My own Egyptian moment (Part 2)

Previously, in the spring, I wrote about events in Egypt and my own feelings as a teacher. Given recent events, I’m revisiting these thoughts and thinking about my caution at the time, my fear that power will triumph over “education”.

By education, I mean what we SHOULD be teaching in schools. Here, in Egypt or in Kalamazoo. Teaching in a way that students realize their obligations as social human beings on this planet, to use their time for peace and in the vein of that ancient Greek Socrates, “contribute to the good”.

Recent events in America and Canada show the face of power – how we very much (and at all times do) are a police state. The level doesn’t matter, you either are or you aren’t. Read this post, “What have we been teaching?”, for more on this issue but as said there, “Frighteningly so, we have taught this”. Meaning, our own teaching and place as teachers has led to the baton, the tazer, the pepper spray, the hate, the thick lines of division…..

I don’t have answers and I’m being of necessity vague. But where is the curriculum in our schools that confronts students with the social realities of the day? Why isn’t “Peace” a subject and a credit course? Why is history as a subject a litany and list of who hit who?

I’m going to resurrect Project Peace this year. Do my own part but also ask myself how I can do more. Do more to raise the awareness of the students I’m investing my own energy and being toward. What can you do?

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ddeubel

Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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2 Responses

  1. Torn Halves says:

    David, Great to see someone grabbing the political bull by its horns.

    By “Egyptian moment” do you mean the moment when teaching ceases to be unbearably light?

    There are volumes to be written about this subject. Let me just pull a couple of points at random.

    Is the issue here really peace? Here, and in education generally, are the issues not truth, justice, goodness and beauty? We want a good society, but we might have to fight for it. (Have you not had a Libyan moment?) And of course fighting is not just about brandishing AK47s. There will be a war of words and an internal psychological war that we have to wage against the nasty little Warren Buffet that each of us finds within ourselves.

    A second random point: Schooling sucks in a thousand ways, but let’s not get things out of proportion. A greater share of the blame lies with nasty stuff going on beyond the school. I just came back from spending time with a lovely family who have an absolutely gorgeous 6-year-old daughter. She has a talent for drawing and could grow up to be a wonderfully sensitive and original woman. I watched her watching a Barbie animated film on TV, interspersed with lots of cleverly placed ads for nasty plastic stuff related to things seen in the film. She was hooked. In the breaks she was running around saying “I want this,” and “I want that,” and “I want to be this,” and “I want to be that”.

    If that were the only programme she would ever see, it would be enough, but she will see hundreds, if not thousands, of such programmes, and the hooks will multiply.

    How hard is it for a teacher to then try to unhook students and get them to engage with the social realities you refer to?

  2. ddeubel says:

    Torn,

    You raise some great ideas and even more questions, thanks. Something we all need to dialogue more with, with others.

    Yes, that’s what my Egyptian moment was – a kind of recognition that teaching is more about getting students to challenge their own place/ideas than just crossing “t”s and dotting “i”s. Even more, it was not just to recognize this but to do something about it, to act.

    Your point is taken about sometimes having to fight. It’s all in how you do it though. The gun is not the only way to fight, nor are bombs however we pretend they are precise. But fight, you are right.

    Peace? I think I mean something different than you or many might think of when this word rises its head. I don’t just mean all the gooey love, hugs, kisses that it might evoke. I mean, the things you state – truth, justice etc… but also a teaching of students that there are alternatives, there is a place for a citizen that is “strong” because they are civil, constructive and concerned for others.

    In my own country, however much I like Canada and the schools here (and you are right, it isn’t all bad – lots of the horrible stuff is beyond school, point taken), there is a stark warrior, brute, war, violent attitude prevalent. Those “in” this society, don’t see it. But I see it every day – today, they are closing parliament and honoring our soldiers who went to Libya. What does that message tell us, when men in uniform take precedence over all those peacefully contributing to the world. And don’t get me started about the glorification of violence – being a man etc…

    I think we need schools that give an alternative view and allow students to see clearly the forces that act upon them (even if outside of school but I’d say they are inside school also). We need more teachers understanding that their role is to build a civil, peaceful society. That we should value the caregivers much more than the generals and soldiers.

    But it is hard for teachers – responsible for so much. I just hope and ask that we start with some small cracks, that’s how the light gets in….

    David

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