The media report that strong-man President Erdogan of Turkey has decided that children whose parents cannot afford private school will soon be sent to state schools, there to be educated in Erdogan’s own new ideal curriculum. They will be conscripted for his vision of what every young Turk ought to believe, including the government’s version of God and proper worship. The parents’ preference apparently will be irrelevant.
This sounds familiar; henceforth, the primary difference between the public schools in Istanbul and Kansas City will be found in the ideological curriculum that gets served to the poor. In America children get drafted for a school day that is stripped of every reference to God; their Turkish counterparts — irrespective of the parents’ wishes — will have God thrust upon them. No God versus pro-God, but in any case no choice for the poor.
No doubt Mr. Erdogan’s own religious beliefs are intensely important to him. So long as he respects others, he should be entitled to them. I only wonder how, as a complete stranger to the child and family, he feels entitled — driven — to decide for his unmonied constituents exactly what shall be taught to their children about God. Has the deity bestowed upon him the insight — hence the duty — to disempower the ordinary family, imposing upon little Muhammad the ideas provided by government strangers who happen to be in a position to enlist him for their own ideological enterprises?
How does a mind like Erdogan’s get returned to office in what seems at least a proto-democracy? I have no clue. But the spectacle of Turkey invites a similar query about America and its many Kansas Cities. Why haven’t millions of parents come to the rescue of their children by insisting politically upon relocating power in the family through some system of financial reform? Yes, it is difficult to organize parents of diverse experience, education and hopes. But there is the ballot box. Why haven’t more educated parents, especially suburban, insisted upon choice for all? After all, their own choice of residence was at least partly driven by access to a school they supposed would transmit their own culture.
I wonder whether we have our own share of Erdogans, either somehow benefitting personally from the continued servility of the poor or/and confident that whatever public school is teaching is the best ideological message for our less lucky citizens who, left to their own, might not choose it. Continue Reading →