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Teacher Asks Students To Plan a Terrorist Attack 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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Teacher Asks Students To Plan a Terrorist Attack

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  • by sheddd ( 592499 ) <jmeadlock&perdidobeachresort,com> on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:24AM (#33377608)
    Without thinking like that?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      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.

      • by Urza9814 ( 883915 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @01:16AM (#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'.

        • by black3d ( 1648913 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @01:28AM (#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.

      • by Kell Bengal ( 711123 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @01:21AM (#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.
      • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @01:33AM (#33377944) Homepage

        "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.

        • by txoof ( 553270 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @01:57AM (#33378058) Homepage
          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: (Score:3, Interesting)

            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.

            That, to me, is essentially what this boils down to, is how the assignment was introduced to the class. The same goal here could have been achieved with a scenario along the lines of, 'You're in charge of a city (instead of a terrorist cell); where is it vulnerable, where would be most likely to be attacked if the goal is maximum casualties, (and add) what steps could be taken to mitigate such an event?'

            The end result, that way, is almost the same; the students have to think critically, and ultimately wou

        • by thej1nx ( 763573 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @07:52AM (#33379472)
          "It's about thinking why people would attack, and finding ways of stopping that."

          There. Fixed it for you. You wouldn`t happen to be working for US foreign policy department by any chance, would you? Would explain a lot of things.

    • by niftydude ( 1745144 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @01:50AM (#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.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by vxice ( 1690200 )
        Actually not thinking about terrorism WILL make it go away. Hundreds fold more people have died on our freeway in the last year than from terrorism. The costs of the attempted attacks are low but extremely unlikely to succeed even marginally let alone spectacularly. We don't declare war on cars ban them from our roads and attack entirely unrelated devices in response to the holocaust brought about by the mechanical menace. We don't place severe restrictions on their movement that in the end do little to
    • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @02:11AM (#33378122)

      Without thinking like that?

      Every armed force in the western world operates an OPFOR type organisation for just this purpose. Often using tactics, vehicles and equipment expected to be used by foreign aggressors (I.E. a lot of Ex-Soviet and old US equipment that got sold on). Sometimes up to the point where a foreign allied force is acting as OPFOR.

      As an Australian, I dont see what is wrong here. Frankly we could use more of this kind of out of the box thinking in the glorified day care system that is education. But unfortunately the NIMBY's wont have a bar of it.

  • so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by santax ( 1541065 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:25AM (#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... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Fluffeh ( 1273756 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:45AM (#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... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kell Bengal ( 711123 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @01:27AM (#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.

        • 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... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @01:59AM (#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... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) * on Thursday August 26, 2010 @02:11AM (#33378118) Journal
        It's good to see someone actually spoke to Brian Deegan, his story was being misused by the media to suggest he was angered and offended by the assignment.

        Also that type of assignment is nothing new, especially in forensic science classes. When my daughter was attending HS in Oz (over a decade ago) she came home with an assignment to plot the perfect kidnapping/ransom crime. The teacher then selected several of these plots and the new class assignment was to use forensic methods to cath the fictional kidnapper. The upshot was that her teacher and I learnt that my daughter had a promising career as either a forensic scientist or a master criminal.

        Most of her classmates also loved forensics, IMHO it's an entertaining and engaging way to teach science and critical thinking, which btw is the very thing that is lacking in the tabloid reporting of this story.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by scotty.m ( 1881826 )
      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.
      • by deniable ( 76198 )
        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.
  • by oldhack ( 1037484 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:27AM (#33377620)

    You stupid tiny anklebiters!

    Ship the little shits over to GitMo.

  • answers (Score:4, Funny)

    by A3gis ( 708791 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:30AM (#33377646) Homepage
    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."
    • As CT that map is one of the hardest to break without a serious coordinated effort or a set of stupid enemies. Counterstrike rocks.

    • by deniable ( 76198 )
      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.'
  • by johnhp ( 1807490 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:31AM (#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.
    • by joocemann ( 1273720 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @01:00AM (#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.


      • 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
        • by johnhp ( 1807490 )
          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.
        • by epine ( 68316 )

          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 cul

        • by joocemann ( 1273720 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @02:05AM (#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.

        • by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:00AM (#33378284)

          Scorched earth worked to end the Guerilla phase of the anglo boer war.

          The price was the slow death by disease and starvation of 27 000 women and children...

          But that wasn't terrorism, it was guerilla tactics in a formally declared war used by the invaded nation as a defense against the invaders.

          When you're dealing with actual terrorists - no it doesn't work. It worked because the Boers had lost a LOT but not everything - it worked because surrender meant saving the ones still alive.

          If you try to leave guerillas with nothing "to fight for" what you actually do is leave them with "nothing to lose" - every civilian you kill in a country means 5 formerly moderate family members signing up at the nearest training camp.
          In fact I think you'll find scorched earth policies is the best possible way to make a LOT more terrorists. When you make people feel that they are fighting a genuinely just war against a cruel and murderous nation - you remove all the moral blocks that stop people like you and me from using bombs to get our way. You remove the family ties that make us reconsider.
          Most of us won't risk our families suffer for our believes. But when we've already lost them - avenging them can become all we still care about.

          Scorched earth policies only work when you're fighting a properly declared war against a force using guerilla tactics against soldiers. It doesn't work against terrorist who target civilians as a matter of course.

          Not to mention there is the whole Geneva convention and such you know...

          It's easy to say scorched earth when you belong to a powerful nation. What if you were born in one of the smaller, oppressed nations - and some insane people in your country planted a bomb on the soil of a powerful one they have a grudge against ? Hell Timothy Mcveigh is your own piece of proof that terrorists targeting their own people is not unusual - rationality doesn't enter into it by definition.

          So after Mad Mickey plants his bomb, the powerful nation comes and levels your city with misiles, shoots at your children in school busses, their misiles "accidently" hit your schools and hospitals and their soldiers push you around on the streets, rape your mother who was innocently imprisoned because she has alzheimers and walks with a cane and couldn't make it home before curfew because she got disoriented and lost.
          You lose your job because their actions have destroyed your economy and the few family members you have left are struggling and starving and you remember that things were better before they show up.

          Do you say "It's all Mad Micky's fault- let's find him and his cohorts and hand them over so it will end" ?
          Or do you say "Mad Mickey was right all along - these bastards deserve to die for what they do, deserve to suffer as they made us suffer. As we suffer for the crimes of one, so they all should suffer for the crimes of a few of the soldiers. We don't have an army that can beat them in open combat, but we can plant bombs like Mad Mickey did, we can use suicide attacks to get in among them. They killed our women and children - we can kill theirs... we may not be able to win back our homeland, or win a war - but we can make them feel a little bit of the suffering they have made us feel."

          Honestly ? Do you think you wouldn't choose the second option ? Even if you say so - you do realize that almost every person alive WOULD take it.

          You're using scorched earth tactics NOW. All it does is make MORE enemies who have LESS to loose.

    • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This reminds me of over a decade ago, when the "anthrax letters" were circulating through the post office addressed to congress critters.

      At the time I was taking a network plus course at the local community college, and commented to the teacher that the terrorists were not actually trying to kill congress critters, or were woefully incompetent. When asked why I felt that way, I pointed out the following things:

      1) Weapons grade anthrax is difficult to procure. VERY difficult to procure. Especially in the qua

  • Terrorist lego (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    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.
  • Wonderful idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by toQDuj ( 806112 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:33AM (#33377656) Homepage Journal

    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.

    • There should be no taboo on thinking thoughts.

      That idea is taboo.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sumdumass ( 711423 )

      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

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by toQDuj ( 806112 )

        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 devel

      • Re:Wonderful idea (Score:5, Insightful)

        by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:12AM (#33378786)

        And magically, on their 18th birthday, children suddenly become endowed with the wisdom of adults, and the ability to properly process such thoughts.

        Horseshit. You teach kids in a supervised environment, and discuss with them their trains of thought. Early. That is the only way that on their 18th birthday, they aren't as handicapped as they were at 17, 16 or even 12.

    • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:35AM (#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.

    • by deniable ( 76198 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @01:07AM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by stdarg ( 456557 )

        It would also be interesting to not tell the students who is who. Just tell each one which team he is on. The teams have to find each other.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      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.

    • 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.

  • Spook them into fighting in Iraq & Afghanistan.

  • by Superdarion ( 1286310 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:37AM (#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.

    • Sun Tzu (Score:3, Informative)

      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
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Trintech ( 1137007 )

      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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wvmarle ( 1070040 )

      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).

  • by Cosgrach ( 1737088 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:38AM (#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.
    • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:55AM (#33377764)


      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.

  • ... in Australia there is a Murphy's Law Doctorate?
  • by RichPowers ( 998637 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:41AM (#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 (Score:3, Funny)

    by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:48AM (#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!

  • by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @01:02AM (#33377800) Homepage Journal

    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.


    • by shermo ( 1284310 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @01:38AM (#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.

      • ~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 airplan

      • by justinlee37 ( 993373 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @02:02AM (#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.

  • by hoggoth ( 414195 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @01:12AM (#33377858) Journal

    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.

  • 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.
  • Government Idiots (Score:5, Insightful)

    by waltmarkers ( 319528 ) <waltmarkers AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday August 26, 2010 @01:26AM (#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.

  • 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.
  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @01:39AM (#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.

  • 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.

  • Teach the controversy !

  • by thewb005 ( 1849962 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @02:09AM (#33378110)
    This sounded like an amazing assignment. When you choose a side in a debate for class, you are asked to think of every tactic the opposite side will try to use against you. I don't see how an assignment like this would be considered overly insensitive unless it was assigned out of the blue. If it was suggested in the class syllabus and had good justification as a learning experience, then I don't see why it should fly. Wouldn't it be one hell of a learning experience to have your student experience 24 hours in jail to learn about risk and consequence? Wouldn't it be just as valuable to write a report thinking like a terrorist? I think radical assignments like this impacts a student's learning more then any other ho-hum history report would. Wake up parents and look at the world. People spend their lives (and giving them freely) planning to commit terrorist acts. By sheltering our children from reality, they may end up believing everything they see on TV and not KNOW the real world.
  • by 2Bits ( 167227 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @02:34AM (#33378192)

    In this society, it is not possible to learn something, or teach something, without other people making a fuss over it. In the previous few years, I was interviewing candidates for quite a few security engineer positions. We want to hire someone junior who has the potential, and we would train him/her to do the work.

    So we asked the following question during the interview: We know that A is sending a very important email to B. Your job is to get your hand on that email, no matter what. Show me the different ways of getting that email.

    We were trying to find out if the candidate could come up with a plan to solve the problem. If he/she could come up with an attack matrix, it would be even better. But our goal is to find out if the candidate could consider the problem from all angles.

    The funny thing about this experience was that, one of the candidate who didn't get hired, reported the experience to the Public Safety Department (i.e. Police in China), saying that we are recruiting crackers, probably for some unspeakable purposes. We got a few visits (you know whom!), and I was to be specifically "interrogated".

  • by swm ( 171547 ) * <swmcd@world.std.com> on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:22AM (#33378356) Homepage
    It's been done.

    Schneier on Security
    A blog covering security and security technology.
    April 1, 2006
    Announcing: Movie-Plot Threat Contest

    For a while now, I have been writing about our penchant for "movie-plot threats": terrorist fears based on very specific attack scenarios. Terrorists with crop dusters, terrorists exploding baby carriages in subways, terrorists filling school buses with explosives -- these are all movie-plot threats. They're good for scaring people, but it's just silly to build national security policy around them.

    But if we're going to worry about unlikely attacks, why can't they be exciting and innovative ones? If Americans are going to be scared, shouldn't they be scared of things that are really scary? "Blowing up the Super Bowl" is a movie plot to be sure, but it's not a very good movie. Let's kick this up a notch.

    It is in this spirit I announce the (possibly First) Movie-Plot Threat Contest. Entrants are invited to submit the most unlikely, yet still plausible, terrorist attack scenarios they can come up with.

    Your goal: cause terror. Make the American people notice. Inflict lasting damage on the U.S. economy. Change the political landscape, or the culture. The more grandiose the goal, the better.

    Assume an attacker profile on the order of 9/11: 20 to 30 unskilled people, and about $500,000 with which to buy skills, equipment, etc.

    http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/04/announcing_movi.html [schneier.com]
    http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/06/movieplot_threa_1.html [schneier.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Idarubicin ( 579475 )
      You know, I was about to write a post mentioning Bruce Schneier's movie-plot contests.

      One of the most important questions we ought to ask about this project is whether or not the teacher in question was actually prepared to address the implications of this sort of assignment, and particularly how this sort of thinking about painfully specific-but-scary plots distorts proper, rational security thinking. Schneier obviously gets it, but I'm not sure that the teacher here has nearly the same degree of clue.

  • by SlurpingGreen ( 1589607 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @04:04AM (#33378520)

    I agree with the sentiment that the assignment is good for getting student brain activity going and for learning about critical thinking.

    However, I've also worked with high school students and the opposing argument is not entirely without merit. There *are* those kids who don't understand sarcasm, don't follow even the most basic logical arguments and may not understand that discussing terrorism does not imply becoming a terrorist. Slashdot posters who breezed through high school should understand that many people barely passed (hell, many people fail).

    And obviously, school administrators don't want to get the angry phone call from a parent "you're teaching my kid to be a terrorist!" so they have to say they don't support it even if they could care less.

  • The Wave (Score:3, Informative)

    by slonik ( 108174 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @07:11AM (#33379248)

    It reminds me of a very insightful German movie "The Wave" (original German title "Die Welle") http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1063669/ [imdb.com]

    A history teacher proposes to his students an experiment about dictatorship. See what comes out of it.

  • by bsDaemon ( 87307 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @09:19AM (#33380158)

    When I was in Uni my senior year, I had a "Sociological Problems" class. On the first day, doing introductions one of the questions we were asked was "if we were a terrorist, what would we attack in the US to try and strike fear into the most people?" The rationale was to see what we thought was most emblematic of the US and what we would be the most shocked and horrified to see attacked.

    Everyone except for me said they'd attack either the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Build, or the Lincoln Memorial. Mostly the Statue of Liberty.

    I said I'd launch a coordinated car bomb attack at random points around Kansas City, probably on a Thursday morning. Of course, this caused everyone to freak out. But that just proved me point -- if everyone's expecting the Statue of Liberty to get hit, then no one is going to be surprised when it happens, unless they were there when it went down.

    My answer was the only one that got an emotional response out of the class, because my target was the only one that would have had people believe "if it can happen there, it can happen anywhere!"

    In Australia, it'd be the difference between the Sydney Opera House and some podunk burg in Tasmania.

    If you don't really understand terrorists, how can you hope to defeat them, either militarily or rendering their tactics ineffective through rising above? You can't. Good for this teacher, of course most of the kids probably came up with the same, lame-ass plans that never would have actually terrorized anyone, just like my classmates did.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.