This man’s education could be put to better use!

 

This is a well written document, presumably produced by someone who has received an education but would prefer to keep others in ignorance. What is to be gained?

This is a well written document, presumably produced by someone who has received an education but would prefer to keep others in ignorance. What is to be gained?

 

It requires an educated person to construct a document, which takes account of good grammar and spelling. It is an even greater achievement to do so in what may be the writer’s second or even third language. Generally speaking when an individual has attained this level of proficiency it is, at least in part, because they have received the support of a teacher.

The above image of a document was given to me this morning by a friend from Pakistan. It had been pushed under the door of an acquaintance in Karachi who has had a long standing commitment to the education of children in that city. As an advocate of education this person has always treated children as individuals deserving of an education, regardless of their nationality, religion, class, gender or caste. This is an attitude that many of us would see as being founded upon human rights and social justice; qualities that we expect to see in educated people, but it would appear that others disagree.

Leaving aside for the moment the rather obtuse sentiments expressed in this leaflet, one of the first things that struck me about it was that it is quite well written. The English language has been used to good effect (even if this is being applied for  nefarious purposes), with reasonable grammar and consistent spelling. It most certainly could not have been written by someone who had not received a formal education. I am making an assumption here that the first language of the writer is not English and that they are more likely to be familiar with Urdu,  Sindhi or possibly Pashtun, and that English could well be their second or third language. I am also interested to note that they have made a decision to write this text in English, presumably in the belief that it is a communication aimed at  other educated individuals.

Having read this embittered diatribe I find myself wondering what is to be gained by denying educational opportunities to others, similar to those that the author has clearly experienced in the past. If he (it is almost certainly a man) wishes to challenge the introduction of western cultural values, he is of course quite entitled to do so. There are many debates taking place regularly around the world about the loss of national and regional identity, and these are often stimulating and well informed. I most certainly support those individuals who believe that the protection of local languages, the preservation of regional heritage and arts, and the fair representation of national histories should be given a priority. Like many others who have engaged in the debate, I have a concern that the English language has become too dominant and is a force for restricting the opportunities of those who are unable to receive tuition in its use. Though I presume that this latter issue is of no concern to the writer of this misconceived missive.

Attempts to stifle debate are usually made by those who feel that they are losing the argument. They betray the insecurities and inadequacies of the author. The messages conveyed in this text are intended to frighten, and to deny the rights of others to have their voices heard. I would suggest that anonymously pushing this leaflet under the doors of individuals who are committed to ensuring that children receive a well balanced liberal education is likely to have the opposite effect. Copies of this narrow minded text are already being circulated and held up as an example of the misrepresentation of the tenets of Islam, and a misguided action by an ill-informed, ignorant and faceless individual.

I am pleased that the writer of this sad text has  gained some benefits from his education. He has obviously acquired the skills of expression, even if he lacks the individuality and critical thinking that could make him into a more interesting author. The threats contained within this document will be abhorrent to the vast majority of people in Pakistan. I hope that the purveyor of this sick note, full of despicable hatred, may find the time to reflect on the efforts made by his teachers on his behalf. They clearly did a good job in terms of his English language abilities. I also hope that if he has children they may experience an education that is truly inclusive, and promotes understanding, respect and tolerance. The kind of education that I imagine most of the schools targeted by this leaflet are determined to provide. Long may they thrive.

 

10 thoughts on “This man’s education could be put to better use!

  1. Knowledge does not bring wisdom or compassion.
    It aggravates the past and revenge has tremendous energy.
    What we need in education is freedom from all dogmas,especially the so called religious one.
    Religion,Nation and Consumeristic life style is all man made.
    It will only divide human beings.
    Knowledge does not change human beings.
    Then,what will change human beings???

  2. Hi Satish,
    What will change human beings? This is a good question. I believe that human beings are basically good, it is the society that we have created that changes them. I suppose we all have our own dogmas that we follow. You are right, that religion, or at least the ways in which it is interpreted or abused, consumerism and blind nationalism doesn’t help.
    It is important that we maintain a dialogue on these issues. We will better come to understand the point of view of others only if we are prepared to talk. We must do so with moderate language and a great deal more humility than most of us have been prepared to show.

  3. Thanks for raising this issue, Richard. In some cases I see fear or misguided political correctness stifling the need to call people such as this author out on their unacceptable views. In pointing out how wrong the argument is you most certainly allow it to have the opposite effect of that intended by the author. We need to challenge these views where and when we find them

    • Hi Tim,
      Yes I agree that we need to challenge. I do however, feel that we need to do this by rising above the lowest common denominator. We can challenge these bullies through intellectual argument and winning the debate through logic, and by demonstrating that there is an alternative view of the world. I have many muslem friends here in the UK and elsewhere in the world. They are as appalled by this kind of behaviour as I am. Sadly they are often seen as part of this problem, wheras they are more victims of this atrocity than any of us. We must continue to debate these issues and bring matters to the attention of those who are prepared to fight violence with debate rather than through further violent means.

  4. It has always been all too easy to assume that education would by itself produce enlightened and liberal individuals. A brief knowledge of history would dismiss this proposition. Before the Second World War Germany was (and is) a country with a rich culture and liberal higher education. This did stop any of the atrocities. Education although necessary is insufficient to protect human rights or mutual respect. A liberal education does however provide an opportunity to reflect on and challenge the sort of diatribe presented in the note.
    The Author of the note was borrowing (misappropriating) the language/rhetoric of anti-colonialism. This language points to the need not to impose a set of dominant values and to value and respect all people. However, overthrowing one set of world views just to impose another makes a much sense as wanting to kick violence in the teeth.

    • Thank you for this thoughtful posting Niall. You quite rightly raise the issue that it is not simply education, but the way we use it that is significant here. Your point about overthrowing one for of imperialism with another is interesting. It would appear that the need to feel part of a dominant group is an issue here. Exerting power over others (in this case through fear) obviously makes some individuals feel superior.
      Thanks for posting.

  5. Living in a region where such abhorrent narrow-mindedness dwells, Richard, I am still unable to come to terms with all the hate and aggressive behaviour meted out towards western education! Education enlightens and empowers. Education does not make us forget our faith, culture or traditions. Only fickle minds and feeble minded folks would allow that to happen.
    May there be peace and tolerance, love for all and hatred for none. God bless.

    • Hi Maleeha.
      Those who wish to keep their minds (and those of others) narrow often live in fear. Sadly this means that they are easily lead by others for their own ends. Those who are educated are less likely to follow like sheep. However, the leaders of these aggressive movements are invariably educated and have learned that they can wield their power for their own benefit and in order to create hatred. They have been empowered by education but abuse this power to generate discord and violence.
      It is critical that we do not answer this evil with more violence, thus sinking to their depraved level. Challenging as it is, the answer to this situation is to demonstrate that their are alternative views. Respecting the culture, languages, traditions and religions of others, learning about them and educating others is the best we can hope to achieve as teachers. But if it is the best we can do, we need to go on doing it.
      Thank you for your thoughtful comments and your good wishes.

  6. Hi Richard,
    Thank you for your thought-provoking post. It has made me reflect on what we define education as. Is it the mere act of being able to express oneself in English, or any other language of the masses? Is it a mind-set? Is it a process that goes through various iterations are different points in one’s life? A formal academic education? A religious education? A cultural education? I would argue that the writer of this leaflet is clearly not an educated man, because of the very ideas that he propagates within his writing, regardless of how well he is able to express himself.

  7. Interesting point Saneeya. This man has clearly received an education, butv this is different from being able to apply learning! It is like the discussion we had about being either an academic or a scholar. Many academics have a narrow view of the world based solely upon their “discipline”. The scholar transcends this by educatiing herself/himself in a much broader context.
    We need also to recognise that informal learning also has value – something overlooked mainly by “educated” people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *