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February 23, 2005

Soldier Shocked To Receive Nasty Letters From Schoolchildren

JimW sent me this story, found by LGF, a few days ago:

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.


One Muslim boy wrote: β€œEven thoe [sic] you are risking your life for our country, have you seen how many civilians you or some other soldier killed?”

His letter, which was stamped with a smiley face, went on: β€œI know your [sic] trying to save our country and kill the terrorists but you are also destroying holy places like Mosques.”

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. The JHS 51 teacher, Alex Kunhardt, did not return phone calls, but the school principal, Xavier Costello, responded with a statement:

β€œWhile 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.”

You would never censor anything that your children write? Really? If the assignment was to write supportive letters to cancer patients, would they allow some kid to write "Ha, ha, hope you die"?

"We cannot censor/we can never criticize inappropriate and/or vicious statements from the left" is now the true last resort of the scoundrel.

A writer named Sher Zieve followed up on this story, making the claim that the teacher in question had encouraged kids to write this sort of stuff. I didn't want to link that, because I saw no evidence, so far, that such encouragement (or "indoctrination," as Zieve also calls it) had occurred.

I wrote an email to Zieve asking about this charge. He responded today:

What I can tell you is:

* As of yesterday (per PFC Jacobs father), JHS 51 principal made a statement that Kunhardt had reviewed and approved all of the letters; prior to them being sent to Jacobs. Today the principal backed off of this statement

* The letters contain both adult language (the vilifications) and language usually attributed to a child in the sixth-grade (the "thank yous" from students)

* Today, Kunhardt was asked by the NY Post if he, specifically, added the demoralizing language to the 9 letters. Kunhardt refused to answer

I don't think the first two really support the claim at all. But I do find it curious, if it's true, that Kunhardt "refused to answer" a question about adding demoralizing language to the letters.

Look, if it's not true, why would someone refuse to answer? I suppose there's the possibility of the old "I will not dignify that question with an answer," which is generally taken to be a denial (if a denial with a few outs in in it), but heck, if I were in the same position, I would just say "Of course not. Don't be an ass."

I still don't think there's nearly enough in the record to make that sort of charge against Kunhardt.

However, it's pretty clear to me that Kunhardt didn't mind sending patently demoralizing letters to soldiers in the field. Even if he didn't want to "censor" his sixth-grade students, why not send the nasty letters to Donald Rumsfield, rather than a specific soldier in the field, who can't, after all, influence foreign policy any more than a wannabe-activist teacher Park Slope?

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posted by Ace at 01:56 PM

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