George Bush the father always said he wanted to be known as the "Education President." George Bush the son has an education plan that, if it ever comes off, would make him the "Education Wizard."
That plan is helping Iraqis build a secular education system. Such a system is a vital part of any American strategy to promote Western-style democracy, and not Islamic theocracy, in liberated Iraq (or Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority and anywhere else in the Islamic world). "The most radical aspects of Islam are in places with no education at all but the Koran," a U.S. official recently told the Washington Post.
"There is no math, no culture. You counter that (fundamentalism) by doing something with the education system."
But what? For starters, "something" that inculcates respect for the rule of law, wards off tyranny of the majority, and safeguards freedom of worship and equal rights before the law. Any country decimated by dictatorship also needs to rediscover its culture, its history, and its significance in the sweep of civilization. Such serious and seriously rigorous requirements, however, make me wonder whether 21st-century America, decades into its own cultural eradication program of applied political correctness, is really well-equipped to lead the way.
This bout of doubt came over me while reading a Vogue magazine article about married foreign correspondents -- at one point "he" was Beijing bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal and "she" was Beijing bureau chief for Newsweek -- and how they raised their three young sons to be "citizens of the world," not the United States. According to author Dorinda Elliott, she and her husband very successfully expanded their children's multicultural horizons, but never, ever grounded them in fundamental American values -- a failure that shocked them on their post 9/11 return to the States.
Why the shock? The piece is a clear explanation of how privileged Americans schooled their children to disdain American privileges. Ms. Elliott prides herself on having actively imparted to her children a "healthy skepticism"; raised them to realize the world is "rarely black-and-white"; and strived to bring "current affairs into our living room."
But she's out to lunch when it comes to figuring out where her eldest son picked up his rancorous attitudes. Somehow, it seems, the boy accepted Chinese propaganda on the failures of America's "so-called democracy."
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