Friday, February 20, 2015

Ban Them Books!

1.  In Mosul, Iraq, the Islamic State is burning books:

Residents say the extremists smashed the locks that had protected the biggest repository of learning in the northern Iraq town, and loaded around 2,000 books — including children's stories, poetry, philosophy and tomes on sports, health, culture and science — into six pickup trucks. They left only Islamic texts.
The rest?
"These books promote infidelity and call for disobeying Allah. So they will be burned," a bearded militant in traditional Afghani two-piece clothing told residents, according to one man living nearby who spoke to The Associated Press. The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation, said the Islamic State group official made his impromptu address as others stuffed books into empty flour bags.

2.  In Denver, Colorado, a group of students walked out in protest because of this:

Hundreds of students walked out of classrooms around suburban Denver on Tuesday in protest over a conservative-led school board proposal to focus history education on topics that promote citizenship, patriotism and respect for authority, providing a show of civil disobedience that the new standards would aim to downplay.

3.  And in Oklahoma, Advanced Placement history courses are seen as fighting god and American exceptionalism:

Oklahoma Rep. Dan Fisher (R) has introduced “emergency” legislation “prohibiting the expenditure of funds on the Advanced Placement United States History course.” Fisher is part of a group called the “Black Robe Regiment” which argues “the church and God himself has been under assault, marginalized, and diminished by the progressives and secularists.” The group attacks the “false wall of separation of church and state.” The Black Robe Regiment claims that a “growing tide of special interest groups indoctrinating our youth at the exclusion of the Christian perspective.”
Fisher said the Advanced Placement history class fails to teach “American exceptionalism.” The bill passed the Oklahoma House Education committee on Monday on a vote of 11-4. You can read the actual course description for the course here.
I don't aim to compare the Islamic State with American conservatives by putting these news in one list (they are certainly not the same or comparable in horrible violence), but to point out the shared string in the violin concertos: 

What is taught to children matters very much to certain political and religious groups.  Books are powerful!  Books may need to be banned or burned!  Education matters greatly as the Boko Haram (Western Education Is Forbidden) terrorist movement in Nigeria has noticed and as the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan also knows.  And as Malala Yousafzai knows.  Hitler knew all about this, too:

Ignorance is a powerful weapon which makes education also a powerful weapon.  Hierarchical systems fear the idea of widespread democratic education, and they are correct in that fear.

I understand that our views of history or religion may clash, that utterly neutral information is impossible, even in school books.  But the approach to cure that problem is to let the different arguments duke it out when the children are old enough to follow debates of that sort.