Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” But where does intolerance start? Surely children are not born with a natural hatred of other races and other religions.
The following paragraphs will focus on intolerance as a direct result of educational bias, particularly in the Middle East. A country educates children in its own language, sharing with them a particular worldview with moral and cultural values. Therefore, education, especially religious education, is often a clear indicator of where a country is heading.
If Middle Eastern children are taught to hate from the very beginning of their lives, they have little chance of changing their minds as adults.
Children will believe anything their teachers tell them and anything they read in a textbook. We cannot expect countries in which educational bias is prevalent to treat others with respect, to solve problems peacefully, to compromise with other nations, and to promote peace.
“Intolerance is the most socially acceptable form of egotism, for it permits us to assume superiority without personal boasting.” – Sydney J. Harris
A close inspection of Middle Eastern textbooks provides many examples of “whitewashing” – in other words, selective removal of certain content. A few famous examples of whitewashing:
- Certain religions bar the teaching of evolution and creationism in schools because these subjects contradict their beliefs.
- When teaching about war, each country will downplay its own flaws in favor of a more patriotic view.
- A new, controversial curriculum adopted by Texas schools will downplay the horrors of slavery and its role in starting the Civil War (read the Washington Post article).
It can be understood from these examples that three of the biggest reasons bias exists in textbooks are:
- To promote a certain religion
- To encourage patriotism/nationalism
- To make your country look like “the good guy”
Countries in which religion plays a dominant role are more likely to utilize textbooks with a religious bias; most Middle Eastern countries fall into this category. Indeed, religious intolerance is the most widespread and violent form of intolerance in the Middle East.
Many states and countries have guidelines in place to prevent bias in education, such as California’s Code 60044: “No religious belief or practice may be held up to ridicule and no religious group may be portrayed as inferior. Any explanation or description of a religious belief or practice should be presented in a manner that does not encourage or discourage belief or indoctrinate the student in any particular religious belief.” Unfortunately these guidelines are rarely followed.
The Institute for Monitoring Peace & Cultural Tolerance in School Education, also known as IMPACT-SE, is a non-profit organization that was created to be an international watchdog for bias in schools. Founded in 1988 by Yohanan Manor, it pays particular attention to textbooks in the Middle East. IMPACT-SE’s goal is to make sure every curriculum teaches acceptance and recognition of the “other.” IMPACT-SE believes education should encourage democracy, tolerance, pluralism, and promote peace as the answer when solving conflicts.
A recent examination of Iranian textbooks revealed an extensive and troubling list of features. Iranian curricula teach defense as hate and aggression. Love is taught as a relationship between an individual and God; teachers then take it a step further and manipulate children’s emotions towards self-sacrifice, martyrdom, jihad war, and obedience to the Supreme Leader.
The Iranian worldview is incredibly racist and focuses on establishing Aryan-Persian superiority. Untrue fantasies are nurtured; for example, leaders with paranormal powers and a future apocalypse in which the “oppressors of the world” will be vanquished. America is currently trying to establish a nuclear deal with Iran and a handful of other countries. President Obama is having a hard time rallying support from lawmakers. Read more here.
An inspection of 12th grade textbooks by the Palestinian Media Watch conducted in February of 2007 revealed many disturbing biases. Not only do the books repeatedly demonize Israel, but they reject its right to exist. Palestinian textbooks commonly refer to this country’s founding as a “catastrophe unprecedented in history” and “a theft perpetrated by Zionist gangs.”
As to Palestine’s terrorist attacks against Israel since the country’s founding in 1948, students are taught about a noble religious battle in which Palestine’s actions are “resistance…acts of most glorious heroism.”
UNESCO recognized Palestine in 2011. The decision was harshly criticized by IMPACT-SE. The organization argued that the Palestinian Authority fails to meet IMPACT-SE’s membership recommendations. To find out more about bias in Palestinian schools, read this report conducted by IMPACT-SE that same year.
In most Arab classrooms, you’ll find the name “Israel” replaced with “Palestine” on the map. Arab textbooks are extremely biased against Israel, referring to it as “the small Satan” and to America as “the great Satan.” Most Arab schools teach Holocaust denial. Teachers actually tell children that the Holocaust did not happen. To complicate matters even more, Israelis are referred to as Nazis.
Studies show that bias in Middle Eastern schools is shockingly pervasive. And it’s not just bias; what these children are taught as “truth” is in reality a collection of parasitic lies that will forever tarnish their minds.
As you can infer, the consequences of educational bias are extreme. Students who grow up in the described scenarios will never have the opportunity to form positive or even neutral attitudes towards target countries, races, and religions. When these students become adults, the world is threatened by entire populations that have been taught to hate. These beliefs lead to international conflict, terrorism, and war.
After the destruction of the Twin Towers in 2001 by terrorist group al-Qaeda, the United States asked Saudi Arabia to remove sections from textbooks that promoted violence against Christians and Jews. While officials claim to have complied with this request, a 2006 report proved otherwise.
“You would better educate ten women into the practice of liberal principles than to organize a thousand on a platform of intolerance and bigotry.” – Susan B. Anthony
The big question is how to stop bias in schools. Eradicating educational bias would not only stop wars before they start, but would stop the desire for war. If these schools replaced hate, rejection, intolerance, and denial of reality with teachings of peace and tolerance, Middle Eastern children would grow into adults capable of negotiation, cooperation, and dialogue with other countries. Such a change, however, would necessitate billions of dollars, new textbooks, new curriculums, and new laws and would require some way to monitor, enforce, and punish in regards to educational bias.