A message to our students after the Paris Tragedy.

Posted: November 15, 2015 in Critical Pedagogy, CRT, Racism
Tags: , , ,

I’m writing this in the aftermath of the horrific and chilling events from Paris. Needless to say that all our thoughts are with the families and friends that have lost their loved ones during the devastating tragedy that occurred in the late hours of Friday night.

Why am I writing this post? Well, this is for all the educators who will return to their schools and classes on Monday morning still with the sad possibility that the death toll may have increased. This is a post to encourage teachers and leaders to think about their approach and how they will discuss the Paris tragedy with their students.

Firstly, let’s think about how the events have been reported by mainstream media – the media that our students may possibly consume – and also the thoughts, opinions and feelings that are being freely expressed on social media. It is one thing that our students will be subjected to the uncensored racist dirge and ill-informed bigotry that riddles social media but should students – without our help – assume that all the news coverage they see and hear is completely partisan and without political gain? For example, we will need to explain to our students that linking the Paris attacks with the rise of refugees in France is hideously inaccurate. We must also explain to our students and be honest with ourselves, that Western Foreign Policy has had a detrimental affect and caused more deaths. Without the invasion of Iraq, there would be no Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for the horror in Paris. If the ultimate goals of these terrorist attacks are to create hostility, hatred and separation between Muslims and non-Muslims in France and other Western countries then we are already witnessing and seeing the Islamophobic backlash. Our students must understand that after witnessing evil hate, we must, combat it with compassion, solidarity and understanding.

All our students need to learn the capacity of love before they have the courage to fight for it.

Secondly, it needs to be highlighted that although the events in Paris were obviously acts of hideous violence, where was the outrage when 43 people lost their lives in Beirut on Thursday? Or, indeed were was the vocal mourning for the 26 people who lost their lives in Baghdad? Where are the Lebanese flag twitter ribbons, where are the Solidarity for Beirut hashtags, where are the coloured lights on buildings indicating support and togetherness for the desolated families in Lebanon and Iraq? We live in a world where grief seems to have a cultural hierarchy. It is also essential for our students to realise that terrorist acts similar to those seen in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad kill tens and hundreds of people in places such as Palestine and Syria every single day. Let’s be confident to discuss with our students when does another dead body become more important than others? Is it only Western or white bodies that deserve our attention and our thoughts?

We should mourn for the lives lost in Paris, but perhaps we should also interrogate and think why we don’t mourn for lives lost elsewhere.

Thirdly, under no circumstance should our Muslim students apologise or feel that they need to apologise for these events. Spend less time in stating the bloody obvious that ISIL/Daesh do not represent Islam and more time reassuring our young Muslim pupils that they don’t need to feel ashamed of their identity, religion and beliefs. Why is this important to do in schools? The school and teachers, in most cases, are seen as authority or voice the adult (usually white, middle class) perspective, if students for one second start to think that we as educators share the same views of the moronic idiots that have plastered Islamophobic rants on social media or inaccurate generalisations from so-called experts on news coverage, we have a problem…a serious problem.

Take a read of this post from my friend, the brilliant Amjad Ali

Finally, we live a time where Muslim students are refereed to CONTEST (part of the PREVENT agenda) on a daily basis (there are currently eight referrals a day, 80% are not carried through and there is no real evidence that the system is actually working) for asking for Prayer rooms facilities, using the French word “l’ecoterrorisme” and even (unfortunately, this is also true) for wearing a shalwar kameez on non uniform day. It is always our job* to consider and understand  the importance of creating ‘safe spaces’ for our students (especially our Muslim students), where authentic debate and discussions  about the points I have raised, can happen without surveillance or suspicion.

Our students must be allowed to gain a comprehensive realisation and understanding of their world and a desire to improve it – and where necessary, change it.

*If you don’t think it is your job then I assume that you believe education has nothing to do with democracy, compassion, freedom and emancipation. Never forget that, “…a pedagogy that matters has a relationship to social change”

Comments
  1. […] I have written before, we live in a time where Muslim students are referred to Contest (part of the Prevent agenda) on a […]

  2. […] I have written before, we live in a time where Muslim students are referred to Contest (part of the Prevent agenda) on a […]

  3. […] have written previously about the need to consider and understand the importance of creating ‘safe spaces’ for our […]

  4. […] A message to our students after the Paris Tragedy. […]

  5. I wish you were my teacher when 9/11 happened, or at least a face I knew and could turn to when I got abused at school. Over a decade later I am now seeing history repeat itself with a member of my family at….the same school I attended all those years ago. I pray for peace all over the world. I pray that people see what the money and control hungry psychopaths are doing to the world.

  6. wfberkhof says:

    Brian, I think you missed the point Tait was trying to make. When he says we should show compassion, solidarity and understanding, he does not mean the Wahabist extremists, but the general muslim population that will sadly be held to answer for these crimes that they are not part of and are in fact also victims off.

    It’s like saying all christians are child raping pedofiles, when in fact it’s just the Catholic priests.😛

  7. teachwell says:

    Pure propaganda. Making out the suicide bombers were victims of cruel western society who had no choice is nonsense. Do you also wish to explain to your pupils why Yezidi women are being sold as sex slaves? What has that got to do with the war on Iraq? What about the Christians who are only allowed to live as long as they pay a tax? Or maybe you can explain why they have bombed the historical and cultural heritage of both Iraq and Syria which people who lived there were prepared to die for? Maybe explain some of that too.

    I believe the appeasers had excuses for Hitler too.

  8. Brian says:

    I believe I am neither a moron or an Islamaphobe. I worked in the middle east teaching local students (all muslim) for a number of years, Even though I have been back in the UK for several years I still receive emails from ex students and I will answer such an email this afternoon.

    I do however believe that your post shows an astonishing level of naivety.You will have seen what these individuals do to people who show them “compassion, solidarity and understanding”. I have a persdonal view of how bullying should be dealt with and it contains little compassion or understanding, other than for the victim.

    We are experiencing a potential reorganisation of world order and dangers not seen our civilised societies since world war two.

    A teaching colleague assured me about 15 months ago that these were “a few radicalised nutters who would swiftly be dealt with”. My view that this was not the case seems to have been borne out by events since even if only from a surface perspective.

    Although I will be happy to discuss the issues of the effects and suffering resulting form the Paris attacks, i do not see it as my place to try to explain the attacks, excuse the attacks or rationalise the attacks.

    Of course our muslim students should not be blamed for the Paris attacks, that for me is the obvious bit. Someone is however to blame and I do not believe we should be teaching students to show these people compassion and understanding, that is neither our responsibility nor our role, even if it were true.

  9. conorheaven says:

    Brilliant post Tai.

    My biggest fear is teachers not addressing and pushing it under the carpet. Now is exactly the time that teachers and leaders need to demonstratd the tolerance and respect for others – including defending them in the face of shocking views that social media is spouting at the minute.

  10. wfberkhof says:

    An excellent post Tait and a good reminder that the world is more nuanced than they (social) media might have us belief.

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