Today, I decided to ‘unfollow’ a friend on my Facebook newsfeed due to her crude comments towards the attacks on Gaza. With friends across religions (and no religion at all!) it was unsettling to have to hide her posts.
This woman's post was about how she wished her leaders would grow a pair (it was actually along the lines of someone lending him a pair) so they could fight off all the critics and and stick to their attack on Gaza. How could a smart, well travelled and ‘educated’ woman, be oblivious to the killing of innocent women, children and men, that was happening?
I won’t comment on the politics and so-called leaders who are responsible for these killings (According to the Globe and Mail, over 400 Gazans have been killed in two weeks, along with 18 Israelis). But as an educator, I will say that key stakeholders in education have a significant, albeit more general, role in all of this, especially if we accept Krishnamurti's assertion that education's purpose involves how we relate to ourselves and one another. Parents perpetuate their own fears (and hatred) by passing them on to the next generation; schools and teachers typically fail to push students to analyze different sides of an issue and to be aware of what is happening right now, in the real world. The curriculum and textbooks don’t often promote media literacy over a passive acceptance of ads, assertions, and propaganda.
I visited a social justice focused alternative middle school in Toronto a few years ago. While some elements were interesting (students voted on units in certain subjects, and studied topics including AIDS in Africa, and the Israel-Palestine conflict), I felt that the educators’ own opinions were leading in the delivery. Now, if students were encouraged to study the many sides of these issues and come to their own informed opinions, I think that could bring a balanced perspective, and prevent the apathy and polarized hatred that continues to be generated on both sides.
This was not the first time I have felt stirred in this way. Early on in my Master’s course in Development Studies, I recall being in a seminar, arguing with a classmate over an analogy of development practitioners being seen as “doctors” and those in developing countries being seen as “patients”. He was adamant that this made sense. I felt this was ridiculous and arrogant, and told him so. The seminar instructor told me I was out of line. For the next few weeks, I questioned the whole field of development and my decision to be in it. In time, I slowly realized that ideas around development, conflict, and people themselves, didn’t just fall into two categories (right and wrong, left or right, smart and stupid), as much as I wanted them to. There were so many shades of gray, and it was important for me to be exposed to that range, to push myself to expand. And I did.
Years later, I know better than to over-generalize and think of all Israelis as Zionists or to think of all Palestinians as supporting Hamas. All I know is that innocent women, children and men continue to be killed as we watch, feeling helpless.
My heart goes out to the children, women and men being killed in Gaza as the world watches on. I hope our collective awareness and continued protests will lead to insistence that powerful governments not support such violence. I also hope our own children will not carry this hatred forward.
A passionate educator.. on a quest for a schooling model to love!