David DiPietro’s Jihad on Learning

Assemblyman David DiPietro of East Aurora has declared a holy war on book lernin‘. ‘Specially that Moozlim kind. (It’s not the first time, either. DiPietro was convinced Obama was a seekrit Moozlim back in 2010).

Just talked to an irate parent. Parkdale school in East Aurora is teaching third graders(8-9 year olds) about the Koran, Mohammed and the Muslim faith. It is MANDATORY reading for Common Core! The teacher would not let the parents see the book until after they asked 3 times and threatened to go to the principal!!! The reading is all done in school and the books can not be taken out of the classroom! MORE TO COME!

This has quickly become a cause celebre (that’s French) among the tea party anti-learning set.

I have a third grader in a public school, and neither the Koran, Mohammed, nor the Muslim faith is MANDATORY ALL CAPS reading under Common Core or any other standard, so I immediately know DiPietro is lying. What are the books, you ask?

Nasreen’s Secret School is a children’s picture book, described thusly:

Young Nasreen has not spoken a word to anyone since her parents disappeared.

In despair, her grandmother risks everything to enroll Nasreen in a secret school for girls. Will a devoted teacher, a new friend, and the worlds she discovers in books be enough to draw Nasreen out of her shell of sadness?

Based on a true story from Afghanistan, this inspiring book will touch readers deeply as it affirms both the life-changing power of education and the healing power of love.

A review from the “School Library Journal” describes the premise thusly:

Grade 2–4—This story begins with an author’s note that succinctly explains the drastic changes that occurred when the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan in 1996. The focus is primarily on the regime’s impact on women, who were no longer allowed to attend school or leave home without a male chaperone, and had to cover their heads and bodies with a burqa. After Nasreen’s parents disappeared, the child neither spoke nor smiled. Her grandmother, the story’s narrator, took her to a secret school, where she slowly discovered a world of art, literature, and history obscured by the harsh prohibitions of the Taliban. As she did in The Librarian of Basra (Harcourt, 2005), Winter manages to achieve that delicate balance that is respectful of the seriousness of the experience, yet presents it in a way that is appropriate for young children. Winter’s acrylic paintings make effective use of color, with dramatic purples and grays, with clouds and shadows dominating the scenes in which the Taliban are featured, and light, hopeful pinks both framing and featured in the scenes at school. This is an important book that makes events in a faraway place immediate and real. It is a true testament to the remarkable, inspiring courage of individuals when placed in such dire circumstances.—Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ END

Interestingly enough, “Librarian of Basra” is the other book in question.

“In the Koran, the first thing God said to Muhammad was ‘Read.'”*

–Alia Muhammad Baker

 

Alia Muhammad Baker is a librarian in Basra, Iraq. For fourteen years, her library has been a meeting place for those who love books. Until now. Now war has come, and Alia fears that the library–along with the thirty thousand books within it–will be destroyed forever.

 

In a war-stricken country where civilians–especially women–have little power, this true story about a librarian’s struggle to save her community’s priceless collection of books reminds us all how, throughout the world, the love of literature and the respect for knowledge know no boundaries. Illustrated by Jeanette Winter in bright acrylic and ink.

 

And

Starred Review. Grade 2-4 – When war seemed imminent, Alia Muhammad Baker, chief librarian of Basra’s Central Library, was determined to protect the library’s holdings. In spite of the government’s refusal to help, she moved the books into a nearby restaurant only nine days before the library burned to the ground. When the fighting moved on, this courageous woman transferred the 30,000 volumes to her and her friends’ homes to await peace and the rebuilding of a new library. In telling this story, first reported in the New York Timeson July 27, 2003, by Shaila K. Dewan, Winter artfully achieves a fine balance between honestly describing the casualties of war and not making the story too frightening for young children. The text is spare and matter-of-fact. It is in the illustrations, executed in acrylic and ink in her signature style, that Winter suggests the impending horror. The artist uses color to evoke mood, moving from a yellow sky to orange, to deep maroon during the bombing, and then blues and pinks with doves flying aloft as the librarian hopes for a brighter future. Palm trees, architecture, dress, and Arabic writing on the flag convey a sense of place and culture. Although the invading country is never mentioned, this is an important story that puts a human face on the victims of war and demonstrates that a love of books and learning is a value that unites people everywhere. – Marianne Saccardi, Norwalk Community College, CT

 

The theme in both books is the universal importance of education and knowledge, even in the face of adversity or outright hostility. I can’t think of a better lesson to teach young readers than that. To use real stories about real kids to convey that is moving and powerful. These are books that I will go out of my way to acquire and have my child read, because of the irony at work.

Books. Education. Knowledge. Having and accomplishing these things in the face of war or religious fanaticism. Nasreen isn’t a book about religion, it’s about fighting religious extremism. Basra isn’t a book about religion, it’s a book about the importance of reading; protecting your culture and heritage. It’s heartbreakingly anti-American to condemn and ban these books, with these themes.

Both Basra and Nasreen are on the recommended book list for grades 3 – 5 under the National Catholic Educational Association. Nasreen teaches “justice”, and Basra teaches “courage”.

DiPietro is on local AM radio this afternoon concern-trolling about how these books mention Islam, and that’s wrong because Christian and Jewish mentions are forbidden. Like “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

David DiPietro and other book-killers like he are tantamount to the religious fanatics in Basra and Nasreen who would deny books, knowledge, and an education to the protagonists. Unable to see beyond his own limited and prejudiced worldview, DiPietro is seemingly seeking to withhold these important and age-appropriate stories from local children because the protaganists are of the Muslim faith.

As we learned in Clarence in March 2014, the books aren’t the problem, it’s the book banners. Tyrannies ban books.

(Join Banned Books Week on Facebook if you believe in freedom of education and expression; freedom to learn).

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