To raise a pious generation

Erdoğan could be our future.

Public schools are closing, on little or no notice, and being replaced by religious schools. Exams are scrapped by presidential whim. Tens of thousands of public teachers have been fired. Outside religious groups are teaching in schools, without parental consent.

The battle over how to shape Turkey’s next generation has become a tumultuous issue for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as he seeks re-election on Sunday in a vote that is shaping up as a referendum on his deepening imprint on the country after 15 years at the helm.

Mr. Erdogan has already chipped away at Turkey’s democratic institutions, purging the courts and civil service of suspected opponents, bringing the media to heel, and leaving in place a state of emergency after a failed coup in 2016 that has added a new level of precariousness to the campaign.

His opponents fear that his re-election to a newly empowered presidency after constitutional changes last year will give Mr. Erdogan almost unchecked authority to push his agenda even further and fundamentally alter Turkish society.

He’s already done a lot to ruin the schools.

Even while prime minister, six years ago, Mr. Erdogan declared his desire to “raise a pious generation.”

“Do you expect that a party with a conservative, democratic identity would raise an atheist youth?” he said, challenging his opponents about the aims of his Justice and Development Party. “You may have such an aim, but we don’t.”

The words revealed a cause close to Mr. Erdogan’s heart and those of his supporters in his conservative, rural and religious base.

More forced god, less freedom from enforced god. Erdoğan has replaced many of the secular public schools with religious ones.

The Imam Hatip schools teach the national curriculum, but roughly half their courses are religious and their core classes — those which a student has to pass to matriculate — are the Quran and Arabic.

Mr. Erdogan has vastly expanded the schools, from just 450 schools 15 years ago to 4,500 nationwide today. His government increased the budget for religious education this year by 68 percent, to $1.5 billion.

In early May, an Islamic organization visited and gave a talk to girls from the seventh and eighth grade.

“They said don’t wear leggings as it will arouse men’s attention,” said Oya Ustundag, an accountant who has a son in the eighth grade. “They said only hands, eyes and feet should be shown.”

They told girls that girls should be erased.

[M]any link Turkey’s recent fall in international rankings — it dropped in the PISA index, which evaluates critical thinking, from 44th to 49th out of 72 countries — to constant disruptions and the focus on religion.

“When I started 18 years ago the quality was high,” said Aysel Kocak, a district leader of the Union for Laborers of Education and Science, who teaches math at a technical school in Istanbul’s third district. “Now I cannot teach them as intensively as I would wish.”

She pointed to a working-class district of Istanbul, in Kagithane, that has two public high schools, but seven Imam Hatip schools — five for girls — and eight technical schools.

“This illustrates what this government proposes for low income people,” she said, “that your son will end up as cheap labor and your daughter in an Imam Hatip.”

It’s sad that human beings can’t get free of this horrible god myth.

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