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Teachers should not be permitted to spread propaganda in the classroom

By Kevin Donnelly - posted Thursday, 3 April 2003

Can Australian parents trust our schools and teachers to present a balanced and impartial view of the war in Iraq? Judging by the actions of the Australian Education Union, the answer is "no".

Instead of presenting a fair and objective view of the war, the union promotes a left-wing, ALP-friendly interpretation of events.

Parents need only to visit the union's website to see how biased and ideologically driven teacher unions have become. The website presents a range of media releases, resolutions and bulletins all opposed to Australia's involvement in Iraq.


The media release "Educators Oppose Howard's War" states that Australia's involvement is "illegal" and that the war "is opposed by the majority of Australians". Forget the counter argument that our involvement is legal and that, according to the latest Newspoll and Morgan poll, the majority of Australians now support our troops fighting to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

The union suggests teachers, in the classroom, should argue against military action on the basis that the priority must be on "the avoidance of conflict by peaceful means and recognition of cultural and religious diversity". Tell that to the Kurds who have been gassed, tortured and driven from their homes by Saddam's regime.

The union also urges teachers to "take action in your workplace and community" and "support students who take an anti-war stance". While many parents might argue their children should not be involved in anti-war protests, it is clear the union believes teachers have every right to influence students to do otherwise.

The New South Wales Teachers Federation issued a media release on March 20 headed "Teachers oppose the war on Iraq". Again, there is no attempt to present both sides of the argument; the union states that it "unequivocally opposes the war".

It urges teachers to attend public rallies against the war and, in the classroom, to tell students that the war is wrong and that "the avoidance of conflict and resolution of problems by peaceful means" is the better option.

The president of the federation, Maree O'Halloran, even goes as far as to state: "Congratulations should be sent to Senator Bob Brown, Andrew Bartlett and the French ambassador for their stand against the war."


Forget about congratulating members of the Australian Defence Force for putting their lives at risk or thanking the "coalition of the willing" for seeking to overthrow a dictator and bring freedom to an oppressed people.

The Victorian branch of the AEU also presents a one-sided view of the conflict. It advises teachers to "suspend normal classroom instruction to read a statement to their classes and present or undertake a peace activity".

Teachers are also told, in relation to war against Iraq, that "this action is not sanctioned by the United Nations" and that "many people in Australia and around the world think that diplomacy should be given more time".

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This article was first published in The Age on 28 March 2003.

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About the Author

Dr Kevin Donnelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University and he recently co-chaired the review of the Australian national curriculum. He can be contacted at He is author of Australia’s Education Revolution: How Kevin Rudd Won and Lost the Education Wars available to purchase at

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Kevin Donnelly
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Australian Department of Defence
Australian Education Union
New South Wales Teachers Federation
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