What the Media Taught Our Teens About Torture

13 04 2011

JJ almost five years ago:

I argue the political noise machine is actually an overlooked form of public education and imperils us all, schooling or not. . .

“Public” education results reported this week:

Teenagers Now Look Favorably On Torture
Because The Media Taught Them It Was Morally Acceptable

It’s the concept of “American exceptionalism” that transforms “torture” into “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

So sayeth our news media, anyway. As this new Red Cross report makes clear, older Americans who grew up at a time when this issue was tended to by the media with a distinct and consistent moral clarity have maintained that distinct and consistent moral clarity themselves.

American teenagers diverge at that point, but what can I say? This is learned behavior.

Logically enough then, The American Red Cross calls for more and better education in the Geneva Convention, and in classrooms, not the newspapers. So sayeth the Daily Beast anyway:

[T]he national conversation since the Bush administration claimed that today’s enemy was different from the ones we’ve fought in the past. . . “Over the past 10 years, they’ve been exposed to many new conflicts,” says Isabelle Daoust, who heads ARC’s humanitarian law unit. “But they haven’t been exposed to the rules.”



12 responses

14 04 2011

That makes sense. But then so much of our informed citizenship has been lost through uneducated generations. It’s pretty sad when most of the people you talk to out there don’t know that there are three branches of government, or that there is something called checks and balances. They don’t figure much of anything out about their government til something so bad happens that they are forced to deal with it on the government’s terms. And then the eyes are opened but it is so traumatic. I think it could be a good thing, introducing the Geneva Convention to our public school kids. It is clear to me that if Bush Jr had ever been exposed to that document, that it didn’t stick. But then every move he made seemed completely entrenched in beligerent ignorance.

14 04 2011

Maybe torture education is like “sex education” — the idea is to teach them enough about something hard, that you hope they won’t learn the hard way instead?

14 04 2011

It’s also like uncontroversial subjects though, in that it’s strange to see it listed as a separate mini-subject of its own. It never crossed my mind to get up one morning and present a lesson to my children on sex, much less the Geneva Convention and/or torture. (Not that I present any lessons but especially nothing as discrete as that.)

Howard Gardner’s “Disciplined Mind” integrated curriculum of Truth, Beauty and Goodness would cover it naturally, though. The recent past and present politics (wars and women and weather, say!) )would be fascinating to teach kids using that scaffolding, hmmm.

14 04 2011

New Republican Gov Bob McDonnell, Virginia (conservative Catholic and law graduate of Regent University conspiring to take over this constitutionally secular nation for his God, sigh) just said on Morning Joe that income taxes must not be raised at all even on the richest individuals (millionaires and billionaires) so instead poor, old, frail and sick people must pay more that they cannot earn and don’t have, for basic needs like health care.

Some of the panel including economist Jeffrey Sachs, challenged him and asked how that was fair.

He responded with his chiseled good looks and chillingly smiling demeanor: “I don’t think it’s about what’s fair. It’s about what’s good economic policy.”

Think about it. Good economic policy is not about what’s fair. And apparently neither is his good book. Good god!
And THAT is exactly the real-life lesson America has been presenting for years, every day in every way.

More —

Dr Sachs: “Is it REALLY gonna be that we let the rich have a higher percent of our wealth than they’ve ever had? Ninety percent of the American people are suffering!”

Gov Godly: “That’s the American Dream . . .celebrate it.”


Finally, in jarring juxtaposition, Morning Joe himself has gone ON and ON about fairness, righteously complaining that the president was so unfair, to invite Paul Ryan to the speech and make him sit in the front row, only to insult him and his economic plan as unAmerican.

So fairness is very important when it’s a rich guy’s concern. Not when it’s not. That’s the kind of simple and wrong lesson I pretty much expect from public education these days.

14 04 2011

Surely you understand the premise of the Name it and Claim it Movement. If you are prosperous or poor that is God’s judgement upon you and for any mere mortal to attempt to alter that judgement would be as the sin of Witchcraft, because that would be rebelling against God’s order. Of course this is totally supported by an army of lobbyists no doubt representing that wealthy percentage–God makes for great justifications because it seems only humans speak with *his voice.

14 04 2011

Speaking of “Witchcraft” (and claiming gods as commerce, not to mention more on “public education” as what happens out in public, outside of school) I’ll take that comment as the opening I was hoping for, to add this new essay from Killing the Buddha: Valhal-Mart, what happens when Hollywood gets ahold of your gods

The author blurb is interesting by itself:

Eric Scott was raised by the Saint Louis coven Pleiades, a Wiccan family based in the Alexandrian tradition. His fiction and memoir explore the joys and doubts of being a second-generation pagan in the modern world. He recently completed his MFA at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ashé! Journal, Killing the Buddha, Kerouac’s Dog, and Witches & Pagans. In his spare time, he draws elaborate metaphysical diagrams on his bedroom wall and sings for a Taoist glam rock band.

but wait until you read what he has to say:

I know what I’m supposed to say. . . The character Chris Hemsworth plays is not the deity I worship, the god whose symbol hangs around my neck. . . At worst, it’s harmless and ephemeral; at best, perhaps more people would learn something about the myths. But it’s not that simple.

The truth is, I looked at the toys in my hands and I saw the result of millions of dollars of development and thousands of hours of manpower, put into something bearing the name of a god, my god, and it had nothing to do with me.

14 04 2011

Daily Beast article: “For young people, to put themselves in place of a soldier is a level of empathy that most people simply don’t have anymore.”

I’ve done a minimal (but unsuccessful) scouring of Snooks’ recent posts for (JJ’s?) references to what I vaguely remember as Americans’ growing unwillingness to practice “reversibility.” Ring any bells? The refusal to practice empathy and imagine oneself walking in another’s shoes seems to be a thread (shoelace?) running through many of these stories.

14 04 2011

Moral musical chairs!

It was introduced in comments under the “Six Stages of Moral Development” discussion:

(I use this in politics and education all the time):

For Kohlberg, the most adequate result of both operations is “reversibility”, where a moral or dutiful act within a particular situation is evaluated in terms of whether or not the act would be satisfactory even if particular persons were to switch roles within the situation (also known colloquially as moral musical chairs)

When I question this in homeschooler discussions, it’s discouragingly rare to find reversible reasoning, and the most dogmatic “religious” homeschoolers refuse to even acknowledge reversibility as a legitimate test for moral reasoning. Science-minded folk are much better about this.

and my “Respect the Jeezits” post about the UCF communion wafer crisis cited this as a source.

Let’s try the moral musical chairs test. If one of the Freethought Alliance members came to a meeting at the student union but refused to swallow some too-outlandish-sounding belief, would that student be grabbed and held by leaders, for resisting? If that person also were a student senator, would the Freethinkers bring impeachment charges against him, and post guards to force freethinking at national political conventions across the country, and would the UCF student senate take the secular Alliance’s side against that individual student beginning to lean away from free thought and toward religion?

If you can honestly think the answers above might be yes, then I believe your education needs to be impeached.

14 04 2011

As an aside, some of the comments and discussion here are packed with good ideas and sources but the wordpress search function doesn’t include any of that, only the headlines and actual post content. That’s why I do so much cross-referencing and linking between posts, to provide some kind of a path back to these conversations and ideas, however serpentine and um, unschoolish. 😉

14 04 2011

I happen to be a big fan of Serpentine.

28 04 2011

The Commodification of Witchcraft, Paganism and Goddessworship has been ongoing, long before the movie Thor. Haven’t you ever wondered who they were targeting with those Goddess references in the ladies razor commercials? Visible religion is nothing more than a fashion accessory at this point. Like your picking out shoes that match your purse and your belt. I am neither offended nor surprised by any of it after all these years. Besides, now Heathens and Pagans will get a taste of what Indigenous Americans deal with daily– a bitter pill that might do them some good.

18 05 2011

Harry Potter is so tiresomely condemned as evil witchcraft to teach the kids but we could do (and DO do) a lot worse. “We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”

J.K. Rowling on Torture
May 18, 2011
by Ben Achtenberg

In this season of university graduations, as the relatively privileged youth of the United States and Western Europe prepare to face the realities of a rapidly changing world, it’s worth revisiting some excerpts from one of the best commencement speeches I’ve ever heard or read – J.K. Rowling’s address to the Harvard class of 2008. (See the full text here.)

“One of the greatest formative experiences of my life preceded Harry Potter, though it informed much of what I subsequently wrote in those books…I paid the rent in my early 20s by working at the African research department at Amnesty International’s headquarters in London.

There in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries. I opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts of summary trials and executions, of kidnappings and rapes…

I began to have nightmares, literal nightmares, about some of the things I saw, heard, and read. And yet I also learned more about human goodness at Amnesty International than I had ever known before…

Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s places…

The great majority of you belong to the world’s only remaining superpower. The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. That is your privilege, and your burden.

If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped change.”

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