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The "Uncomfortable" Educator

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.

Download as a ppt   |   Listening worksheet  |  Original PPT


Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0

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 myself
and make use of others. Only, the confession of my crimes
allows me to begin again lighter in heart and to taste a
double enjoyment, first of my nature and secondly of
a charming repentance – The Fall, Albert Camus
 
 
When we bomb we do so with regret.
Not for us the intent to maim;
it is with pure heart we send our wrath.
When we speak and aim
we do so with precision, concision.
We have surveyed the battlefield:
the houses, mosques and universities,
along with barracks and infirmaries.
 
We know all the trajectories
of rhetoric and falling bricks,
of cleansing words and shredding steel.
We feel, for those peripherals;
those to the side, so to speak
when we wreak our replies
into an infinity of eyes for eyes.
 
We wish, no, we lament
that our enemies found themselves
in the wrong place: a schoolyard,
a hospital, a friend’s basement.
They put themselves in the midst
of all our accidental excesses.
Though, we planned very well;
hell, we know Picasso’s knell.
We know Ruben’s too;
and now, how to keep babies out of view.
We are, after all, and after The Fall,
well educated.
 
You must understand our dilemma:
we wish no harm to innocents.
We care for the children,
the mothers, sisters, yeah,
even brothers and their lovers.
We also care for those without clothes,
and walkers, talkers, pranksters, petty thieves;
even these and even those
who sit on couches: heaven knows.
 
But all this is out of our hands.
I’m afraid our ordinances
are preordained.
You see, our apologies
and staged, pro forma colloquies
are prepared in advance.
For, we know the limbless,
those with and without faces;
we know the charred remains.
We know all those children and their games
torn asunder for eternity;
just not the names, not the names.
 
Surely, you understand the precedent?
We are all vile and innocent it seems,
by necessity and accident,
we can no longer tell
the dreamer from the dreams..

Simon Carroll, PhD
University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada


* Jeremiad - a long, mournful lament

Views: 102

Tags: curriculum, gaza, israel, palestine, peace, war, world_issues

Comment by Miroslawa Dyka-Plonka on July 20, 2014 at 8:45pm

I totally agree with you-we should show our students the world behind the classroom, especially when it is going topsy-turvy .Thanx for the video-I shared it with friends and in my Comenius group of students from Poland, Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece and Italy on FB.Greetings from Poland, Mirka


Supporter
Comment by ddeubel on July 21, 2014 at 1:11pm

Agreed Miroslawa but be careful. You alone know the sensitivities and "limits" in your own classroom and school. But if handled well, it is important that we deal with the real world and not keep our classroom behind 4 walls and overly protected, hygienic.

Greetings from here in Guatemala. . 

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