Forgetting To Remember Afghanistan In School
Afghanistan, graveyard of imperial treasuries. No one in the U.S. really wants to talk about it. Reasons include: they are making a huge profit from it, they are making a career from it, it might bring the president's popularity ratings down, it's too painful to face up to how many loved ones have been irreparably harmed or killed there for no good reason, and we are too ashamed of our government's role in the human suffering inflicted on Afghans.
Photo source: DailyMail.UK which ran it with this caption: "Heartbreaking: The tiny body of eighteen-month-old Saiyma Gadazai is carried to her final resting place after she froze to death in a refugee camp in Kabul."
My husband suffers from frustration when he is stonewalled by acquaintances at the local Farmer's Market if he mentions Afghanistan. He's not a teacher, so he hasn't had a lot of practice with waiting for the teachable moment. He thinks everyone who is worried about jobs, or cuts to education funding, or health care, or climate change, or veterans' care should be interested in what's going on in the U.S.'s longest combat mission. Because he sees these things as connected. He think if the U.S. would bring our war dollars home we would be able to fund all these very real needs of human beings.
But keeping things disconnected is the full time job of the mainstream media disinformation corporations.
An uninformed public will swallow official "news" out of Afghanistan without having enough background knowledge to question it. The will believe it when a talking head says we are withdrawing while in actuality we are building the infrastructure for permanent occupation.
A passive, consuming public will lack the critical thinking practice to question what passes for "news" and this is the primary criticism of public schools that I hear all the time in the alternative circles I travel in. Parents say say: I am homeschooling my child because schools kill critical thinking.
I consider myself very lucky to have had an education that was sporadically wonderful, and to have had parents who were readers and who fostered critical thinking around the dinner table. With my own kids I figured I'd send them to the best quality nearby public schools I could get them into, continue educating them at home and on trips during vacations and weekends, and hope that the combination would equal an adequate preparation for the thinking life.
When I became a teacher late in life I was amazed that parents considered homeschooling vs. public schooling as an either/or proposition.
Keep in mind that corporate forces like ALEC want to kill public education even more than Occupy parents do.
Because while you are teaching your children not to forget about Afghanistan (and Mali and etc.), people that get their ideas from listening to right wing radio will be teaching their children stuff like this:
Who remembers the real history of the United States? Howard Zinn did, and his education foundation lives on. Kids in high school in my area literally do not know the word Holocaust or what it means. Never mind the word Nakba and what that means. (Heck, the chair of the history department at Bangor High School told me last year that he didn't know what it means.) My elective on genocides got canceled a few years back without so much as an explanation. And so it goes.
Until the day I leave my body behind I will remember to remember about Afghanistan, and how my government used the 9/11 attacks to justify the invasion and now permanent occupation of that strategic location in the great continent of Eurasia.
I will remember how we went broke doing it, too, long after we as a failed state arrive at austerity, after our creditors have mopped us up and put us in our places. Even then, I will remember the trees I am helping to plant there.
Photo source: AfghanistanSamsortya.org
A few more education notes: a parent at my school threw a fit this year over the geography teacher telling his kid that "state" had more than one meaning. In the geopolitical sense. Another parent threw a fit because her child was asked to do an oral history project choosing an elder person in the community to interview about changes they had seen over their lifetime. She said it was a stupid project, and should be banned.
The brave father of the New Delhi rape victim came forward to release his daughter's name because he wanted people to become educated about the class and gender-related violence that cost Jyoti Singh Pandey her life. Scooter rickshaw drivers would not take the young couple to the woman's neighborhood, thus the two of them boarded the van where their attackers lay in wait.
The father noted that people who described her as engaged to the high caste male friend who was with her on that fateful night are "confused" because those two castes could never marry. He also made this comment from the perspective of an impoverished parent who sacrificed to see his children have the chance to be educated:
"Boys cry when you send them to school," says her father, "but she would cry if you didn't let her go to school."
Finally, lest you accept the official narrative that we are in Afghanistan so that girls can go to school, I'll leave you with the words of Ann Jones who has been remembering to remember Afghanistan all along:
Relying on the military, the U.S. neglected the crucial elements of civil life in Afghanistan that make things bearable -- like education and health care. Yes, I’ve heard the repeated claims that, thanks to us, millions of children are now attending school. But for how long? According to UNICEF, in the years 2005-2010, in the whole of Afghanistan only 18% of boys attended high school, and 6% of girls. What kind of report card is that? After 11 years of underfunded work on health care in a country the size of Texas, infant mortality still remains the highest in the world.