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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    On the Miseducation of a Nation

    The security video showed two men walking past each other alongthe street. There was no audio, but the rustling trees in theforeground hinted at a relatively silent, relaxed warm afternoon.One man held a long blade, and the other held a baby. As theyapproached one another, the man with the blade raised his arm andsimply cut across the other man’s chest, slicing the baby inhalf as well. As the wounded man dropped the baby and fell to hisknees, the blade rose again. This time, it came down across hisface, and once more onto his skull. Over the next 100 days, 600,000people would be killed in a similar fashion in what is nowconsidered one of humanity’s darkest moments. Videosbroadcasted the butchery across the world, but no one lifted afinger. The genocide in Rwanda would become another page in ahistory book.

    For many of us in college today, living through those 100 daysin 1994 entailed small exams, book reports and glittery projects injunior high. The nightly news gave small synopses of the Hutu andTutsi civil war, but those things were far away, and besides, weused to hand the remote over to our parents after the DisneyAfternoon. We probably had a more pressing history test on theRenaissance or the Middle Ages to think about. Why don’t weremember something so horrid that took place in our own lifetime?Today, there is a civil war raging in the Congo, a revolution inHaiti, a government upheaval in Afghanistan and a slow but steadyeradication of Tibetan culture. Oh, and there’s a war inIraq.

    According to TiVo, the new digital recorder that allows viewersto pause and replay live television, the most replayed moment inthat device’s history was the ten seconds on the Super Bowlwhen a star-studded breast took front stage. For the next twoweeks, debates raged from mothers to senators to corporations. Werethese people equally outraged when we blanketed Vietnam with AgentOrange bombs, eradicating rare species and deforesting miles ofland? Do they know that Vietnamese children are born with birthdefects to this day? More importantly, how many news organizationsreported this on primetime?

    Kids in high school learn more about Ancient Egypt than they dothe Cold War or the Gulf War. The semester seems to run out oftime, or those topics simply are not covered in the State exams. Infact, once they leave high school, students won’t run into ahistory class again unless they enroll in one on their own, or areforced into one via school requirements.

    It seems as if a 50-year block of time must lapse before anevent can be considered ‘history.’ We like to thinkthat we are so far removed in time from this ‘history’to convince ourselves that any wrongdoing on our part was in thepast. We have changed. We are better now, and we have learned fromour bad deeds. They were in charge then. They made the decisions.Never us.

    In 50 years, we’ll hear all the details of’Operation Enduring Freedom,’ and might even understandthe real reasons behind our decision to wage war. More likelythough, our children will be glued to the next wave of obscenity,music videos and reality TV shows on what has become, quiteliterally, a ‘boob’ tube.

    They, like much of the country, will embrace that supreme valuethat has come to cloud our education: self-interest.

    Teachers must break away from traditional subject matter, andmust forge outlets for students to express their thoughts onforeign policy and governmental practices. This is most pressing ina university.

    In a panel debate on the war in Iraq last year, members ofnational media and faculty members from Stony Brook’s historyand political science departments came together at the Wang centerto present their views on America’s involvement in the MiddleEast. The average age of the audience members was 30. There was anoticeable lack of student faces in the crowd. This cannot beblamed on apathy, or on the students themselves. We have simply notbeen raised to care. When college students were drafted for theVietnam War, protests lined every street corner. But today we aresafe from the war. It’s far away. And now, we hide behind ourMTV Afternoons.

    Uneducated masses who don’t care to vote, or pay heed tomilitaristic budgets are the best thing for America. What we failto realize is that our ignorance of the world is more dangerousthan our enemy’s intelligence about us. Ignorance’ andinwardness is’ fundamentally self-destructive.

    If it’s not happening to us, it’s not happening atall. It is not that we cannot learn from history, it is that we arenot taught well enough to want to change the future.

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