So, the New York Post is outraged today that a book titled, “The Librarian of Basra” could become part of the third-grade curriculum for New York City public school students. The Post warns that the book has “startlingly realistic portrayals of war” and illustrations which show “fighter planes dropping bombs on a palm-tree-lined Middle Eastern town.” And, naturally, the Post is incensed because, Won’t somebody please think about the children? Or something. Yes, the same tabloid that published a cover photo of a man about to be struck and killed by a subway thinks that third-graders are too young to be exposed to such violent images. Or, at least, American third-graders are too young to be exposed to this kind of thing. Iraqi third-graders have been exposed to this kind of thing for at least ten years now. But who cares about them? Not the Post.
But so, I think this is ridiculous. Whitewashing history for children’s sake is insensitive to the reality that they live in the same world that the rest of us do. Would the Post prefer that adults also ignore what actually happened in Iraq? Well, yes, sure. But I guess that’s not really the point right now. But so anyway, obviously, children are not emotionally or intellectually equipped to handle all the realities of war and its consequences (although, are any of us?) but no one is suggesting that third-graders watch “Apocalypse Now.” And in terms of teaching kids about the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a huge difference between taking an 8-year-old to “The Hurt Locker” or “Zero Dark Thirty” and having them read an illustrated text that attempts to relate an aspect of what living in Iraq during wartime feels like. Which, obviously. And it’s not just the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan that school kids could benefit from learning about. Here’s some other things where the truth can’t hurt, it can only illuminate.