I've always been one to caution teachers about bringing up / raising / planning for controversial issues in the language classroom. In most classrooms it just isn't our job or also worth the risk. We aren't trained counselors and we will never know when the opinions/ideas of these topics will cause harm to students. And a teachers number one dictum is "Do no harm". Just like all of the jobs that involve human betterment. For a nice debate on the topic of "PARSNIPS" ( politics, alcohol, religion, sex, narcotics, isms, pork). - go HERE.
Still, I do think in some classrooms, there is an opportunity to broach controversial subjects, especially those that I think involve students directly. Stories in the news, local issues, topics related to the students own age group/interests but especially peace/conflict. We don't just teach a subject, we teach the future of our world and there is too damn little talk about peace or injection of this vital subject into our school curriculum.
There is another place where I think teachers should speak up more - this is the public realm, among our colleagues and in our professional body. As teachers we shouldn't expect our students to become critical thinking, passionate and involved citizens without also demonstrating these qualities ourselves. Now I do understand that we all have our own "barometer", some will speak out loud and forcefully, others will do their best in other ways to raise their voice and make the world a better place.
The lack of "voice" in the ELT community regarding the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is alarming. Turgay Evren, a teacher in Instanbul has spoken up about this, deploring how so many in the ELT community are dead silent. I applaud his courage. We need more of this. I'm adding my voice with the presentation below.
I also recommend looking at our videos about peace, some gems there including Babalok and Neighbors. Also Project Peace, videos teachers have made and shared here to promote peace in education. Also see our blog posts about peace. This video explains well the background of the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. For teachers, I highly recommend taking the time to watch this lecture. It gives an overview of the "nuts and bolts" of why this conflict is like it is, right now.
I am not taking sides. But my own view is very matter of fact, as I've witnessed this conflict over the years to present. What constantly happens is "collective punishment". Both sides partake but it is more effectively rolled out by Israel. Moshe Dyan's declaration that "collective punishment is so far working" continues through to today, through Sharon and to Netanyahu. Works even better now so many Israelis have been "educated" to view Palestinians as underclass, less, gross, inhuman. Works the same way with the Palestinians, disinformation, violence but they have no way to following up with "disproportionate force" - a key feature of the collective punishment approach.
I won't get into the "who threw the first stone" debate. It isn't worthy of attention and I'll leave that for the barbarians on both side. Bottom line, Israel is killing and collectively punishing innocent people. It must stop. As teachers we need raise our voices as concerned, involved citizens. To not do so means we are complicit as silent witnesses to this slaughter.
Let each of us teachers speak up, each of us in our own way .... in our classrooms or outside them.
PS. This poem affected me and I'll share it with you. It explains and laments the Israeli rhetoric and viewpoint so often drummed out in all media.
A Bomber’s Jeremiad*
I haven’t changed my way of life; I continue to love myselfand make use of others. Only, the confession of my crimesallows me to begin again lighter in heart and to taste adouble enjoyment, first of my nature and secondly ofa charming repentance – The Fall, Albert Camus
* Jeremiad - a long, mournful lament
Add a Remark