Letters to the Editor
Readers write about how American students are taught about Islam, illegal filesharing, and strip searches in schools.
Textbooks cannot tell the entire truth of a religion
Regarding the April 22 Opinion piece, "What are US students learning about Islam?": Author Gary Bauer is understandably disturbed by the fact that many high school history textbooks gloss over various facts about Islam, but I am not convinced that he wants the good aspects of the Islamic state to be told.
I agree with Mr. Bauer that texts should not be "feel-good distortions," and they certainly need to indicate the violent and oppressive aspects of "the Islamic state" in its historical context.
However, they also need to encourage investigation into how those various states functioned (in terms of legal systems, constitutions, division of labor, etc).
Bauer is correct that today's textbooks do not encourage students to ask critical questions, but he implies that pre-Reagan textbooks were somehow better in this regard. I am not so sure.
For example, I expect that the modern texts now state that for almost 1,300 years, Islamic governments ruled across a vast portion of the world, from small towns to transcontinental states. They may also now say, that for each of those states, for better or worse, a Muslim ruler governed according to God's law, expressed through principles and rules of the sharia that were expounded by scholars.
Do the textbooks stop right there and ask the students to think about that for a moment, conceptually, and contrast it to our legal system, in which we strive to separate church and state? It is an interesting exercise, but I'm not sure that Bauer wants to go that far.
We can only strive toward historical and cultural truths – we cannot know these truths perfectly. Let us get the textbooks in line with what we know now, and let the brightest scholars inform us. We need not fear these truths, and neither should the Muslim groups who lobby the educational councils.
Prosecutions won't stop illegal filesharing
In regard to the April 22 article, "The Pirate Bay case: Not necessarily a victory for Hollywood": If the purpose of the prosecution of The Pirate Bay was to demonstrate the legal consequences of illegal file sharing and copyright infringement, then it was a success. If it was meant to deter future illegal activity, then it was a failure.
The Pirate Bay will close up shop in Sweden and simply continue elsewhere. The fact that The Pirate Bay is still operating today, and in fact recently added more than 15,000 new members, reflects the futility of attempting to control a global activity through local prosecutions.
The distribution of any product in digital form is hard to control when a single outlet can lead to global proliferation. Media organizations must face the fact that they will never come up with a formula that will protect copyrights without alienating the very market they want to reach. All their past efforts to do so have failed, and punitive prosecutions are not the answer. Their products are simply not worth the offered price.
Students should not be strip searched
In regard to the April 21 article, "Supreme Court hears case of strip-searched schoolgirl": How odd that this school goes so far as to abuse this student's legal rights because of an unfounded allegation, but at another school, a child was not protected from the ferocious bullying he reported to the administration and, consequently, committed suicide.
Really, this lack of consistent application of the law is outrageous. If a legal decision is so ambiguous as to defy a common ground for understanding, then it is not "law" but only a supposition.
Regarding the April 21 Opinion piece, "The naked truth about strip searches in school": Benjamin Franklin's statement, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety," is relevant to this debate.
Strip searches in a middle or high school are an outrageous invasion of privacy. I understand that school officials are put under great pressure to keep kids safe, but this kind of approach is unreasonable.
If school officials cannot find something, say, a gun, with a simple search of pockets and backpack, then they need to get parents involved. And parents need to get a lawyer.
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