If the education system uses teaching methods that foster understanding of the interdependencies of humans and an appreciation of ethnic, linguistic, cultural and historical differences, the resort to mindless violence would be avoided, writes Debashis Chakrabarti (Prof.), professor at the School of Journalism & Communication at Addis Abeba University.
No one can deny that violence is a threat to civilization. Most countries are eager to find long-term solutions or a way out from this deadly malady. In studying the phenomenon of violence, the bottom-line questions are – what are the ways to reduce its occurrences and how to minimise its negative impact on society?
It has been suggested by some scholars that the individual-psychological approach may offer the main highway in combating violence and terrorism. But of late, researchers have observed that education and its values are one of the most effective deterrents to today’s nihilistic trend of anarchy.
There is no single agreement on how to nip in the bud the use of violence or to react consequently. For radical groups, religious and ethnic extremism breeds an ideology of political-fanaticism, which is dangerous to freedom, democracy and peace. This is a common feature for all the countries affected by violence and terrorism today.
How has this phenomenon been dealt with in the education systems in countries ruined by the direct onslaught of brutality and bloodshed? Does an anarchistic philosophy take root in a society where moral leadership has been totally discredited?
And does violence and terrorism come easily to those who grow up in the absence of spiritual leadership? Is nationalism, which pervades most teaching of history and geography, the only means of fostering group identity and understanding of the heterogeneity of the modern world?
Albert Einstein once wrote, “A method which might help break the spell of nationalism should be involved whereby history is taught, without creating in the minds of students an obsession with the past, as has so often been the case.”
He also said that to promote pacifism, it is important to teach geography and history in such a way as to foster sympathetic understanding for the national characteristics of the different countries in the world, especially of those whom were described as ‘backward’.
Einstein’s emphasis on education, particularly in the fields of history and geography, and his comments on habits of description seem to be important keys to the long-term solutions of political terrorism and related problems.
An obsession with the past is what political jingoism is all about. It enslaves the mind and preoccupies it with images of retribution for past injustices. Rather than focusing on the present situation and fostering harmonious relations, people focus on past conditions deemed undesirable and unjust.
By looking back and devoting one’s energies to rectifying past injustices or inequities, one merely perpetuates those same injustices and inequities under the guise of righting the balance of power. This is true of most nationalistically-inspired terrorist movements, be they in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Latin America, India or Spain.
If the educational system uses teaching methods that foster an understanding of the interdependence of humans and an appreciation of ethnic, linguistic, cultural and historical differences, the resort to violence and terror would be unnecessary.
The greatest stumbling block, however, is that the kind of epistemology that fosters such attitudes is not widespread among researchers, policy makers and administrators. They are the key players in deciding the destiny of our future generations.
It is understood that the political and educational counteractions aimed at reducing support for the provocation of violence is necessary and should be undertaken as a long-term task, though it is bound to prove extremely difficult.
The education system must be geared to inculcate the values of philosophical tolerance in young minds. Tolerance of differing opinions were part of the liberal philosophy. But the tragedy is that such values are sharply diminishing from the educated parts of society, allowing radical groups to influence the youths and attract them.
A democracy that does not wish to increase militancy must learn to live and argue with radical elements in the society; however fruitless those arguments may be, at least in the short run. The long-term effort should be to demystify the cruel paths of self-destruction and violence by instilling rationality and the spirits of democratic ideals in young minds.
The focus should be on developing an educational system that fosters the most important values of secularism, democracy and rationality, if a rational peaceful world order is to be achieved. These values would act as deterrents to militancy, violence and terrorism more effectively than any of the law enforcement measures taken by government.
The unconventional path of terror and brutality cannot be defeated by state-sponsered armed forces only. It will only make the militants more determined at the cost of destruction and bloodshed. Education policy makers ought to think about this critical role of education during the framing policies towards building an elite society with educated and inspired youths.
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