Friday, December 4, 2009

Life in an American Fourth Grade: Evil American Internment of Japanese: Three; American Heroism in Second World War: Zero

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By Barry Rubin

Is this a parody of Political Correctness or what? After reading books on African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Native-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, another book on an African-American; and a book on the internment of the Japanese in World War Two, it’s time to study the…Native Americans.

And now alongside that--wait for it!--the class is reading a second book on the U.S. internment of Japanese civilians in World War Two. Not about brave Americans fighting the Nazis and Japanese imperialism. Not about the United States as a beacon of liberty combating Communist dictatorship. Only, Americans as bad people. Oh, and then--believe it or not--today they went on to their third book on the internment issue! This was followed, no kidding, by a discussion on slavery and how bad African-Americans were treated in the United States.

But why this particular subject of Japanese interment, which--let’s face it--is simply not that important as to make it the focal point of the class? Here's how I figure it: the  internment of Japanese in California is about the only thing about the U.S. World War Two effort that would make the United States look bad. And these kids are getting it triple.

Is this really such an important event to merit two readings compared to none for the American revolution, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the heroism of the Civil War, the settlement of the West by courageous pioneers, the opportunities offered by America to the hard-working and innovative, the integration of past waves of immigrants, the greatness of American literary achievement, and everything else in U.S. history?

A boy in class, not my son, asked the teacher whether it was true that the Japanese government and military tortured and mistreated American soldiers. Yes, she said but that was different—apparently less bad than the U.S. treatment of Japanese in California who were neither tortured nor murdered—because it was done to soldiers not civilians.

I guess she doesn’t know or care about the medical experiments on American prisoners, the 1942 Baatan Death March (one of my teachers in school survived it and told me in private conversation his horrifying experiences), the death railroad in Thailand, and the Japanese officers hung for war crimes as a result of such atrocities.

So not only are these children being taught that America and Americans were bad but also that nobody else did bad things.

[Incidentally, my son suggests--and this seems sensible--that some of the 10-year-olds will be confused between the detention camps the Japanese were kept in and the kind of contentration and death camps that existed under the Nazis and Soviet Communists.]

What’s going on here? I have no axe to grind. In fact, I'm in shock. I’m just reporting on what’s happening and never expected to find anything so extreme in American schools today.

The students are being given two messages:

1. America is not a coherent society with an overarching culture but merely a collection of mistreated minority groups as victims and the mainstream as the persecutors.

2. America has done lots of bad things in history. If there are any good ones, they’re not going to talk about them.

In short, the school has been turned into a factory for manufacturing anti-American and non-American Americans. This is no exaggeration because the information being conveyed is so one-sided and extreme. When questioned, the teacher responds that she is merely following the curriculum. She genuinely doesn't seem to be ideologically committed, just profoundly naive.

Whether this class is typical or not, I cannot say. The only positive thing may be some hints that some (many? most?) of the kids aren’t buying it.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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