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ASK THE EXPERTS

The truth and nothing but

POSTED: November 7, 2012 4:00 a.m.

The Russian Tu-154 bumped hard on the runway in a jolting announcement to all onboard that we had arrived in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

I worked my way through the customs and immigration lines wishing that the late-night processing would go quickly. A warm hotel bed awaited.

Of course the process did not go quickly.

As the agent dug through my bags he began to pull out my books.

He dutifully wrote down the titles and author's names in a worn ledger.

I thought that odd given that they were only technical and business books.

He also took a photo of the front of each before quietly returning them to my bags.

He waved me through following the usual vigorous stamping of the pages in my passport. I was soon asleep at the Palace Hotel.

The next day with U.S. embassy personnel I mentioned the unusual customs inspection and was informed that it harked back to the soviet era.

Foreign reading materials were documented to help in the study of foreign societies. They were not looking for secret information just clues to outside cultures. I was informed the U.S. did precisely the same thing through consultants not Immigration Services.

Other people's books and especially their textbooks help define what they as a society learn and believe.

A review of books can provide insight on the opinions of a generation and how those views change over time.

I spent half of my fourth grade year in Texas.

We studied the Alamo for what seemed like weeks and there was not a dry eye in the class by the time that battle ended. Those Texans were heroes to their last breath and they created a legend that we kids had to live by.

Decades later some nasty historians did a complete research of all the Alamo facts. They went back and read every document, letter and journal preserved in the archives. They dug around the site and reviewed information untouched for generations.The history they revealed was substantially different from that in my fourth grade history book.

What goes into textbooks spurs controversy from various sides of any argument. It should.

What we read and what we teach shapes our children, our culture and our future for decades hence.

Whether the topic is evolution, sexual education or snippets of a less than glorious past, people are going to have strong opinions one way or the other.

It takes a long time to move past some ideological point that we were taught to believe. The Alamo is just one small example.

Government agencies try to learn from what we read and what others read. It helps them predict social, military and political responses. They learn what certain leaders and personalities believe and when they know that they know how to either work with them, or render them irrelevant.

The battle between reality and what is acceptable for inclusion into textbooks continues to rage. The arguments are not just here in Georgia or the U.S.

They rage in countries across the world.

The French argue about the role of capitalism in their country. The Chinese wrestle with how to fit Tiananmen Square into textbooks when the images of those tanks can be found across the Internet.

How Japanese texts end World War II is rather different than how my dad tells it.

Most of these literary battles will eventually come to an end.

Freedom, access to information, the desire to learn and to apply reason to multiple information sources continues to grow here and worldwide.

As textbooks give way to the ability to find information on the Web, those that attempt to slant history and bury facts will themselves become irrelevant.

It will not happen overnight, but at some point there will be no need to photograph the covers of books.

The Internet will give you everything you could possibility want to know.

Charlie Auvermann is a longtime Dawson County resident and former editor of the Dawson Community News. He is also the executive director of the local development authority.

 

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