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).

The New York Double Tyranny

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The “independent” bloc of Republicrats in New York’s useless state Senate has cut a deal with Governor Cuomo to caucus with Democrats after the next election. This all comes on the heels of Cuomo getting smacked around by the left wing of the party for his failure and refusal to support the idea of Democrats being elected to the Senate. The Working Families Party extracted a promise from Cuomo to back a push to regain Democratic control. 

The Senate has really done yeoman’s work expanding its ability to engage in pointless nonsense. Remember Pedro Espada and the Gang of Three and the coup? Remember Malcolm Smith’s feckless “leadership”? Smith later went on to try to run for New York City mayor as a Republican, and the FBI arrested him and a few Republicans for bribery in exchange for a Wilson Pakula. 

Yet another example of electoral fusion leading to inevitable corruption. (A Wilson Pakula is a party’s authorization to allow a non-member to run on that party’s line). 

Why do we need a state Senate again? I mean, rarely does it ever actually debate an issue – same sex marriage was a recent example. But 9 times out of 10, it exists solely as a Republican, upstate balance to downstate liberal Democratic policies. But even that is completely manufactured, through gerrymandering and legislators’ ability to count inmates as members of the local “population”, even though they can’t legally vote. 

The guy who answered this question is now running for state Assembly: 

So, Cuomo is being attacked from the left for being a DINO, and he’s being demonized from the right because WHAT PART OF SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND ARGLEBARGLE. He’s trying to accomplish two very difficult things. On the one hand, he’s trying to establish his bona fides as a strong leader who can get things done with people from both parties. On the other, through initiatives like the Buffalo Billion, he’s strengthening his Presidential resume by accomplishing the hitherto unaccomplishable – turning Buffalo around. There’s no “Rochester Billion” or “Binghamton Million” or “Plattsburgh Penny”. Buffalo gets the attention because it has a unique nationwide reputation for being the rust belt’s poster child – the unfixable. Fix Buffalo, and the world is your oyster. 

Long ago, I wrote a series of pieces calling for a non-partisan unicameral legislature for New York based on the Nebraska model. The way in which government conducts itself in Albany is beyond dysfunctional – here we are, in 2014, still bemoaning the dual state tyrannies of bureaucracy and “three men in a room”. Your voice – our voice is not heard in Albany, a place legislators only leave upon death or indictment. Cuomo can point to all the on-time budgets he wants, but that has no practical effect on average families anywhere. That’s grandstanding. How about rolling back some unfunded Albany mandates? How about consolidating the Regents and Common Core testing? How about taking on the tyrannical state authorities once and for all? Let’s consider how the state’s taxes, mandates, and oppressive business environment puts all the counties outside the five boroughs at a distinct nationwide competitive disadvantage? How about running the state as if it’s 2014 and not 1954?

The ongoing Albany sideshow is counterproductive, unless you’re an elected, a staffer, a bureaucrat, or a lobbyist. If the IDC decides to caucus with Democrats, what difference will that really make? 

Albany has done some good things for Buffalo in recent years, but while “Dreadful Donn” Esmonde bemoans a new Bills stadium as yet another example of typical Buffalo “silver bullet” economic development, what the hell do you think the Buffalo Billion is? It’s the platinum bullet, whereby the political elite hands an unprecedented bankroll to the city’s business elite in order to usher in top-down business development. 

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all in favor of free Albany money to attract Elon Musk’s solar energy company to South Buffalo and whatever else they’re spending the money on. But the real change in Buffalo is going to happen organically, from the grassroots. Buffalo is a palpably different and more hopeful place than it was when I first moved here 13 years ago. There are good things popping up all the time – from the microbrew revolution, microdevelopment and renovations on Buffalo’s West Side, a new focus on developing downtown, a hot real estate market, lower unemployment, and a burgeoning knowledge-based economy. Insofar as the state can enhance and assist these efforts, it should be making every effort to do so. 

The IDC is going to caucus with Democrats in the state Senate? That’s nice, I guess. 

Same as it ever was