Do you remember Graham Nash’s song? “You who are on the road must have a code that you can live by. And so become yourself, because the past is just a good bye. Teach your children well. Their father’s hell did slowly go by. And feed them on your dreams. The ones they picked, the ones you’ll know by.” Franco Frattini, the former Italian foreign minister and current vice president of the European Commission has called on teachers in the European Union to work to prevent young Muslims from becoming radicalized, to eradicate from the inside these ideas. The War on Terror can never won by just killing terrorist. As long as the terrorists speak to the needs of young Muslims, they will always be able to recruit more. We must win this war by winning the hearts and minds, and what better place to start than with the youth.
The Taliban understand this. It is why they attack the kids in schools, targeting schools and teachers; two hundred and eight schools, one hundred and forty-four burned to the ground. Education Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar said, “They know that education is about the future of our people. They know that education is about democracy, about true Islam, and about prosperity in Afghanistan. The main reason is killing the future, the future of Afghanistan.” What if kids in Afghanistan could attend school safely? What if kids in Palestine when to really nice schools, with the best teachers and the best equipment and good food? What if kids in Lebanon had not attended schools paid for by Hezbollah, but had attended schools paid for by the Lebanese government; schools that taught about democracy? What if kids, everywhere that Al Qaeda was recruiting, went to schools like that?
What if along with paying for bombs and bullets we paid for schools that taught the values we have our soldiers fighting and dying for. These schools could teach the children about the great leaders of the world, the history of democracy, its achievements and its challenges. It could teach them that living in a free society brings responsibility and opportunities. We could teach them self-reliance, self-confidence, and responsibility. That societies experience their greatest achievements during times of peace, and not war. That greatness is achieved by creating; not by destroying as Bin Laden teaches. That they are capable of becoming great leaders and helping their counties achieve great things. We can give them new dreams and new hopes; dreams and hopes that do not focus on destroying western democracy.
Do you remember the next verse in Graham Nash’s song? “And you of tender years can’t know the fears that your elders grew by. And so please help them with your youth, they seek the truth before they can die. Teach your parents well. Their children’s hell will slowly go by and feed them on your dreams, the ones they picked, the ones you’ll know by.” What if the children and the schools became the center and salvation of the community? The libraries and computer labs could be opened in the evenings, serving as a resource, and meeting center for the community. The school and the children could become the heart of the community. The children could teach their elders to dream of a better world; a world where the terrorist are having trouble meeting their recruiting goals, instead of the U.S. Military. As the last verse of Graham Nash’s song says, “Can you hear and do you care and can you see, we must be free to teach the children to believe and make a world that we can live in.”