Don’t target the schools

Don’t target the schools

One of the most important names in the history of democracy and secularism is the French Leon Gambetta. He was the president in France in 1881-1882. He was a staunch secular, loyal to the Jacobin tradition, but he is against a new revolution; he defends the “general vote.”

He is one of the most interesting figures in the journey of the revolutionary Jacobin republic to liberal democracy.

He supported the firing of civil officials and teachers who went to Sunday prayers and led an unrelenting war against the Catholic congregations. “Clericalism; that’s the enemy!” is one of his famous statements. Clericalism, that is, those favoring the church.

Yet, President Gambetta fervently supported the Jesuits and Catholic missionaries in North Africa. When asked why he had this contradictory attitude, his answer was legendary.
“Our secularism is not for export.”

Because these Catholic brotherhoods, which furious seculars in France wanted to crush them as “internal enemies,” were spreading French and French culture via the schools they opened abroad (Robert Gildea, France 1870-1914, pages. 49, 90).

Gül’s words

I recalled Gambetta when I read Gül’s words.

“I went to the inauguration of these schools. They have nice activities. We should not get them involved with this thing,” said President Gül.

His words reflect common sense. It is an example of an analytical approach, instead of a general hate and destruction.

Those working in the public only get their orders from the state. There cannot be state work done with the instruction of an organization this or that; you can fight with it via the legal system, using the courts.

But targeting the schools and even going further, asking foreign states to close down these schools is very wrong.

I had written articles talking about Gambetta during the Feb. 28 period. I had underlined that even if as staunchly secular as Gambetta, they should also have an awareness of Turkish as much as he had of French.

The anger of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) should never target schools, teachers and students.

Don’t the families know?

Not only in Turkey, but abroad as well, thousands of teachers are worried about their future. Thousands of youngsters look with worry to their future. Thousands of families fear how their children will be stigmatized due to the schools from which they will graduate.

“Take your kids from these schools!”

All right, but is it that easy? The teachers and friends the kids have gotten used to – Where will they go after the closure? Does the Ministry of Education not know how the problem of getting adopted is an important issue for children at that age? Can the Families not differentiate between right and wrong and are going to learn this from political authority?

Schools obviously need to be controlled according to the standards of the Ministry of Education and they are indeed controlled.

They controlled them intensely during Feb. 28. The only yardstick of an inspector in education should be “the standards of education.”

It is both wrong to have politics in schools and make them political targets. Unfortunately political polarization and anger do not only leave no room for peace in society, they inflict wounds in education.

Gül’s warning comes timely. We need to avoid the export of anger into the schools. Mr. Bülent Arınç, Mr. Hayati Yazıcı, you are lawyers... Professor Nabi Avcı, you are an academic and intellectual. Am I wrong?

Can everything be politics? Aren’t there humane, legal and pedagogical values above politics?