Social peace impossible with this education system
Private schools in Turkey have “protective walls,” and many realities of Turkey are kept outside these schools, meaning prejudiced individuals lacking in active citizenship skills are raised in these schools.
Indeed, it is not private schools that are the issue in Turkey; the bigger portion of the problem is state schools. Discrimination has been infused into almost everybody’s veins across Turkey because it has been injected through the education system. While in private schools, some parents demand that no child with disabilities is in their kid’s class, a parent in a state school is able to demand that “no Roma is in my child’s class.”
Kids are discriminated against in schools for several reasons such as poverty, ethnicity, culture and religious identity. We have such an education system that there are lessons that relate how Armenians are the enemies, even as an Armenian child is present in class. After this, we have expectations that this society will live together happily.
Our priority issue is social peace. In order to achieve this, an awareness based on human rights has to be created. Children should learn from an early age to defend their rights and, at the same time, raise their voices when the right of a person they do not necessarily know is violated.
The director of the Education Reform Initiative, Batuhan Aydagül, upon my question, told me what should be done in schools on the road to building a social peace.
• Social issues and dynamics should be allowed to enter schools. For instance recent history, Dersim, poverty and environmental issues should be discussed and facilitated by a teacher. What is important is not for children to convince each other; it is enough if they learn to listen to each other. They should learn this while they are small: “There are people in life who think differently than me, who look different and who act different. I should get to know these people, not be afraid of them and respect the differences.” Even if you give only this consciousness to a child in a school when that child becomes an adult, he or she would say in life: “You are thinking differently but that does not make me your enemy.”
• More freedom should be granted to schools. The school should be the school of the neighborhood; the diversity of the neighborhood should enter the school. There should be transitivity. For instance, in a school in Chicago, students of Hispanic origin exhibit their handicrafts. Similar things should be here also. Children feel belonging to things they know because it is important that he feels a sense of belonging to the school. Children do not want to stay in places in which they feel no belonging. If they are forced to stay, then they are unsuccessful. Parents should be aware of this and demand more freedom for schools from the state.
• Teachers should be educated. Do not forget that we have been educated in the same system that we criticize the teachers of. Critical thinking skills should be taught to teachers.
• Textbooks should be transformed into publications that use a language of peace, practice no discrimination, put an end to any human rights violations, remain objective and include recent history. The message textbooks should give is that “Society in Turkey is a diverse one and this is richness.” If the diversity in society is permitted and lives in schools, children will not be like fish out of water when they graduate. This is true for those who attend İmam-Hatip schools, as well as Robert College. Today, we think that one side is more discriminatory; whereas, all sides are equally discriminatory. There are also those who are the most discriminated against, for instance the disabled, Syriacs and the Roma. Everybody discriminates against everybody else. Only if we remove this discrimination from schools can we create a generation that will live together peacefully.
If society in Turkey is to co-habit, this can only be achieved when the education system defends diversity, not uniformity.