Last June I wrote about a meeting I had with three Icelandic women in the Kaffe Nauthól in Reykjavík. The events of the last few days triggered my memories of those conversations. We talked of the war in Iraq, of John Kerry's abilities, and many other subjects. The one topic that came back to me the strongest was something much more intimate, much more personal. One of the women mentioned the recent influx of immigrants to Iceland, and the peculiar problem that many of them had. Of course, language was a difficulty (I will testify to that) but her concern was with the immigrants children. The children, being children, could readily pick up Icelandic, but the parents became more and more alienated from the culture and their own children. Many of the parents had no literary tradition, and could not pass on their heritage to their offspring. She said this was a great problem, because there was no way for the culture of their society to be passed on. It is through the sharing of stories, of literature and the arts —an education in the humanities—that a child becomes an integrated member of society.
In the United States there is currently a war going on. It is not the war with Iraq that I speak of, but a war against American culture. The "No child left behind" (no child left alone?) act is an effort by religious fundamentalists to destroy public education. It has a chilling effect on the humanities, on science, and on any local input into the curricula of public schools. It has been underfunded and set up to fail, and when it does fail, so will the schools. President Bush is one of their own, and his election has increased their power. This is a war of hearts and minds, and if it succeeds, a new dark age of fear and superstition will reign over enlightenment and culture.
OK, I promise. No more rants political—for a long, long time.