Iran overhauls education system to erase Western influences
By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, January 1, 2011; 9:10 PM
TEHRAN - Iran is overhauling its education system to rid it of Western influence, the latest attempt by the government to fortify Islamic values and counter the clout of the country's increasingly secularized middle class.
Starting in September, all Iranian high school students will be introduced to new courses such as "political training" and "living skills" that will warn against "perverted political movements" and encourage girls to marry at an early age, Education Ministry officials say.
In universities, the curricula of law, psychology, sociology and other studies will be drastically altered, with officials from the Science Ministry, which has responsibility for higher education, working to strip out what they describe as Western theories and replace them with Islamic ones. Dozens of professors have already retired or been fired on the grounds that they did not sufficiently support the new policy…
At the same time, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has publicly complained about courses such as non-Islamic law, psychology and sociology, which are called humanistic sciences here. Describing the courses as "fundamentally poisonous," he lambasted their strong reliance on Western theories.
"Teaching our youth exactly what Westerners have said or written - in reality, transferring doubt and distrust and disbelief toward holy and Islamic tenets and values - this is not acceptable," Khamenei said in an August meeting with university professors. More than 2 million students take such courses in Iran. It remains unclear how the authorities are planning to "Islamicize" their content.
"These courses are made up of the views of thinkers from all across the world," said Ali Asghar Harandi, a student of philosophy at Tehran University who supports the government but disagrees with the academic changes. "You can't change science."
Cassi Creek: Meanwhile, in the modern and progressive state of Texas…
“The Texas Board of Education has been meeting this week to revise its social studies curriculum. During the past three days, “the board’s far-right faction wielded their power to shape lessons on the civil rights movement, the U.S. free enterprise system and hundreds of other topics”:
– To avoid exposing students to “transvestites, transsexuals and who knows what else,” the Board struck the curriculum’s reference to “sex and gender as social constructs.”
– The Board removed Thomas Jefferson from the Texas curriculum, “replacing him with religious right icon John Calvin.”
– The Board refused to require that “students learn that the Constitution prevents the U.S. government from promoting one religion over all others.”
– The Board struck the word “democratic” from the description of the U.S. government, instead terming it a “constitutional republic.””
I have an extremely difficult time distinguishing between the actions of these two groups of religious fundamentalists. Both are willing to interfere with education in order to brainwash students in public schools. The students and the nations that they come from are the losers.
Iran’s religious authority wishes to remove all mention of Western culture from the education process. They are already producing students whose educations have been compromised in many disciplines.
Texas public schools suffer from a lack of national educational standards. The fear that students might be taught something that actually provides them with insight beyond the scope of evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity seems to terrify those who exercise “local control.”
Wherever we find that “local control”, we run the risk of school systems becoming controlled by people who want to teach literal creationism instead of actual observation-driven sciences, who reject evolution because some poorly educated preacher told them they should. Those school systems, in many cases for entire states, have become laughing stocks. They wind up becoming sources of substandard education at a time when we are desperately in need of millions of new engineers, chemists, physicists, astronomers, and other scientists in order to compete in the global economy and to maintain technological equivalency with nations not held back by religious fundamentalists who have yet to understand that the word “theory” in a scientific application is not synonymous with fiction and creation myths.
Tragically amusing, the local fundamentalists will howl long and loudly about the damage Iran may be causing itself. Somehow, they can’t adjust their sights to focus in on closer targets. Are there any possible technical gaps developing between potential competitors/enemies and us? Apparently none that can’t be dealt with by isolationism, anti-intellectualism, historical revisionism, and theocratic control of every aspect of life.
There’s a world of bumper sticker material flowing from the actions and ideology of the teavangelist\GOP world. Unfortunately, too much of it is painfully true to anyone resident in what is left of the America that won WWII, created polio vaccines, and flew to the moon and back.