrets about allowing the letters to be sent to PFC Rob Jacobs. Mr. Jacobs also affirmed that the letters highly upset his son. According to Jacobs, the teacher had read the letters before sending them onward. Several of the actual letters were displayed to the camera, but no students' names were visible. The letters remain in the custody of Rob Jacobs Sr.

Update 5:
(2/23) Teacher Alex Kunhardt has finally issued an apology:

The Brooklyn teacher who sent an American soldier demoralizing letters written by sixth-graders apologized yesterday and admitted blame.

In a statement issued by the Department of Education, social studies teacher Alex Kunhardt said he regretted offending Pfc. Rob Jacobs.

His statement, however, did not address whether he either coached the students or read their missives — which accused soldiers of committing atrocities in Iraq — before mailing them.

The DOE, which is sending an apology to Jacobs and his family, declined comment.

"It was never my intention to demean or insult anyone," said Kunhardt, who was spotted tossing a snowboard in his car outside his Park Slope home before driving off yesterday morning. (Ed's Note: Someone needs to give this teacher detention.)

To view the The Carnival Of Education: Week 3 please click here.

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