Published: February 7, 2013
News out of China this past week has shown a more liberal policy toward the media, as government officials seem to be easing restrictions against newspapers and the Internet.
True, some topics such as Taiwan and dissident groups are still off-limits, but there seems to be an easing of restrictions at the highest levels of the government.
And then there were stories coming out of Mali last week about how Islamist insurgents destroyed thousands of priceless historic documents dating back to the 13th century.
The destruction was reminiscent of the destruction of statues of the Buddha in Afghanistan by the Taliban a decade ago.
So let’s see if we can do some comparisons here. Certainly the parallels may not be exact, but they are close enough to perhaps indicate some trends.
In the United States education of men and women is a priority.
In fact, there are numerous programs, both government and private, to insure under-represented minorities have access to the education system.
The media, including newspapers and the Internet, are pretty much free to do what they want.
In China, officials have placed a high priority on education and in parallel, Chinese officials have perhaps begun to realize the futility of trying to censor the media.
But in countries run by Islamist extremists, education of women is certainly frowned upon, if not outright forbidden.
And as for free speech, well, government-sanctioned death threats against writers are the norm.
There seems to be a direct connection between education and free expression.
The more people learn, the more they want to learn.
Education implies the ability to ask questions and challenge existing dogma.
And free expression is often the vehicle by which that debate takes place.