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Teacher Asks Students To Plan a Terrorist Attack

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the one-heck-of-a-take-home-test dept.

Australia 412

Tired of looking at an endless parade of dioramas, an Australian teacher had her class plan a terrorist attack that would "kill as many innocent Australians as possible." "The teacher, with every best intention, was attempting to have the students think through someone else's eyes about conflict. I think there are better ways to do that. ... This is not what we expect of professional educators," said Sharyn O'Neill, director-general of the state's Department of Education.

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412 comments

hmmmm (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33377606)

First post!

How do you anticipate weak points (5, Insightful)

sheddd (592499) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377608)

Without thinking like that?

Re:How do you anticipate weak points (2, Funny)

madddddddddd (1710534) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377614)

let the adults think about it...

Re:How do you anticipate weak points (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33377706)

No, it's more like let "the authorities" think about it.

Re:How do you anticipate weak points (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33377780)

first point out a member of "the authorities" who is not an adult, then you can say "No".

what part of "We The People" are you having a problem comprehending? do you need mommy to spank you and tell you when you're bad, and send you to time out? ADULTS ARE THE AUTHORITY, IDIOT.

Re:How do you anticipate weak points (2, Insightful)

William Robinson (875390) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377826)

How do you anticipate weak points without thinking like that?

Yeah Right.

So let's start asking students to come up with some new innovative concepts for 'how to steal laptops', 'how to make a kid blind so he could be used as begger', 'how to rape', 'how to murder somebody and dispose body in acid' and many more.

Seriously, anybody who is trying that on students is out of his mind.

Re:How do you anticipate weak points (3, Informative)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377868)

What about teaching students to hack into computer systems? That's fairly common and fairly well accepted...and in those exercises it's not just a 'think of a way to do this', it's a 'here is a server, here is a PC, go do it'.

Re:How do you anticipate weak points (4, Interesting)

black3d (1648913) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377914)

Ah, my high school computer teacher didn't so much teach us how to break into computer systems, as much as challenge us to break into the school computer systems, and then disclose our methods. It was part of their ongoing security auditing and improvements.

It was a lot of fun. Starting with the library computers which had limited internet access and less-than-perfect policy controls. I remember using Netscape Navigator on one machine, to associate command.com as the default application for .wav files, then clicking through to a .wav file to get to a command prompt and wreak havoc. Years later we were breaking into the main school Unix network with ctrl-break's at susceptible points during the execution of scripts with elevated priveleges (which they rapidly fixed as a severe issue). Ahh great times. Alas, I was a mere hobbyist back then, and have trouble actually relating what I was dealing with at the time because I didn't really know... Fun times.

Re:How do you anticipate weak points (1)

Aeternitas827 (1256210) | more than 3 years ago | (#33378092)

My school district took a similar tack with things like this. It wasn't so much endorsing our poking around and finding what could go wrong, they more turned a blind eye to it until something went haywire.

That promptly stopped the day someone used one of the unguarded Administrative accounts and net send over the domain, scaring the hell out of people; luckily, the domain included only our school and the district's administrative building (not the whole district of 20 or so schools); nevertheless, the dean and the local IT guy came to our room first trying to figure out who had done it (ignoring the fact that the originating system's name popped up, and it wasn't in our room), and realizing it wasn't any of us, recruited us to track down the perp.

Before they locked it all down, I was able to modify the default wallpaper on the Freshman class' users (they divided it all up in Active Directory) to have a fake error message dead center (created using VBScript for the purpose), that 'wouldn't go away'. Never got to watch hilarity ensue.

Re:How do you anticipate weak points (5, Informative)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377888)

And you know what? We should have students thinking about exactly those kinds of things. They would gain more insight into what make some societies dysfunctional. Such instruction would come with discussion of the ethical implications of all those acts - as is the case with any social studies course. Certainly, by thinking about potential threats, what makes a threat credible and what can be done to reduce risks, students learn to cope with a world in which the TSA thinks binary explosives are dangerous but lets any fool take a laptop full of explosive batteries onto a plane.

Re:How do you anticipate weak points (5, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377944)

"How do we secure this area from attack?" is not just a question of putting up standard safety procedures. It's about thinking how people would attack, and finding ways of stopping that. On a practical example "How would someone break into your house?" If you wander around it, find the weak points, and figure out how to do it, you can actually fix your security. "Oh, that second floor bathroom window that is always open is near a tree branch. The wood is rotting around this back door glass panel, and could be easily removed." That sort of thing. Even simple stuff, like "How would you attack someone on this street" can be quite useful. "Oh, there is a dark alley there, I'll walk in the street at that point. We need more lights at the park entrance. Let's keep people from parking at this spot, as it obscures the view of the corner."

If we don't get kids thinking realistically about how one could attack, they're never going to be able to anticipate and defend against real threats as adults. They'll just be standing around looking like fools when someone thinks to make bombs out of shoes, or drive a boat into the levees at New Orleans, etc. Or they'll live in fear of perceived dangers, which have little chance of turning into something real.

Re:How do you anticipate weak points (1)

William Robinson (875390) | more than 3 years ago | (#33378038)

If we don't get kids thinking realistically about how one could attack, they're never going to be able to anticipate and defend against real threats as adults.

Maybe you are right for few cases. And maybe this kind of thing might be able to help students down the road.

But that's not the point. At some point you are overexposing a younger mind to violence and social disorder. If that was supposed to wholeheartedly acceptable, we would not have had ratings for movies.

I am not even arguing about bad effect or impact on their innocent minds.

If there is a single student in the class who turns into attacker, for any reason whatsoever, we are basically making schools a training center for terrorists.

Re:How do you anticipate weak points (5, Insightful)

txoof (553270) | more than 3 years ago | (#33378058)

Not only does this kind of thinking teach preparedness, but it opens up discussions. This would be an amazing opportunity to talk about what terrorism is, why it happens and who is involved. Students that understand the whole package are less likely to lash out at minority groups and deal with future terrorism more sanely. That being said, As a teacher, I would definitely write a carefully worded curriculum plan and be ready to defend it. It wouldn't hurt to have the department head on my side either. People tend to freak out whenever teachers try something new...

Re:How do you anticipate weak points (5, Insightful)

niftydude (1745144) | more than 3 years ago | (#33378036)

Hell - if you are not allowed to think like that, then how do you even write the next season of 24?
The assignment would have covered such a large range of critical and creative thinking skills - it really seems to me like a good idea. I can't ever remember seeing a school project or assignment that would exercise such a large range of skills in one go.

And for the people who find thinking about it "extremely offensive" - all I can say is: harden up - terrorism in one form or another has existed throughout history, and it won't go away just because you choose to ignore it.

so... (4, Insightful)

santax (1541065) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377612)

What do they expect? I expect from teachers to be teaching the ability to learn. No matter how touchy this subject is for some people, this isn't something that should be punished. Hell, read the wikileaks of the CIA message today... They are doing the exact same thing!

Re:so... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33377692)

If you expect teachers to only teach the ability to learn. There would not be a need past elementary school for educators except in very highly specialized areas of learning.

http://www.cantrip.org/gatto.html

Re:so... (5, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377728)

What do they expect? I expect from teachers to be teaching the ability to learn. No matter how touchy this subject is for some people, this isn't something that should be punished. Hell, read the wikileaks of the CIA message today... They are doing the exact same thing!

Yes, but the CIA pretend they don't do that sort of stuff. Given how stupid and paranoid most people are, I can see how they want to crucify the teacher. I wouldn't have an issue with that sort of lesson, but at the same time, it might not be overly appropriate. The teacher was a year 10 teacher (that means the students are around 15) and thinking about it, that allows kids to watch just about any movie or play any game released in Australia. I don't see how it is a gross stepping over a "maturity level" line in the sand.

Especially given some of the recent curriculum around how early Australians treated indigenous Aboriginals and the content taught there, this isn't out of line with expected maturity levels of our children. If they are old enough to be expected to understand that, I fail to see how an assignment like this is stepping over a line to ensure that they have actually understood their classes.

FTFA: "There is a difference between being a terrorist and learning about terrorism." - quote from Student in the class who got this assignment.
To me, that simply means that all her class work went in one ear and out the other. Total head buried in the sand mentality if you ask me.

FTFA: "Brian Deegan, whose son, Josh, was killed in the 2002 Bali bombings, said the reality of terror plots at home in Australia is exactly why students should learn about terrorism in school. He said the teacher could have been on to a good idea if the end result of her lesson was to extract feelings of regret and sympathy for the victims of their fictional massacre."
Couldn't agree more with this guy. It's good to see that at least some of us Aussies still have common sense and are able to get past all the media frenzy that anything to do with words like "terrorism" or "war on [insert topic]" seem to stir up.

Re:so... (5, Insightful)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377908)

FTFA: "There is a difference between being a terrorist and learning about terrorism." - quote from Student in the class who got this assignment. To me, that simply means that all her class work went in one ear and out the other. Total head buried in the sand mentality if you ask me.

Can you please explain why you feel this statement suggest the student hasn't grasped the substance of the lesson? It sounds to me like the student is quite correct: knowing about terrorism doesn't mean you're going to commit acts of terror anymore than knowing about WWII means you're going to invade Poland.

Re:so... (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 3 years ago | (#33378034)

Ah... having read that statement in the context of TFA, it's clear the GP was correct. The student mistakes writing the assignment for "being a terrorist". My bad.

And wow. That's a really dumb student.

Re:so... (3, Interesting)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#33378068)

OP is quite right: student obviously missed most of the lesson.

Terrorism has a few faces that can be taught about, including why people commit these acts, how they are committed, what we can do to prevent such attacks (acting on both the how and why questions), and the result of attacks.

Seriously thinking about how they are committed (from the linked article: "The task included choosing the best time to attack and explaining their choice of victims") can give great insight ways to mitigate such attacks, and dealing with them if they occur. Coming up with a terrorist attack plan is doing just that, it makes one think about how an attack could be done. It makes you look at it from the other side.

I know it can be challenging for a 15yo to actually go deeper in matter than the face value of what the teacher produces. It's out of their comfort zones. And if this student thinks that learning about terrorism (which imho should include THINKING about it) makes you a terrorist, then indeed he missed the point entirely. Stepping into the mind of a terrorist is a very good way to think about the matter, and if that student thinks that merely thinking about terrorist attacks, how they were done, how they could be done, and why they are done, makes him a terrorist then this student himself might need some urgent counseling to stop his terrorist tendencies.

And about WW2: in my history lessons I have learned quite a bit about tactics used, particularly related to the invasion of The Netherlands (my home country). About how the Jews were deported and killed. Why this was done too. How the Dutch helped rounding up the Jews. it doesn't make me a crazy statesman like Hitler at all, on the contrary even. The same for such a lesson on terrorism: it won't make children into terrorists.

Re:so... (3, Insightful)

scotty.m (1881826) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377734)

Exactly. So? This is a nothing issue, parents should never have complained, media should never have published it. I do understand people want to protect their children from sensitive issues, but this real life. Terrorism is real - not learning about the issue will turn impressionable kids into naive adults.

Re:so... (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377798)

Yeah, but it's a slow news week in Australia. There's nothing worthwhile happening here so they have to drum up whatever garbage they can. This one has terrorists and think of the children in one neat package.

Re:so... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33377930)

Australia has an election, with unresolved vital seats, resulting in a hung parliament, two major parties going insane, one minor party party of a coalition with a major party losing a potential member to schisms, three independents holding the balance of power and dictating terms, a probable fourth independent who used to be a public servant and blew a whistle on a war related policy, celebrities being idiots, two political parties knifing their own senior staffers.

And you suggest it is a slow news week?

Re:so... (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377966)

Whoosh. The whole country has gone TL;DR on the election it seems.

Re:so... (1, Troll)

SakuraDreams (1427009) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377856)

Next lesson, "How to plan the perfect child abduction", and following that, "Rape and murder, picking your victim and disposing of the body afterward". Got to prepare the children in case they will need any of these skills in the future.

Re:so... (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 3 years ago | (#33378106)

But the CIA had the sense to not tell anybody what they planned. I'd much rather trust a secret agency with a history of complete harmlessness and trustworthiness than a sinister high school teacher. :P

It was a TRAP!! (4, Funny)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377620)

You stupid tiny anklebiters!

Ship the little shits over to GitMo.

Re:It was a TRAP!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33377678)

We'll torturte the little buggers - no tweets, no SMS, none of that bullshit. That'd fuck'em up.

Re:It was a TRAP!! (4, Insightful)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377700)

You stupid tiny anklebiters!

Ship the little shits over to GitMo.

One man's 'flamebait' is another man's 'brilliant satire'.

Re:It was a TRAP!! (1)

Moddington (1721244) | more than 3 years ago | (#33378064)

And judging by the current score of the GP, one man's 'flamebait' is yet another man's 'insight of the day'.

News flash, thinking only happy thoughts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33377626)

doesn't help with national security

answers (4, Funny)

A3gis (708791) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377646)

Heh, i can't help but bet half the answers went along the lines of: "take 4 hostages, put them in the upstairs office inside a warehouse, then wait at strategic points covering the roller door, back door, and ceiling air duct for Counter Terrorist forces."

Re:answers (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377732)

As CT that map is one of the hardest to break without a serious coordinated effort or a set of stupid enemies. Counterstrike rocks.

Re:answers (1)

Samulus Maximus (1868098) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377750)

"Fire in The Hole!"

Re:answers (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377802)

Except they were told to plan a a chem or bio attack. The plan was probably 'plant the bomb and stop the CT forces until it blows.'

Re:answers (1)

A3gis (708791) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377876)

that was the OTHER half of the answers (interestingly they were split 50/50 between planting at site A and site B). ;)

Sounds like a good exercise (4, Insightful)

johnhp (1807490) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377650)

If nothing else, it may make the children more aware of the possibilities regarding terrorism.

For best effect, they should do it a few times with different criteria. For example they could plan a scenario for ten men, and another for three. Or they could form plans about how to best disrupt commerce, or affect public opinion, etc.

Best of all would be for them to write origin and outcome stories for their scenarios that are based on real world conflicts. The students could get some interesting insight by taking a look at WHY a terrorist makes an attack, and by exploring the outcome.

Re:Sounds like a good exercise (4, Insightful)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377792)

I would imagine it served to illustrate the truth about terrorism and the farce of what is claimed to be successes in the supposed 'war' against it. Most people either have a working knowledge, or immediate/easily-found access, to various approaches to the harm/killing of large numbers of people; they just don't know it until they try to think in that mode. I'm sure most people reading this article, or my post, may be inspired to also brainstorm --- and thus uncover the obvious: it is very easy to kill lots of people and terrorize.

I think the main barrier to terrorism isn't the ways by which it can happen, but rather the incapacity of most people to actually do it.

It's a shame that some groups of people are left with no other options (some cases), and other groups of people are deceived/manipulated by their faith (other cases), to use terrorism. But its also a shame to carry out multi-billion dollar war efforts against only a fraction of all terrorists, and then continue barking out faux success stories through accomplice and complicit media, as if they are in any way based in reality; the truth being that we've done almost nothing that will truly protect us and while having barely dented the numbers of those in that fraction, we have enraged easily influenced youth to replenish the ranks.

 

Re:Sounds like a good exercise (1)

jack2000 (1178961) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377938)

I know i might get modded down into oblivion but I'm going to say this anyway.

You can't win a war of attrition with gorilla fighters ( terrorists )
They will aways find a way to surprise you or sabotage your infrastructure.
In my opinion you should aim to remove the objective of your enemy. Utterly destroy what the gorilla fighters are fighting to reclaim/protect. The scotched earth way. For every suicide bombing kill tenfold of the native population of your enemy.
Failing that just exterminate them all.
I know it sounds vulgar, demented, say what you will. No gorilla fighter can fight you if they have nothing to fight for.

Re:Sounds like a good exercise (1)

johnhp (1807490) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377948)

It comes in shades, but for the worst cases, I agree. The damage done by a terrible early slaughter will heal over time, but the wounds of a 10 years occupation will stay fresh.

Re:Sounds like a good exercise (1)

epine (68316) | more than 3 years ago | (#33378050)

I wonder how many suicide bombers have as their last thought "I know I'm going to get modded down for this" then press submit anyway.

You can't "win" against an angry child, either. The goal is to achieve a modicum of semi-peaceful coexistence and trust that over time, agendas evolve in a larger context.

Human males are exposed to paternal uncertainty and for that reason have an innate agenda to gain control over the social structure of marriage and reproduction. In a society where this solution becomes culturally entrenched, usually girls are poorly educated and there is a lot of violence and anger among young men (who have few immediate reproductive prospects), and birth rates are high, so life is (relatively) cheap.

This is the perfect age to teach the psychology and politics of social structure and reproduction, but it would take a teacher nearly as brave/foolish to venture into it. While we're at it, we could teach more of the emotional components of the act of sex, and less about the plumbing (well covered on the internet).

It helps to bear in mind that women are ultimately as self-interested as men and that little that goes on in any society goes on without a great deal of complicit involvement from women, no matter how unfair the system appears to the participants or the outsiders.

Rumour has it that Tiger Woods personally collected over one hundred female votes in favour of male infidelity.

I guess that leaves a lot of schmoes out there who aren't getting any, and aren't going to take it any longer.

Re:Sounds like a good exercise (3, Insightful)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 3 years ago | (#33378090)

The PLO/PLFF/etc have faced Israel in exactly that sense with Israel basically destroying palestinians in exchange. And yet some palestinians still foster enough hate to continue.

Scorched earth won't solve terrorism. Terrorism has little to do with any specific group, purpose, or culture. Terrorism is a means by which a small group or individual can garner attention and fear for some purpose.

The point being that 'some purpose' could be anything. DC Sniper. Red Brigades. IRA. Militant Islam.

Hell, the owner of LEGO could wipe out hundreds in some easily brainstormed plot --- like driving a large bus into a Linkin Park concert crowd at 120mph -- and then make an announcement that he wants us all to say we love his LEGOs.

Terror. Terror-ism.

And if you desire a world that has any sense of freedom, even far less than we enjoy now --- terrorism will not be defeated in any serious sense. Given the risks, such that I'd more likely die from a car accident, or eating meat, or food poisoning --- I say lets keep the freedom going and take basic precaution to known threats.

Re:Sounds like a good exercise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33377796)

Or they could form plans about how to best disrupt commerce, or affect public opinion, etc.

drive around early in the morning and place cement blocks and other debris on important roadways,

Re:Sounds like a good exercise (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 3 years ago | (#33378054)

If it's such a good exercise, let's do it here.

You go first.

P.S. I can think of all kinds of things a few bombs could really mess up. The lesson may be that we're extremely vulnerable, and there's little we can do to prevent determined attacks. Look how often suicide bombings claim lives in the Middle East, despite the presence of tons of security and hordes of troops on active duty. In the US, only took one deranged man plus a little help from another to take out a large building and kill hundreds. Fortunately terrorists tend to be a stupid lot, going for the high profile targets like tall but ultimately not particularly important buildings, and airplanes, rather than critical infrastructure. And even more fortunately, remoteness does offer considerable protection. The ability to retaliate so powerfully that the perps will be wishing they'd never tried it may be the best deterrence. That, plus the ability to quickly repair and rebuild, so they see how very little even a successful attack really accomplishes. Have to make sure would be enemies are in no doubt about any of that either. Part of why 9/11 happened is that the Taliban and Al Qaeda deluded themselves mightily. They seemed to really believe and certainly hoped the US was just a paper tiger that would fold on the first blow. They dared to regard the entire operation as fantastic propaganda for domestic (Islamic) consumption, with the US dragged into the role of being a mere helpless victim for use as an object lesson. Prevention is costly and difficult. In other words, MAD is better than Star Wars.

Terrorist lego (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33377654)

Where can I acquire those terrorist legos? That just inspired me to get out my blackcats and m80s and recreate the twin tower scenerio, but now with a New York terrorist street battle.

Re:Terrorist lego (4, Funny)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377926)

Brick Arms [brickarms.com]

You're welcome.

Re:Terrorist lego (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33378056)

Awesome thanks

Wonderful idea (4, Insightful)

toQDuj (806112) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377656)

There should be no taboo on thinking thoughts.

Also, this will definitely get the attention of the class, as opposed to all the "nice thought" problems that are chucked their way.

Re:Wonderful idea (1)

masmullin (1479239) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377740)

There should be no taboo on thinking thoughts.

That idea is taboo.

Re:Wonderful idea (3, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377782)

I don't think this is a taboo on thinking as much as it's a taboo on getting others to think something specific.

Children are a special part of society that do not carry the same rights and full blown adults. In most cases, children committing crimes aren't even charged with anything close to resembling the same punishment as adults. The reasoning for this is because the Child's mind is still developing and they are literally handicapped when compared to an adult. This reason is the basis in why children are restricted from entering into most contracts, why having sex with them is generally forbidden, why there is a certain age before being allowed to drink or drive or both, and so on.

Instructing children to create these scenarios is not a good idea as they aren't really capable of the context necessary to fully comprehend the results or the ramifications from the results. what makes it even more disturbing is that the parental supervision, be it from school, from home, or any other organization which maintains control over the child, is most likely not capable of ascertaining when this presents a problem that could carry over to a life threatening situation.

Pushing adaults to think about this is one thing, pushing children to do it is just a little different. I'm not saying they should never think about it, but when the assignment is a terrorist attack, and the real life consequences can be serious bodily harm including death, a great deal of caution needs to be taken into consideration too.

Re:Wonderful idea (2, Interesting)

toQDuj (806112) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377928)

I beg to differ with your point. I think this is an excellent exercise in figuring out the consequences of one's actions. Indeed, I think this was the purpose of the exercise. Planning a strategy from beginning to end, and predicting the outcome of certain events will surely reinforce the causality training. They will understand the ramifications of what they are planning, because that is the exercise.

Given that the kids were 15, as mentioned above, their sense of morality should already be quite well developed. Therefore I do not expect them to have any doubt in their minds as to what they are planning or thinking about is good or "evil". I actually think this forced thinking about such planning will enable them later on in life to make clearer distinctions between both. In other words, how do you know something is bad if you have not given it serious thought? Apart from the clearest examples (like killing as many innocents as possible), in many cases it is hard to see whether a certain plan has negative or positive consequences.

As for your last point, I think the distinction between adult and children is a little too black-and-white. As soon as you think of yourself as an "adult", you will stop learning from life because you think you (should) already know. That is why you learn when you are young, before you make preconceptions and assume your way into adulthood. I forgot who said it, but this is very applicable: "Stay young, stay foolish".

Finally, hindering thought on the matter will only make kids want to do it more. Supervised thought is better than hindering thought.

Re:Wonderful idea (1)

mathfeel (937008) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377932)

There should be no taboo on thinking thoughts.

Also, this will definitely get the attention of the class, as opposed to all the "nice thought" problems that are chucked their way.

I agree. Because most people don't actually think about the effect of a potential terrorism tactics, the government and the media can terrorize us with idea such as "dirty bomb" or "shampoo bottle bomb" that are quite impractical from a terrorist point of view and the whole 9-11 problem can be solved simply by adding lock in cockpit door (and/or arming the pilots) instead of a cavity search.

Re:Wonderful idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33377990)

"There should be no taboo on thinking thoughts."

How about child porn?

One parent's photo of his/her child is another man's child porn...

This teacher should be marked Troll (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33377664)

"The teacher, with every best intention, was attempting to have the students think through someone else's eyes about conflict. I think there are better ways to do that. ... This is not what we expect of professional educators", said Sharyn O'Neill, director-general of the state's Department of Education.

Funny thing is, if I was a teacher, that is EXACTLY the type of assignment that I would give to students, because it will help them to THINK: analyze, empathize, question, ...

When I was in school I would often take the most controversial subject that I could think of, and something that I had strong opinions about, and take the opposite point of view and write an essay about it. It was an amazing learning process.

One of the reasons why I have never EVER considered getting into teaching is because I realized that schools aren't so much about learning as about teaching people to think like everybody else.

Re:This teacher should be marked Troll (5, Interesting)

deniable (76198) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377830)

Split them into two teams and have one try to defend against the threats, then have them swap. It would give a balanced view and require some thought. I'm sure the 'intelligence' ops around it would also prove interesting. "The terrorist cell was meeting behind the bike racks, so we infiltrated and bribed them for information with a couple of smokes."

Re:This teacher should be marked Troll (2, Insightful)

SakuraDreams (1427009) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377874)

Funny thing is, if I was a teacher, that is EXACTLY the type of assignment that I would give to students, because it will help them to THINK: analyze, empathize, question, ...

Empathise with the guys planning to kill as many civilians as possible? They could look at the political reasons behind terrorism but to look at the planning of the tactical operation does not seem to add much but condone on some level the killing of innocent people.

Re:This teacher should be marked Troll (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33378080)

Empathise with the guys planning to kill as many civilians as possible? They could look at the political reasons behind terrorism but to look at the planning of the tactical operation does not seem to add much but condone on some level the killing of innocent people.

What you put into it is what you get out of it. I'm not sure the course would be as simplistic as the journalism would have you believe (but who knows, this IS high school after-all). Learning tactics alone and of itself isn't necessarily a bogus pursuit either, it all depends on how the exercise is framed, and how the educational experience is mentored.

Such an activity could mean they learn a LOT about history, politics, sociology, psychology, etc. For example, they could learn:

  • They could create financing for enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend tactic, which is how Pakistan financed its nuclear weapons program and funded Islamist terrorists (all through the U.S. tax dollars, which were supposed to be going the the Mujahideen)
  • They could use religion and custom to create suicide bombers. Example: rape woman and then "convince" them to become suicide bombers because they are now social outcasts. Something which was (is?) common in Chechnya.
  • Just let injustice happen naturally, like in Isreal, IIRC a former Prime Minister interviewed many former terrorists in Isreali jails to discover their motivations and found that most of them had their families killed by Isreali soldiers, their houses bulldozed etc. Allowing ethnic cleansing to occur is a great way to spur terrorism.

These are just three examples of how these (high school) "children" can learn what it is like to be a terrorist. It sure beats learning about terrorism on the news.

BTW, I read a LOT (mainly REAL books) and learn from the Internet as well (blogs, Wikipedia, even Slashdot!). I was going to try to find some references for my learning points above but the first thing that came up was this little gem [jtf.org] . So I figured I'll let people just do their own Google/research if they want specific references. It's not that hard, and it's a lot more useful than being spoon-fed (and time and laziness are never on my side :P)

- regards,

the OP

Re:This teacher should be marked Troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33377984)

Sounds like it was done with the best of intentions, and it MIGHT be evidence of a cool teacher (or just a screw-brained one), then again teenagers be crazy yo, and I think they probably spend enough time indulging in violent fantasies that you really needn't mandate it. Plus you just need one of these kids to do anything bordering on violent and heat comes done on everyone from the teacher up the chain (with Marilyn Manson and Motörhead thrown in for good measure) from the Tipper Gore PC mafia (or whatever the Australian equivalent is). So the bureaucrats are just acting their prerogatives (hopefully with a wry attitude towards it). As long as the teacher just gets a slap on the wrist and everyone goes about their lives there's nothing to see here, at least compared to grade A, uncut, thought crime hysteria that's quickly being SOP in the US.

Re:This teacher should be marked Troll (1)

Kyusaku Natsume (1098) | more than 3 years ago | (#33378004)

From the article:

Brian Deegan, whose son, Josh, was killed in the 2002 Bali bombings, said the reality of terror plots at home in Australia is exactly why students should learn about terrorism in school. He said the teacher could have been on to a good idea if the end result of her lesson was to extract feelings of regret and sympathy for the victims of their fictional massacre.

"I think discussion about it in classrooms is a bloody good idea, as long as that's the direction it's going in," Deegan told The Associated Press. "If it was intended to teach them about the impact, the effect of terrorism on innocent people and to try and extract sympathy, empathy and regretfulness in the aftermath, then I think that it's a positive move. Anything else and it's plainly stupid."

Hard to put it in a better way. Perhaps I would add in the asignment what countermeasures they could take against their own plot, with emphasis on diplomacy.

Re:This teacher should be marked Troll (1)

Loki_666 (824073) | more than 3 years ago | (#33378084)

Yes, its an unfortunate truth that schools are rarely about learning to learn but instead digesting facts and regurgitating them for exams. The good little clones do well and the thinking individuals suffer.

Simple: (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377672)

Spook them into fighting in Iraq & Afghanistan.

I'm tired of this... (4, Insightful)

Superdarion (1286310) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377680)

Are we really that easily influenced? I mean, think-of-the-children-people are so affraid that if the kids watch a violent movie, play a violent videogame, listen to violent music and, in general, have any contact whatsoever with violent behavior, even if it's only in the theoretical level, they'll turn into killing machines who beat their wives and rape their children.

Does "thinking like the enemy" really make you the enemy? Are we really so easily modeled that we need to shield our children from being in contact with any type of non-optimal behavior (whatever that is) so that they can be molded into model citizens?

I know this is just anecdotal, but I have had contact with lots of violence, both in paper as in reality, and I have never been violent a single time in my life. I often think about terrorism as an empathy exercise and it doesn't mean I'm actually planning to do it.

Think like the enemy is a good way to empathize. The enemy is made of people, just like us, and just like us they have their issues and problems that drive them to terrorism. Is it really that terrible that a teacher is trying to teach the students about other cultures? Hell, try to think like a suicide bomber. That's a good empathy exercise.

Understanding terrorists might prove to be the only way to stop them.

Re:I'm tired of this... (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377834)

I'm sorry, but I fail to see anywhere in the article where this assignment would teach the students to empathize with the enemy. It was an assignment that required the students to pick a target, plan and attack, and explain why they thought that was the most effect attacks and targets. It had nothing to do with conflict resolution or the struggle of the terrorists. It was more or less a military exercise in how to kill people which is disturbing considering the targets were innocent civilians and the desired outcome was to force an entity entirely different to adopt some political line.

Re:I'm tired of this... (3, Insightful)

cduffy (652) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377946)

It was more or less a military exercise in how to kill people which is disturbing considering the targets were innocent civilians and the desired outcome was to force an entity entirely different to adopt some political line.

These are good reasons to think about such attacks; what vulnerabilities they would use, how to defend against them, the cost/benefit analysis of such defenses, and the like. How can we expect to be equipped to decide what constitutes a reasonable precaution or an effective security measure if hypotheticals are taboo?

An assignment to work out the logistics of running an attack, beyond being creativity-inducing in and of itself, is certainly going to raise the ethical and moral questions -- at least among any students with the slightest bit of introspection and curiosity.

Re:I'm tired of this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33377840)

Might? It *is* the only way to stop them. There will never be any way to completely kill them all - every time a martyr is created, a thousand more will stand in their place. There is no way, short of a totalitarian police state, that dissent will ever be silenced, and even then, there will be a resistance movement.

The only way to permanently stop a terrorist movement is to co-opt them. Find out what their problem is, and either fix it or smother it in so much cultural noise that it washes away.

Sun Tzu (2, Informative)

PinkyGigglebrain (730753) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377950)

Over 2000 years ago said (in the translation on Wikiquote);

"It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles;
if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one;
if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle."


If you have not read it, "The Art of War" [amazon.com] by Sun Tzu. His words are as applicable today as they were when they were written and are valid in all levels of conflict.

Another great thing about Sun Tzu, he also said "To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.". Pity more of today's National leaders don't take that more to heart.

Re:I'm tired of this... (2, Insightful)

Trintech (1137007) | more than 3 years ago | (#33378020)

Think like the enemy is a good way to empathize. The enemy is made of people, just like us, and just like us they have their issues and problems that drive them to terrorism.

Thank you for bringing this up. Often, if you are able to actually empathize with the enemy, you realize that they are just a symptom of a bigger problem. As of late, our society has spent far too much time trying to treat symptoms (Root out and kill all terrorists) instead of tackling the real underlying problems (why they hate us in the first place).

Re:I'm tired of this... (2, Interesting)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#33378086)

In Dutch we always say "you have to speak the language of the enemy".

In a literal sense (during the war it helped many resistance fighters to speak German, and to speak it well, if only to understand what the enemy is saying to each other),and in a more figurative sense (knowing their tactics and way of doing).

Security without thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33377682)

Not thinking about vulnerabilities is the best way to address security! Thought crime nonsense.

school (2, Interesting)

bakamorgan (1854434) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377688)

One of my HS teachers had us write a report on how we thought we would performe a school bombing/shooting if we went off the deep end. Which was right around the columbine shootings. A couple kids got pulled into th deans office since their plans were a little too detailed. haha. I think they were just trying to get a feel on how the students felt on that subject, but who knows. Why one teacher does something compared to another is like comparing apples to oranges.

What's wrong with that? (5, Insightful)

Cosgrach (1737088) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377694)

Personally, I think that there is nothing wrong with this sort of assignment. In order to anticipate just such attacks, you must think like a terrorist. It may actually increase the safety of the people by getting them to raise their situational awareness. Nothing wrong with that. However, our wonderful government really dislikes the idea of people actually thinking for themselves, especially in this area. Just what do you think would happen if everyone suddenly realized that all the 'security' at the airport does not mean a damn and if everyone also realized that their civil rights have been stripped away and agencies like TSA and DHS really don't seem to have much in the way of limits... The best security on an airliner are the passengers - the likelyhood of another 9-11 type attack is less likely than finding a snowball in hell. Unless they figure out a way to gass all the passengers before making their move. Oh shit! I must be a terrorist!!! I'm fucked now.

Re:What's wrong with that? (3, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377764)

EXACTLY!

The biggest epiphany one would get from this sort of exercise is just how pointless the security theatre is.

As soon as you run through an exercise like this, its impossible to reconcile it with there being a need for millimetre wave radar at airports... you can kill just as many people by detonating in the backed up line waiting to go past the damn machine as you can getting on a plane.

Or go to any of 1000 other venues where people gather... from a county fair to the line up to see a shopping mall Santa.

Re:What's wrong with that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33377978)

An airplane can have hundreds of people on it. Suicide bombers with man portable bombs can take out tens of people, if lucky. Killing masses of people with people aware of suicide bombers can be pretty tough.

Didn't know (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377696)

... in Australia there is a Murphy's Law Doctorate?

Alex, I'll take hypocrisy for $1000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33377704)

Terrorist attacks being acted out on TVs and movie screens for entertainment purposes: perfectly acceptable

High school students thinking rationally about hypothetical terrorist attacks for educational purposes: Offensive and dangerous?

There's a Sun Tzu quote for that (5, Interesting)

RichPowers (998637) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377716)

"So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself."

-Sun Tzu, The Art of War

I propose we ban the discussion and analysis of hypothetical terrorist attacks, military invasions, and network breaches because they're insensitive to victims of terrorism, veterans, and poor blokes like me who've had their medical records compromised.

Well, duh (2, Funny)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377742)

First, you grab the BFG. Then, make a run for the enemy flag. Circle-strafe and rocket-jump when you need the elevation. It's that simple. You could probably gib the entire Pacific that way.

I mean, seriously, it's so obvious!

Filter (1)

mavasplode (1808684) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377756)

See this is exactly the kind of thing we need to protect our children from with the internet filter.

Re:Filter (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377848)

What, Conroy's claiming it stops bombs now? At least Gillard's muzzle order includes him so we'll have some peace this week.

This is creepy (0)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377770)

It seems to fly in the face of civility and is kind of creepy, to ask students to "plan" a criminal act. While this can definitely have educational value. It is outside of societal norms, and is of a nature that some people would criticize it.

Professional educators should respect that and not attempt to conduct this kind of activity with children, at least not without specific prior parental consent.

Unless of course this is a university, in which case, there should be no problem with this activity, as long as the educator is clear they aren't condoning executing a plan, and their overall effect is not to condone terrorism.

It is also possibly dangerous, in that, some people have bad intentions and they might be facilitated, or later claim this lesson convinced them to go ahead. The activity might be regarded as less harmful if the lesson included not only "plan a terrorist attack", But also "make a plan that could be used by law enforcement to thwart or prevent terrorist attacks of that type"

Re:This is creepy (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#33378018)

Some friends and I planned an attach on N.Y. City when we were about that age. Naturally it was just a thought exercise, none of us actually had anything against NYC.

Maybe the teacher just needed some time off... (0)

Just_Say_Duhhh (1318603) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377772)

I doubt there's a teacher on the planet who thinks they can get away with something like this, so I'm guessing this teacher just needed some time away

While I don't think assignments like this should be taboo, I do worry that if a student aces the assignment, he'd either be under constant surveillance, or he'd get enough attention that the real terrorists in the school might avail themselves of his services.

Of course, these students might want to enlist the help of The guy with the laser cutter [slashdot.org] . It might not get the most kills, but it sure would make a statement!

Promote this teacher! (5, Insightful)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377800)

This is the kind of thing that teachers should be teaching. The world can be an ugly place. It's important to teach high school students what kind of things they'll experience in the real world.

Unfortunately, terrorism is the kind of thing that these young people might experience. Maybe if New York's public schools had done an exercise like this, fewer people would have died on 9-11.

"Class. If you're on 61st floor of a skyscraper and it and the building next to it are struck by passenger jets, do you 1) Stay at your desk and keep working. 2) Get out of the building and go home for the day."

I'm giving a lighthearted take on this, but I'm being completely serious. Thank God for teachers like this one.

LK

Re:Promote this teacher! (1)

nickdwaters (1452675) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377818)

I agree. Teaching children to subvert the dominant paradigm! \m/

Re:Promote this teacher! (5, Informative)

shermo (1284310) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377968)

Really? Get some perspective. About 3000 americans were killed by terrorists in the past ten years. In that same period about 300,000 died from suicide, while about 350,000 died on the roads.

If you dedicate 2 hours to 'terrorism danger' in a school year, you should dedicate 3 months to suicide and traffic safety.

I'm not in anyway trying to belittle the emotional impact of 9-11, but in terms of "thing[s] that these young people might experience" you'd be better off putting your efforts elsewhere.

Re:Promote this teacher! (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33378066)

~3000 Americans died in the 9-11 attacks. How many Iraqis and Afghans died in the wars that were launched in a misguided response to 9-11?

Clearly the odds of a 9-11 style terrorist attack are infinitesimal compared to the odds of getting into a traffic accident or even being the victim of a robbery.

That's not my point. I'm saying that it's important to get people thinking about how dangerous the world can be. A brainstorming session like this where someone thought up the idea of taking boxcutters on airplane could very well have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

LK

Re:Promote this teacher! (4, Insightful)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 3 years ago | (#33378078)

I think the parent had a good point that he expressed poorly.

Basically, while most of us will never experience a terrorist attack, we may experience a home invasion, carjacking, bank robbery, kidnapping, or any other number of hostile actions that are perpetrated against innocents all around the world every day.

Being able to ask yourself, "how would an assailant plan a crime against me?" is a useful skill as it will naturally lead one to think of ways that they could defend themselves against the crime.

Furthermore, this sort of project may inspire some students to pursue a career in counter-terrorism. Inspiring children is one of the primary goals of education. Most of us won't go on to be doctors or engineers either, but that doesn't mean we should start cutting our biology and physics programs.

may we make a suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33377832)

Today's educators need leading edge terrorism education tools.
Electronic Arts is proud to present Medal of Honor for the PC, 360 ,and PS3.
An intense, immersive Taliban simulation, which your students plot the overthrow of decadent western infidels.
Available to educators at bulk rate pricing, and just in time for the start of school and the end of Ramadan.

Reminds me of "Kill the President" teacher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33377850)

linky [sfgate.com]

Teacher gave students an assignment to compose an email with the words "kill the president". Huge fuss about that as well.

Off-topic, but he suddenly died a year later...

Zombie Apocolypse (4, Funny)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377858)

The teacher should have de-politicized it and asked the students to make plans for surviving an upcoming zombie apocalypse. As a side benefit many geeks would already have their plans worked out.

How's This? (1)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377866)

My idea is to broadcast an announcement that a fourth Crocodile Dundee movie will be filmed and the resulting furor and rioting should pretty much take out all of Sydney.

Now, I understand that this announcement probably wouldn't match the huge bomb that was Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, but a threat of this magnitude would almost certainly be considered a crime against humanity, so that's a bonus.

Re:How's This? (1)

Just_Say_Duhhh (1318603) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377920)

Wait...are you saying there was a third Crocodile Dundee movie? I must've missed that while I was recuperating from #2.

Re:How's This? (1)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377952)

Yeah, I kid you not. I had to look it up just to be certain myself.

Government Idiots (5, Insightful)

waltmarkers (319528) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377906)

I couldn't disagree more vigorously with Ms. O'Neill, it's exactly what I expect of a professional educator. Mature thought is supposed to make us challenge our current assumptions, not change them, but at least think about them.

This teacher is making people think. And on a completely different note, this is standard practice in a security audit. Think like the bad guy.

Move along, the only story here is an administrator acting stupidly and hindering someone trying to practice their profession well.

Ender's Game (1)

Israfels (730298) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377910)

Sometimes you have to play as the enemy. Otherwise it's just a bunch of people in an empty arena and nothing to do.

This is probably the reason that people start to think that the only way to solve ALL problems is to sit around a campfire and sing songs and share out feelings.

I really hope that this was a 2 part project. Where you have to also come up with a cost effective way at avoiding such attacks.

This isn't too bad. (1)

Niris (1443675) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377922)

Orientation for a job I had as a security guard required this as an exercise during our two week training. It's an interesting exercise, and really gets you thinking.

This thinking is needed to understand security (4, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377974)

It is therefore something that should be taught to every voter. This would prevent countless instances of fear-mongering, ineffective but costly security measures with negative impact on freedom, etc.

Obviously, understanding the enemy and what it can do is not something that is desirable from a political point of view. It would be far too easy to spot incompetence and hidden agendas (such as less freedom and giving a lot of money to the industry for very little in return) with this understanding.

On the other side, teaching this type of thinking does not make us less secure. Any good engineer and most good scientists can design, plan and execute devastating attacks. Practically none do, since these people also understand that terrorism is not an effective way to reach a goal and typically only serves the power-fantasies of the terrorists. This in turn means that the only effective protection from terrorism is not to make it hard to do (as it is not and cannot really be made so), but to make people understand its characteristics. Even less people would then consider terrorism as a way to "fight". The main problem is that understanding that, it becomes quite obvious that politics is either incompetent in this regard or has been lying shamelessly to us for about a decade now.

Site note: I also think that the political outrage at terrorism has nothing to do with civilian casualties and anything to do with politics regarding terrorism as competition.

Just to make this perfectly clear, I regard terrorism as ineffective, amoral and completely unacceptable. It is just that the other side (politics) has started to not look much better over the last few years.

As I said in on another site... (1)

flimflammer (956759) | more than 3 years ago | (#33377994)

I personally think the assignment was a good one but I probably would have handled it differently. I would have split the class up into two teams, then I would have had one side be the terrorist and the other side be the counter terrorist, who tries to defuse the situation. It gives the "high-moral" students the ability to not feel like they're evil for working on the assignment.

Let me be the first to say (1)

bytesex (112972) | more than 3 years ago | (#33378030)

Teach the controversy !

Ya, We should avoid the subject totally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33378070)

The teacher should have used a different title like "explore various weapons of mass destruction and their usage" and slip in on how terrorism can be a form of wmds then get them to plan an attack. Obviously the teacher is an amateur compared to GWB.

This subject have to be taught but with better PR. Kudos to the teacher for even attempting.

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