Turkey drifting towards irrationalism
Barely a day passes without a new example of how our discussions in Turkey are becoming increasingly irrational. What is ironic is that pundits, journalists, diplomats, academics, etc. are constantly spending their time and energy trying to rationalize the irrational. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statements are the primary sources of this irrationality, with other political leaders contributing too.
What is worrying is that the irrational becomes the norm and those who oppose such ideas are easily accused of treason, lack of faith and of being tools of those who want to halt Turkey’s growth.
In one example, a week-long conference in Antalya seeking ways to increase the quality of education is introducing fresh ideas that will only make it worse - as if Turkey has resolved all the problems of its poor education policies. First, a hazy idea to introduce some way to teach kindergarden students religious concepts and the rules of Islam hit the headlines (of some newspapers that still have a sense of reason). This idea was not endorsed, but the adding of certain compulsory classes in the first three grades of primary schools was put to vote. That means six-year-old boys and girls will begin their religious instruction even before learning how to properly read and write.
There is no need for pedagogues and education experts to explain how wrong it is to start religious education with such young children. With the new so called “4+4+4” schooling model and annually amended education system, the government seems to be opening all paths to make the entire system reflect a more religious outlook, making such courses compulsory regardless of family sensitivities or preferences.
Another idea hit the front pages of newspapers on Friday, as some participants of the Antalya conference suggested the introduction of compulsory Ottoman language classes to high school students. An education system that has completely failed to teach English and other universally accepted foreign languages to youngsters may now focus on Ottoman, the language of ancestors that our current leaders see themselves as the followers of.
Obviously, these educational moves are all in line with the government’s long-term objectives to “raise religious generations.” The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has suggested that the mastermind of national educational changes is President Erdoğan’s son, Bilal Erdoğan, who chairs the Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV). A recently released voice recording of a meeting between Bilal Erdoğan and Education Ministry officials apparently gave signals that mixed-sex education may also be abolished in the coming years.
Irrationalities are not limited to education policies. A week after President Erdoğan suggested that men and women could not be equal, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu linked “mechanical equality” in gender relations in developed countries to higher suicide rates, in a speech delivered on Dec. 4.
“Why is the Gross National Product in most developed countries … at the highest level on the one hand, but the suicide rate is also at the highest level there?” Davutoğlu asked, before citing the reason as the system of “mechanical equality” in gender relations. If an academic with the title of professor can question gender equality through such irrelevant comparisons, than just imagine what ordinary men who have passed through the above-described Turkish education system could think of the role of women in society.
Limiting the role of woman to motherhood is one of the telltale symbols of a backward understanding. Figures showing Turkish women’s participation in the labor force (28 percent) are simply evidence of this.
All the above examples came after Erdoğan suggested that the American continent was discovered by Muslim sailors 300 years before Columbus, and a mosque had also been built in Cuba. In a statement on Dec. 3, meanwhile, Erdoğan questioned the “objectivity” of the Nobel Prize committee and also reiterated once again the “unfair composition” of the U.N. Security Council.
After one point, it really becomes difficult to explain this flow of irrational moves and statements. However, with the rulers of this country’s growing arrogance and unfounded self-confidence, we will soon be obliged to join them in emigrating to this irrational sphere.