Salman Masalha ||
Write a short essay warning the Zionist enemy
“The enemy’s army, as we were taught in school, is the army that is now taking care of us,” the Syrian girl hospitalized in Nahariya told television reporter Riad Ali in an item broadcast on Channel 1. Textbooks are mirrors that reflect the social, cultural and political trends in the society where they are issued. By means of the books, societies not only organize for students the basic information dictated by the regime but also instill in them the society’s system of moral norms.
Complaints are frequently heard here, and rightly of course, about the Ministry of Education and the people in charge of curricula concerning the contents dictated to students by means of the textbooks. Two years ago, educators from the Arab sector expressed dissatisfaction with textbooks that contain hundreds of mistakes in the Arabic language. There were even those who tried to depict this as another “Zionist plot” aimed at spoiling the Arab students’ language and heritage.
Recently I examined Syrian textbooks, and what has emerged? Hundreds of thousands of fatalities and casualties and millions of refugees scattered in every direction make no impression on the Syrian Ministry of Education. It appears that the regime is living in denial and is continuing, as is its wont, to instill the usual educational rot in the younger generation. In a 7th-grade textbook students are assigned a composition. On what topic? Here is the task: “You have seen pictures on television showing the slaughter perpetrated by the Zionists in occupied Palestine. Write a short essay in which you express your feelings against the enemy who has no mercy on old people and infants!”
In another chapter students are taught conjugation of the verb in the future tense, with the assignment: “Write a short essay in which you warn the Zionist enemy of the consequences of its repeated attacks on our people on occupied land. Use verbs in the future tense.”
Syrian children, who undoubtedly are seeing what is happening all around them and are experiencing the horrific events in their country with their families on their own flesh, are growing up in world in which there is total denial of the reality dictated by the tyrannical ruler, with no possibility of questioning it.
And to avoid any misunderstandings – heavens forefend – printed in this same book is the entire speech Bashar al Assad delivered at the Arab summit held in Damascus in March of 2008. The speech is presented in the 7th-grade textbook in the chapter on reading comprehension. Among the questions about the speech is the following: “The personality of the Honorable President is characterized by his patriotic and national depth … Give examples from the speech that testify to this.”
Grammar and syntax studies also require the Syrian student to tread conscientiously along the path laid down for him by the Syrian regime. For example, he has to indicate the syntactical phenomena in sentences like these: “The enemy knows only the language of killing and destruction …” or: “The enemy has not yet understood that we can defeat him.”
And as if that were not enough, the study of composition comes to complete the educational picture. Seventh-graders in the Syrian schools are given the following assignment: “Write a paragraph in which you express your profound conviction that the Zionist enemy will meet his end.”
What is there to say? With pedagogic stupidity like this, it isn’t hard to guess that this Zionist “enemy” is assured a long life.
Published: Opinions-Haaretz, Dec. 17, 2013
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