Sympathy for the Devil: Why It Is Important for Us to Learn Terrorist's Points of View
I recently got into an argument with one of my friends on the ethics of a university class being taught at UNC Chapel Hill called "The Literatures of 9/11". She stated that this is an awful class that is biased and warping the minds of students by showing only one side-- the side of the terrorists. She called it biased, and said that if people wanted to learn about the other side's point of view, they should do it on their time. They should show a lot more of the heroes and the tragedy of 9/11. She also told me that "You didn't have to say anything if you don't agree."
Here's an article about the class for those who want to learn more about it: http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/23978/
I personally do not think I know enough about the class to make an opinion on if it is ethical or not. If what the article I linked above is true, then the class is poorly run because the professor favors students who agree with him. However, I am disturbed by my friend's comments. I think classes that show the other side's point of view is very important, and perhaps even essential in an education.
In Puritan times, witches were considered as evil as we consider Isis. Three Sovereigns for Sarah displays the importance of learning both sides.
The World Is Not Black and White
Because we don't live in the world of Saturday morning cartoons, good and evil is not simple. It actually gets very complicated because all sides think they are in the right and it is important that we learn the reasoning from the other sides.
Only Teaching One Side Is Biased and Is a Popular Method of Terrorists If you look at terrorist events like the Holocaust, you'll find out a lot of people got sent to concentration camps or executed because they didn't agree with the Nazis. Books, music, and newspapers that don't agree with the Nazi propaganda get burned or banned. Children were taught at a very young age to hate the Jews with children's books like The Poisonous Mushroom. In Pakistan, the Taliban actually encourage people to drop out of school, saying that education is the work of evil. Women especially were encouraged to stop going to school. To learn more about how the Taliban infiltrated countries, I recommend reading I Am Malala, who lived through the Taliban infiltrating her home country, Pakistan.
Ignorance is easily led and managed, which is why people like Adolf Hitler try to obliterate any evidence that shows sympathy to the other side.
This is why we must do the opposite. Learning only one side makes us ignorant ourselves, and that allows us to be easily manipulated. We need to learn all sides to make educated opinions ourselves. This includes the sides we don't want to learn. If we learn about the destruction and horror caused by Al-Quaeda in 9/11 without even knowing why, then we stop thinking about them as human and start thinking about them as inferior evil, which is exactly what they think of us. So let's not be like them.
But this class you mentioned only teaches one side. That's bad, right? Here's the thing: We grew up believing in the other side. All through school we learned about the destruction on our side, the tragedies and the loss. Many of us lost loved ones in 9/11 or have loved ones who were killed by various terrorist groups or who survived the Holocaust. We read The Diary of Anne Frank in school. We watched footage of 9/11 and read newspaper articles. More recently, we experienced the devastation of the Boston Marathon bombing. We are already surrounded with one side. Hell, we are that side. Having a class focusing entirely on another side of the equation is necessary. We don't need to know more about the side we're already on. We need to know more about the other sides.
So if we lived in a vacuum, then having a class dedicated to one side is a problem. But we don't.
Suki Kim Teaches in One of the Most Oppressed Countries in the World and Urges Her Former Students to Not Rebel.
The Importance to Society to Learn All Sides
We need to learn opposing sides to develop educated opinions and to learn how to think critically. But understanding other points of views also helps prevent acts of terrorism in the future.
Only taking in biased information breeds intolerance, which is what acts of terrorism feeds off of. We see it in our society all the time with a lot of hatred against Muslims or Christians, or homosexuals, or people of other races or culture. This general intolerance leads to organizations like the KKK and Westboro Baptist Church. It also causes controversies that should be non-issues, like an Islamic community center built near Ground Zero, or a man kissing his boyfriend on TV.
Studying the points of view and history of terrorist groups can also take away their power. As much as we like to believe that the Holocaust never would have happened if Hitler got accepted into art school there was a lot more than that going on. Germany was experiencing a huge depression after World War I. Unemployment rates were astronomical and inflation was rising so high that it was cheaper to literally burn money for heat than it was to just get fuel. People needed someone to blame and they needed to belong again. They were looking for a leader, any leader, and Hitler stepped up. If he didn't, another future dictator would have. As the Nazis' power grew, more people pledged their loyalty out of fear.
Vulnerable people need someone to guide them and often it is a terrorist. Isis does the same thing today with recruitment videos posted on social media. If we know why people turn towards hatred, then we can find possible targets of hate groups and help them before the greedy and corrupt manipulate them.