Turkish education ministry admits to scandal in school books
The caricature by Selçuk Erdem shows a polar bear making an offensive hand gesture to a man in the sea waters, telling him: “Hold my hand.”Education Ministry officials have admitted that none of the 18 officials in charge of controlling the text books saw an obscure caricature included in a Turkish language school book.
The pages with the caricature will be torn off each and every book before they are distributed to the students, Doğan News Agency reported. The caricature shows a polar bear making an offensive hand gesture to a man in the sea waters, telling him: “Hold my hand.”
The caricature on page 13 of a Turkish workbook for sixth graders is part of an exercise to prompt students into brainstorming what the caricature really implies.
The book was controlled by 18 officials before being printed, said Alparslan Durmuş, head of the Turkish Education Ministry’s board of education, but the caricature “slipped through the cracks.”
“This is a very explicit example of how meticulous we should be in the tender, analysis and distribution of books sent to our schools. The artist’s statement that his permission was not taken brings the issue that the topic of plagiarism should once again be revaluated,” said Merih Eyyup Demir, Head of the Union of Education Workers (Eğitim Sen) for the Aegean province of İzmir, regarding the ministry officials’ taking off the controversial caricature.
Meanwhile, Durmuş discussed women’s obedience of the male patriarch in the hierarchy of the home as a religious service in a press meeting on Sept. 9. The newly prepared school book on Prophet Muhammad’s life says, “If there is a hierarchy in the home, a woman has to obey the male patriarch.”
“We are talking about the Islamic religion in the lectures of Prophet Muhammad’s life. It says [in the book], ‘Spouses owe each other obedience and loyalty.’ It says, if there is a division of labor, as necessary, the woman obeys that [division of labor.] If the roles change, duties and responsibilities change accordingly,” Durmuş said.
“At the period when the definition of ‘head’ existed in our civil code, it [the relevant article] had said, ‘the person obeys whoever is the head [of the household].’ And now the concept of a ‘household head’ is being discussed and it has been said ‘there is obedience under a household head.’ If the roles change, the obligations change as well,” Durmuş said.
Another issue brought up by some was that Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, was not given enough space in the newly prepared curriculum. “In Turkish classes, from first grade until eighth grade, there are six obligatory units. One of these units covers the topic of the ‘National Struggle’ [the Turkish War of Independence covering 1919-1923] and Atatürk … There is no need for ignorance and foolishness.
If you do not tell history chronologically, you do not talk about history,” said Durmuş regarding the topic.
Another issue found controversial by some in the book was the chapter on “types of marriage deemed unacceptable.” Durmuş touched upon the chapters considering marriage with people of religions other than Islam, including atheists as “unacceptable.”
“It is not I that finds this so, it is Allah. This is regarding one of the conditions of marriage in Islam,” he said.