Turkey cannot advance with ‘obedient citizens’

Turkey cannot advance with ‘obedient citizens’

When I was in junior high, every year they would take us to the ancient city of Ephesus, split us into two groups and make us debate on a given subject. We were not allowed to select our group, thus, the view we defended could actually be opposing our personal view. 

At first, I remember having a very difficult time defending the opposite of my personal view. In order to be able to do this, I had to view my own idea critically. As a result, this exercise had taught us children to think critically, to defend each idea and to practice self-criticism. 

In our school, a student would be able to ask a teacher, “What good is this information for me?” A student was able to say his or her idea freely, would have opposing ideas to the teacher and discuss them. 

In school, maybe more important than classes, there would be committees and councils formed. It was encouraged that students should take part in the school’s administration. 

I attended the American Collegiate Institute in İzmir. But this shouldn’t make you think that this kind of education was limited to private schools only. At that time, even if the curriculum may not have been as liberal, students in state schools were also given similar opportunities. The education offered in state schools in the 90s was much better compared to today’s education. If a child scored well enough to enter both a private school and an Anatolian High School, the family, even if they were financially able to afford the private school, would think many times before they choose the school. 

Today, the state of our education is evident. PISA results are getting worse every passing year, we go even lower than the already bottom spots. The state of educators and administrators is pathetic. They are fixated on the length of skirts of schoolgirls and co-ed classes. Administrators worry about New Year celebrations in schools. Their biggest priorities are imam schools and vocational religious high schools. Do you think critical thinking would find its place in such an environment? 

Those who do not know how to think critically cannot go pursue in science. Similarly, they would not be able to solve problems. They would not be able to question. 

Those who do not know how to think critically cannot make social peace. 

Those individuals who know how to think critically, test prejudgments, assumptions and knowledge; they discuss results; they do not fall into traps. 

Those individuals who know how to think critically are flexible, patient and open to changes. 

Critical thinking is a must for becoming an individual, a citizen, a literate, politically and legally, for ethical understanding, for analyzing and using the language, for reconciliation, for the culture of peace, to be able to decide and abide by the decisions made. 

At a place where religious classes are compulsory, where the content of education is nationalistic and designed by a religious mentality, we cannot talk about critical thinking. 

The current education system is raising a generation of “approved citizens” based on duties and not on rights, not as active citizens but as passive ones. 

It is one thing to urge a child to love his or her country and its people, but it is another thing to make them believe that they live as an individual in a homogenous nation in a country surrounded by threats and dangers. In the latter, there is no space for critical thinking, there is a design for an obedient society. 

The Education Reform Initiative (ERG) which offers critical education and provides critical thinking training for teachers in cooperation with the education ministry has angered the education ministry. The deputy undersecretary has accused the ERG for eroding the nation’s confidence on and the reputation of the state, by criticizing the PISA results and for adopting an intention to create pessimism in students and parents. 
It is a huge injustice to blame an institution that has devoted itself to explain the importance of critical thinking and to developing the education system in Turkey of being evil-minded because it has criticized them.  

An institute that teaches criticizing is criticized for criticizing. Even the sentence sounds funny. 

It is a problem, as a matter of fact, if an institution operating in the field of education does not criticize this failed system. 

Administrators who bear responsibility, instead of being angry at these criticisms and call their staff not to return invitations from the ERG, if they actually lend an ear to the ERG critics, then everything would be better. 

If the level of our average university graduate is lower than that of a Japanese drop-out, then the confidence eroding factor here is not these criticisms, it is the state itself.