Alan Charles Kors writes in Education for Democracy that justice, freedom, peace, and mutual forbearance are not "the normal state of things in human affairs"; they are the exception. What has the more common lot of humanity been? What understanding of the "normal state of things" has driven generations of democrats in the U.S. and elsewhere to build, strengthen, and defend free society?
Students should have answers to these questions. As Diane Ravitch has shown in "Leaving Reality Out," textbooks don't supply them. We don't want to drown our children in the grim realities of tyranny, but the subject deserves their serious study. They should know, for example, that tyrannical regimes often strengthen their power by stirring latent resentments—whether against Jews and Gypsies in Hitler's Germany, teachers and intellectuals in Mao's China, or recently Tutsis in Rwanda.
And where there's tyranny, there's also heroic, creative resistance. The stories are inspiring—and constitute a vital piece of students' civic development.
In "Genocide in Rwanda," we witness the terrible genocide of Rwanda's minority Tutsis. And in "Reading Lolita in Tehran," we witness the resilience of Iranian women who find freedom in literature.
Leaving Reality Out
How Textbooks (Don’t) Teach About Tyranny
By Diane Ravitch
Recommended Readings on Totalitarianism and Tyranny
By Arch Puddington
Glimpses of Tyranny and Resistance
Genocide in Rwanda
By Philip Gourevitch
Reading Lolita in Tehran
By Azar Nafisi