Back in 2006 the anti-jihad blogs circulated an article on a school in St. Paul, Minnesota, which had decided to modify its art classes to satisfy prohibitions against making portraits of humans and animals in Islam. The reason for this was that about 70% of the students were “Muslim immigrants from eastern Africa.” The Executive Director of the school, one Bill Wilson, applied the liberal-bureaucratic approach to solving the problem: hire “experts” to provide rational solutions to conflicts between social entities with competing value systems. Mr. Wilson was pleased to find an apparently satisfactory solution to the problem. It turned out that the requirements of the art curriculum could be technically satisfied without transgressing Islamic law.
The escape hatch was found in the Minnesota Academic Standards for Arts K-12, published in 2003. To be precise, according to the curriculum of the St. Paul school, the goal for elementary school education was for pupils to learn to “understand the elements of visual art, including color, line, shape, form, texture, and space.” So, you see, there was never any actual requirement that students draw human faces and figures, even if this has always been considered a fundamental aspect of art in the Western tradition.The incident was an excellent demonstration of the smooth interaction (meaning: attack on one side, and absolute, immediate capitulation on the other) between the absolute, supreme dictates of Islamic law and the hairsplitting, rationalistic tools of liberal administration. Assuming these standards were not designed as a response to Muslim parents’ demands, we find that the goals of art education had already been drained of specific cultural and spiritual content, abstracted as if to create the illusion of an education which is not culture-specific. To continue with our example, art turns out to be not about the beauty of nature or the human form, or about conveying truths about man or God. It can consist, rather, of “cutting out shapes to make into cardboard pouches,” or “taking photographs and mapping the neighborhood around the school” (Yikes!). The local Imam was even generous enough to point out that it was all right for students to draw outlines of their hands. If I were an administrator, though, I would advise teachers against assigning this activity. Teachers might get carried away and encourage the students to make the hand outlines into Thanksgiving Turkeys. And I can see our Muslim brethren having all kinds of objections to that.
Today’s educators and “experts” apply the tools of rational deconstruction to their field of choice, breaking it down into the smallest possible components, recording and speculating on every nuance and exception, and draining it of its soul. Confident in their knowledge, they become less and less tolerant of popular, traditional views the general public holds on the same subjects. When push comes to shove, their well-honed principles become tools for the enemies of our society. Never in history has a civilization been so educated, and so foolish.
But never has the time been better for capable thinkers and leaders to stand up in defense of that slighted and exploited public.