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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Education and the Sikh Temple Shooting

When I heard of the tragic shooting at the Sikh temple in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, one of the first things I thought of was that the shooter didn't know the difference between a Sikh and a Muslim. They are often confused because of their long beards and turbans, and in some of the accounts of the shooting, I saw where others had voiced the same idea.

There's a potential error in this line of thinking, however. An underlying assumption of it (or at least a potential underlying assumption of it) is that if the shooter had been better educated, he wouldn't have mistaken the Sikh temple for a Muslim mosque. But that isn't necessarily the case.  If the shooter had had more education (e.g., a class in comparative religion), he may have simply ended up shooting Muslims rather than Sikhs. That doesn't strike me (and hopefully no one else) as a better outcome.

There does seem to be a widely-held belief that more education is almost always the answer. Given that I've earned five degrees, it should be clear that I value education. However, it isn't the panacea that many people believe it is. As I've noted in earlier posts ("Stereotypes in War and Politics,""Terrorist Stereotypes and Misconceptions"), high levels of education have not prevented people from becoming terrorists. In fact, although they're repeatedly portrayed as poorly-educated, religious fanatics, who are motivated by visions of heavenly grandeur, in fact most are well-educated (especially when compared to the countries from where they come) and come from secular and middle class backgrounds.

Thus, while more education is almost certainly a good thing, it isn't the end all to be all. It won't end violence, prejudice, or xenophobia. It may help, but it won't end it.

1 comment:

  1. Education is good for society in terms of economics but unfortunately people but it's not a hundred percent deterrent of crime; that depends more on the individual.