- For there to be real, lasting change in the way things are done here, basic human needs must be addressed - economic needs, employment, infrastructure, living conditions, health care, education, justice...then even larger issues can be effectively dealt with.
- Failure to address these things leads to an atmosphere where hope is in short supply and people have no choice but to shrink inward or lash out violently in ways that are justified only to the perpetrators and their ilk. Because the violence is much more out front than the private feelings held inside, the killings get the coverage in the media.
It could be New Orleans, certainly, or most other major cities in this country...
...but this is where it's coming from:
- ...reformers think the conservatives who run the education system should be forced to respond to its academic shortcomings. Professor Bakr thought a far wiser approach would be to try to embarrass the Saudi government about how poorly graduates cope with the world, to ask aloud what it is about the curriculum that means that Saudi Arabia in particular and the Arab world in general produce so few scientists and contribute nothing significant to the world's technological advances. That approach echoed the concerns of most Saudi parents, and would be a far more effective form of pressure than criticism seen as an assault on the culture and the religion.*
- In working for reform, Hamad drew a parallel with soccer. Saudi Arabia played soccer according to the same rules as everybody else. So Saudis need to learn that their society, too, can afford the same kind of open debate and discussion allowed in other countries. "If you teach people that you are totally different, you are totally special, you don't belong to the world, the world has a kind a conspiracy against you, everybody is waiting for the opportunity to attack you. What does this bring you?" Hamad said. "You are making an explosive mind, a very hostile mind. So how can you have a democracy in such a situation? You have hostile minds and at the same time you want democracy. You cannot combine these. The first thing is that you have to use the educational system to spread different values, human values."*
If parents here are so het up about Barack Obama telling children to stay in school and be true to themselves, don't quit and don't give up hope - well, go move to Saudi Arabia and subscribe to Wahhabi Islam. Sure, there won't be socialism there, but there certainly won't be any tolerance for pulling one's children from school if, say, the king there decides to address all the school children.
At the same time, there is still a lot of work to be done here on the education front. And if courageous reformers in Middle Eastern countries recognize the darn near revolutionary role an education has in the development of citizens, an education which can be used effectively to help change their worlds, then why not fully recognize the teaching profession for what it is: a lot of hard work invested in molding our futures, as the way we treat these children today will determine how we are all treated tomorrow.
Update, 1:45 PM: Maitri compares what Obama said with what Reagan said. Get schooled, parental objectors.
Anudder update, 9-9: Nordette looks at what happened when Dems protested an incumbent Republican president speechifying at a public school.
One mo' time, 9-10: Mominem's comment: There is actually a great deal of socialism in Saudi Arabia. The government takes care of many things for its citizens from their enormous wealth, including health care.
My response: Whoops, that's true. Then these folks protesting the reiteration of a basic work ethic in this country are REALLY screwed.
Not that they'd call it socialism in Saudi. It is the royal family taking care of its subjects...but, as a subject, if you protest their way of doing it, doom on you. You are seen as ungrateful and against the state.
As if I'm not seeing that here. But at least under this president, nobody is going to be hauled into prison for saying it.
*Neil MacFarquhar, The Media Relations Department Of Hizbollah Wishes You A Happy Birthday
And speaking of education, subscribe to the dead-tree edition of the Times-Picayune and keep Sarah Carr on the local schools beat. I'd link to her latest online about how well school vouchers are really doing in Louisiana, but I'm still loath to send traffic nola.com's way.