The seeds of revolution: school textbooks?

Whoever says that teachers and classroom experiences don’t “build the future” ignores the fact that ideas children learn affect them in the long-term.

This interesting read from the Los Angeles Times suggests that putting Tunisian kids through a paradigm of change–in this case, wresting the textbooks away from the religious in the mid-1990s and letting kids read material that supported equality and democracy–made for different young adults in 2011–young adults who decided that the old regime was not what they preferred. It argues that perhaps at its base, the civic engagement that got people out in the streets and overturning a dictatorship was born in those simple textbooks that nurtured their first ideas about society.

Whether the “Jasmine Revolution” turns out to be a truly egalitarian and democratic or not, the experience in social engineering should give us pause:  when we teach American kids today that the most important things they can learn are proficiency in academic skills and stress-free test-taking, what revolutions will they make or fail to make when they reach adulthood? Do we not set them up for less civic engagement and more egotism and narcissism  by teaching a test-driven, and generally de-contextualized curriculum?

And could we not engineer a more collaborative, cooperative, and thereby more effective political future by instilling in kids the virtues of social service, community, and environmentalism in our curriculum, textbooks included?

Just asking.

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