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Thursday, May 31, 2007

What you don't know can kill you

Read IOZ's post about how the abysmal state of American "education," leaving almost everybody behind when it comes to understanding world affairs, makes Bush wars possible. Be sure to read Justin's comment as well. His reaction to 9/11 was almost identical to mine:
I have been reading about 100 books a year, primarily on history and politics, since 9/11 so I am thankfully not that ignorant anymore. (Or so I think.) The only difference between me and what you are describing is that my reaction to 9/11 was to try and understand the world through self education rather than to punch a stranger. I remember that I didn't know exactly why I knew, but I knew that what I was hearing in the media and from our politicians was mostly bulls**t.
Although I can tell you exactly how I knew--it was when W said "you're either with us or with the terrorists." That was such a rude, obnoxious, mind-closing statement that I knew without a doubt that his purposes were evil.

I remember going to Barnes & Noble a couple of weeks after 9/11, intending to buy a book about Afghanistan. I expected there would be a table or endcap display somewhere, but there was nothing. Finally, I asked a clerk, and he said "Why would you want a book about Afghanistan?" "Well, we're about to go to war with Afghanistan, I thought it might be worthwhile to know something about it." He shrugged and found me the only copy of the only book they had in the store on Afghanistan. Apparently I was the first to ask.

And IOZ's point about how high-school history classes hardly ever come anywhere near the present is right on target. A teenager who doesn't know that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were both US allies in the 1980's is in no position to make the life-threatening decision to enlist in the "war on terror." His knowledge of "pilgrims" and the like, much of which is probably pure BS (as I'm learning reading Charles C. Mann's 1491) serves him not at all.