Nobody has a right to call anybody ‘ignorant’

Nobody has a right to call anybody ‘ignorant’

It was in the Aegean city of İzmir where I attended middle school and high school, at İzmir American College. I never had a disabled classmate or a Kurdish one, not even a poor one. When I graduated I was able to explain the American civil war and the discrimination against blacks in the U.S., but my knowledge about Turkish society was almost zero. I guess I only knew about the problems of Alevis in those years and that was due to the Madımak incident that happened then and I had chosen the Alevis as a topic in my term papers.

Self-criticism is needed for the advancement of societies, just like individuals. Otherwise we will keep on making the same mistakes.  

After the elections we have witnessed, again, quite a lot of people from the schooled segment of Turkish society unfortunately despising a significant portion of the people, labeling them as “ignorant.”

Let this be the last election where one accuses the other of being ignorant. As a matter of fact, we are not much different from each other; the schooled and the unschooled of this country are wrong and incomplete in terms of active citizenship. Both of these segments are weak in raising active citizens because the school education of none of us has covered this. Those who had better opportunities maybe had a better chance to develop these skills because they had the financial means to pay for a better education. But even theirs is a faulty active citizenship education.

Let us take a look at the discrimination in private schools that you need to pay a fee for. For instance, there are parents who strive not to have any disabled children in their kid’s class, whereas a non-disabled kid can learn a lot of things from a disabled kid and can actually turn into another person. These parents are blocking the way for their kids to become better people.

Or let’s take poverty. Private schools exclude poor students to a great extent. Well, there is a market there and these schools can only support this many poor students, but at least they can create an awareness of poverty at school. The school can discuss poverty as a social phenomenon. They can raise awareness in these kids.

In the sterile environment created in these schools kids who are similar to each other learn matters common to them and then join the Turkish society. Then, a large portion of them may make wrong and unjust comments on society.

A graduate of one of the best colleges in Turkey, for instance, can say, “They are living off my taxes. Of course they need to do whatever I tell them,” about the Kurds. They can easily forget that the color of the passport of a Kurdish citizen and their own are the same.

Batuhan Aydagül from the Education Reform Initiative argued that private schools should be more open to include teachers from different backgrounds. He said, “Private schools hire teachers with a homogeneous tendency. A Kurdish teacher has a very low probability of finding a job in a private school. Generally, private schools hire ‘presentable’ young women and men from the Aegean coast because the parents prefer them. Everybody is creating a bubble. Inside it there are shopping centers, residential sites, schools surrounded by walls and the kid is at the center. When will the kid get together with Turkish society? When will they see the difference?” 

And as a last point: If this society has remained ignorant, then the role of past governments is huge. For this reason, nobody has the right to call the other “ignorant.”

The people of this country did not want to be ignorant, they were made ignorant. Those who ruled this country in the 1960s and 1970s did not extend the five-year compulsory education. Between the years 1975 and 1994, this country was ruled by secular governments. Not even one of them extended the five-year primary education to eight years. Eight-year compulsory education was only introduced in 1997.

What I am saying is if we want social peace, then before accusing the other of ignorance let us talk with knowledge and conscience. Let us self-criticize. Let us take responsibility for our faults. Let us try to change our viewpoint. Let us demand that differences and diversity are introduced in our schools. Let us do what is required of us to do, and only then will we have a right to say anything to others.