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School superintendent thinks promoting cruel Iditarod is great

From the Sled Dog Action Coalition,

A teacher from the Wilmington School District in Massachusetts was named the 2005 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail. In this role, her job is to promote the barbaric Iditarod to children. The superintendent of the district, William McCalduff, thinks that promoting the Iditarod is a "great teaching and learning opportunity."

Please tell him that promoting Iditarod cruelties is a bad idea. Educate him about the importance of teaching kindness toward animals.

Email Superintendent McCalduff: [email protected]

Email letter to the editor:
[email protected]

Teacher's part in race criticized: Iditarod deemed cruel to dogs

By Sandra Fletcher/ Staff Writer
Thursday, February 3, 2005

For Lynne Gordon, life on the trail begins in two weeks.

     After 18 months, that included a 35 page application, four trips to Alaska, and interviews with the Iditarod Association, Gordon, a second grade teacher from the Woburn Street School, was named the official 2005 Iditarod "Teacher on the Trail" last year.

     The national program sponsored by the event identifies a teacher who will use the Iditarod - the annual big-time dog sled race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska beginning March 5 - as a learning tool.

     But what Gordon and the Wilmington school administrators see as a great teaching opportunity, others raise serious questions of alleged cruelty to the dogs participating in the race, and of a relationship forged between a teacher and a private organization during school hours.

     "I believe the teacher is supporting this race out of ignorance, and if she and the Wilmington School system knew the real story behind the race, they would not portray these animal abusers as heroes to their students," said Tricia Panitz, who along with Miami resident Margery Glickman, belong to Sled Dog Action Coalition, a group that advocates against long distance dog sled racing.

     They charge that racing these dogs over such great distances both injures many, and results in the death of several of the animals.

     "Everyone sees the race as a positive thing, but the downside, the abuse to the dogs, is overlooked," said Panitz, who heads the Cape Cod Coalition for Animals. Glickman is the founder and director of the program based in Miami, Fla.

     While Glickman and Panitz question why a public school teacher should be allowed to support the cruel and abusive treatment of dogs, Gordon is finding support from her boss.

     Superintendent Richard McAlduff said the district was "proud of Gordon" for her achievement, seeing this as this as a great teaching and learning opportunity for all involved. The school administration is promoting this opportunity as a learning tool and guide line for academic excellence in the middle school class as well as other classrooms, according to McAlduff.

      "This is an honor for Gordon and for the Wilmington public schools," said McAlduff. "Her time spent out of the classroom is an innovative and creative method of teaching through technology."

     Yet the critics feel that the association running the yearly dog race are using teachers as tools to prompt the Iditarod's agenda. Glickman and Panitz have targeted Gordon because of the unfiltered message she and the school department are spreading to students and the public.

     "She is promoting this race in a positive manner as required by her contract, but she does not have all the facts," said Panitz. "She is participating in this project for her own interest and using the students to do it." They point to a contract with the Iditarod Association, who run the annual event, that requires the teacher to make positive statements about the event.

     Glickman feels that information regarding the treatment of the dogs during training and the race is overlooked.

     "Although the rules are there to prevent cruel and inhumane treatment to the dogs, they are not followed," said Glickman. "The rules stated are just empty words, and the dogs pay the price."

     McAlduff had no comment on the terms of the contract Gordon was required to sign making her eligible to participate in the program, nor would he comment as to whether he or the school's lawyer reviewed the contract. McAlduff also had no comment on the charges by the Sled Dog Action Coalition, but was not surprised to hear from them.

     Gordon had received the same literature, but feels the group is pushing it's own opinion onto others.

     "What Margery Glickman and her organization is missing is the teaching aspect of this race," said Gordon "The idea is to develop teaching tools for other teachers, I will be creating lesson plans and keeping a journal while there for others to use as well as myself when I return."

     Gordon feels that Glickman should spend some time in the classroom or visit the kennels in Alaska before she makes accusations.

     "I've been to five or six kennels in Alaska and these dogs live a happy wonderful life," said Gordon. "They are extremely taken care of and when they see their running gear they are excited and want to participate."

     Gordon also noted what finely tuned athletes the dogs are very strong and fit. She stated that the dogs are taken better care of then some of the drivers. The veterinarian care is performed by volunteers "simply for the love of the animals and the race," according to Gordon.

     "These dogs are supreme athletes and I did not find any that were mistreated," said Gordon. "Just as athletes in the Olympics or Boston Marathon become injured or even dying, the dogs enjoy the work of pulling the sleigh and running together."

     Gordon has been a teacher for eight years and using the Iditarod in her curriculum for six years. Gordon noted that the theme of the Iditarod is an excellent interdisciplinary approach to teaching and unites children to their love of adventure, animals wilderness and their curiosity about different life styles and cultures.

     Gordon believes that keeping her students engaged in a subject will help them learn necessary skills.

     "If a child is writing an essay the subject isn't important," said Gordon. "The point of writing the essay is to see if they are learning the skills. As long as they are learning they can write about whatever they find interesting."

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