Violence in Didactics – A Poem

Violence in Didactics – A Poem

The struggle for humanization has long been a concern of humankind. But today, it has become epistemologically exigent, giving voice to contemporary discourse of restructuring education for humanity. 

Many researchers argue that education systems as we know them today are broken. They lead students to careers that they do not resonate with, are not skilled for, and rather dislike. (Dore, 1976, Illich, 1971) They do not serve the humanistic need for social connections as they are competitive and emotionally unhealthy.(Kumar and Sarangapani, 2004, Kumar, 2016, Pathak, 2002) Most often, they serve the state’s political agenda of education. (Apple, 2004, Freire, 1970, Kumar, 1991) Thus, the rigid structures, limiting curriculums, disciplinary pedagogy of schools question the utility of education that they aim to provide.  

The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.7 Redefining Education for the 21st Century provides renewed focus on Education for Peace (EfP) to make education a way to re-store ‘humanity within humanity’.

Education for Peace not only intends to build competencies, values, behavior and skills to confront violence but becomes a practice where the purpose, i.e., why to teach, the content, i.e., what to teach and the pedagogy, i.e. how to teach become conducive to nurturing values of peace.

(Kester, 2010:59).

 

However, EfP’s aim to build peace through education is challenged by its incompatibility with its most formalized manifestation as schooling (Cremin and Bevington, 2017, Harber and Sakade, 2009). Historically, “schools have been known to endorse and perpetuate violence” and are an “obstacle in development of peaceful individuals and societies(Harber, 2008:1). Moreover, Schooling itself effectively counteract the very idea of peace education, and hence be harmful” reaffirms (Galtung, 2008:3).

Since Education for Peace (EfP) itself has been conceptualised as a space for vocalising lived experiences of violence, sharing vulnerabilities and stories (Kester, 2007), the following prose serves as a platform to capture violence inflicted by schooling, of which the author herself has been a victim. This prose closely examines the realities of Indian classrooms as they continue to evolve under ‘lingering colonialities’. (Williams, 2016:1) 

Violence in Didactics

Explicating ‘violence’ in didactics;

I lay open my experience candid

 

Perhaps violence exists more naturally than peace;

Hence I unfold the story in its anti-thesis

 

The teacher asks me to bite off more than I could chew;

While he was ready to teach me addition, I failed to hold numbers in lieu

 

He asks me to write home a ‘letter’;

While I struggle to write lines of ‘letters’ better                                     

 

Lost in the mechanics of the classroom, he is unconscious of my reality;

While we finish reading the story in the textbook, he fails to read the story of my existentiality

 

In this rushed academic training, he is even unaware of my poor pencil grip;

Not understanding, how violent must be this educational trip

  

The class lesson is not clear, his instruction also did not steer;

‘Waiting for the period bell to ring’, certainly conveys my desperation clear

 

He mortified my dignity under the garb of the lesson;

In that classroom that day, I remember losing not only my pencil but my self-possession

 

Sitting dazed, handicapped by his brazen instruct;

I was shunned as a black sheep and odd duck

 

Not only self-worth and self-image but also the loyalties of my peers shifted with my academic grades;

Encouraging me to look how friendships trade

 

I understand that the injuries to my feelings were not personal;

But he enacted from the consolidated structural

 

He made me mediocre chained to a routine;

He made me a stepford student, to elicit the conformist in me.

 

He incentivized my actions, he rewarded my compliance;

Being an echo, I soon realized that I lost my voice

 

In a mad rush from home to school every day, I missed on education;

Education can be a panacea, just that education needs education.

 

By Ashmeet Kaur

Analysis

The author in the poem portrays herself as a ‘learner-subject’ who is controlled through fear, authority, hierarchy, and domination. It captures her anxieties as a learner in an Indian classroom.

Since violence shapes the definition of peace in her context, it encourages her to acknowledge the violence stemming from the very structures of her learning environment.  The author, through the systemic markers available in a classroom, explains various structures of violence which affects her learning process. She portrays herself as a quite shy and sensitive learner, someone few saw and even fewer acknowledged.

This, in turn, reflects in calls for teachers to treat learners as learners and not for their dis/abilities to be potential failures and successes – as dis/abilities are socially constructed and result in expectations from the environment. It is societal practises and norms which govern what are considered typical dis/abilities. Students like the author who learn differently stand out simply because they do not comply with the expectations teachers or educators have set for them. Hence, it reaffirms the importance of teacher agency, which is far more than teachers themselves are aware of.

The poem also bears reflections on cultural beliefs surrounding corporal punishment, e.g., that it encourages respect and socialises students towards discipline (Jones and Pells, 2016, Morrow, V. & Singh, R. 2014, Sawhney, 2018), and the moralistic vision of a sacrosanct bond of teacher and student. This belief suppresses voice and critical thinking, skills much in vogue in 21st-century educational reforms. This also raises questions on the challenges of non-western teachers as peace educators (Kurian, 2020) as the authority of non-western teachers’ is considered sacrosanct and have moral groundings. It is these normativities which potentially restrain non-western from encouraging informality; disrupting the expected image of a peace educator.

While the author reflects upon the bullying experiences at the hands of her teachers and the loss of engaged educational praxis, the poem peeks into the possibilities of the ideal.Education needs Education’ beautifully captures the central argument. It culminates into a message that what educational reforms are trying to correct has a lot to do with teacher education. It reaffirms that EfP seeks urgent need to ‘school teachers’ so that education can be directed towards peace

Ashmeet Baweja

Ashmeet Baweja

PhD Candidate (Peace Education) , TERI School of Advanced Studies, New Delhi, India

Ashmeet Baweja is a PhD candidate at TERI School of Advanced Studies, New Delhi, India working on mainstreaming peace education in K-12 schools. Her ethnographic research explores institutionalisation of peace education at an elite school in India. An academic at heart, her purpose is to create peaceful and SEL oriented environments as a way to create sustainable individuals and communities. Her research interests include peace education, elite schooling , sociology of education and qualitative research methods.

Peace Educator I Education Sociologist I PhD Candidate I Mountains are home I Period lifestyle enthusiast

Find out more about Ashmeet's professional journey at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ashmeet-baweja-a60435112

References and Further Reading

Apple, M. W. 2004. Ideology and Curriculum, London, Routledge Falmer.

Cremin, H. & Bevington, T. 2017. Positive Peace in schools: Tackling Conflict and Creating a Culture of Peace in the Classroom. London: Routledge.

Dore, R. P. 1976. The Diploma Disease: Education, Qualification and Development. Berkeley: University of California Press. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED153584

Freire, P. 1970. Pedagogy of Oppressed. New York: Continuum.

Galtung, J. 2008. The form and content of Peace Education. In: (Ed.), M. B. (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Peace Education. North Carolina: Information Age Publishing.

Harber, C. 2008. Schools, Violence and Peace Education. The Encyclopedia of Peace Education. Charlotte,NC: Information Age Publishing.

Harber, C. & Sakade, N. 2009. Schooling for violence and Peace: How does peace education differ from ‘normal schooling’? . Journal of Peace Education, 46(4), 171-187.

Illich, I. 1971. Deschooling society. New York: Harper and Row. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/019263657205636016  

Jones, H. & Pells, K. 2016. Undermining Learning: Multi-Country Longitudinal Evidence on Corporal Punishment in schools. Innocenti Research Briefs, No.2016-06E. Italy: UNICEF Office of Research, Innocenti, FLorance.

 Kester, K. 2007. Peace Education: Experience and Storytelling as Living Education. Peace and Conflict Review, 2(2), 1-14.

Kester, K. 2010. Education for peace: Content, form, and structure: Mobilizing youth for civic engagement. Peace & Conflict Review, 4(2), 58-67.

Kumar, K. & Sarangapani, P. M. 2004. History of the quality debate. Contemporary Education Dialogue, 2(1),30-52.

Kumar, K. 1991. Political Agenda of Education: A Study of Nationalist and Colonialist Ideas. New Delhi: Sage.

Kumar, K. 2016. Education, Conflict and Peace. New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan.

Kurian, N. 2020. Kindness isn’t important, we need to be scared’: Disruptions to the praxis of peace education in an Indian school. Journal of Peace Education, 17(2), 186-207.

Morrow, V. & Singh, R. 2014. Corporal Punishment in schools in Andhra Pradesh, India: Children’s and Parents’s Viewsa. London: Young Lives.

Pathak, A. 2002. Social Implications of schooling: Knowledge, Pedagogy and Consciousness. New Delhi: Rainbow Publishers.

Sawhney, S. 2018. Tokenisation of children’s right to safe and protected environments: Indian teacher’s perspectives on corporal punishment. In: G. Sainz, S. I. E. (ed.) International Perspectives on Practice and Research into Children’s Rights. Mexico: Center for Human Rights.

Williams, H. M. 2016. Lingering Colonialities as Blockades to Peace Education: school Violence in Trinidad. In: Hantazopoulos, M. B. M. (ed.) Peace Education: International Perspectives. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Fostering Cultural Creativity in Foreign Language Classrooms

Fostering Cultural Creativity in Foreign Language Classrooms

As language is one of the prominent ways in which people express their cultures, language classrooms cannot be isolated from the teaching of cultures. In addition to four basic skills of language, which are listening, speaking, writing, and reading, culture is suggested to be regarded as the fifth skill of language classroom (Kramsch, 1993). Culture can be defined as concepts carrying historical roots represented through symbols, characters, or interactions in the daily lives of people (Geertz, 1973).

Culture comes from the Latin word colere, meaning to cultivate, which implies developing and pursuing common goals. It entails being a part of a group that shares a mutual past, collective thinking, and a language (Kramsch, 1998).

Using language activities to help student develop a multicultural understanding

While the main emphasis of the language lesson is generally on the culture of the target language, providing a perspective through students’ own culture helps them to develop multicultural understanding. When the students recognize and evaluate the values of their own culture and the target culture, they can better adapt to cultural differences and do not have a sense of intimidation or alienation (Byram, Lloyd & Schneider, 1995; Byram, Holmes & Savvides, 2013).

UNESCO (2017) highlights culture as one of the key steps to consider while developing textbooks and materials. Knowing the culture helps the learner gain perspective and better communicate out of the classroom context. However, developing cultural awareness is not a task that can be handled quickly through a few activities, books, or exercises when limited exposure to language is taken into consideration during foreign language learning. Cultural diversity needs to be represented through content, images, depictions of genders, races, and religions. If teachers design materials themselves, they need to pay attention to such inclusive elements.

Using digital tools in foreign language lessons to improve cultural awareness

Increasing use of digital media positively affects learning about culture in language classrooms as students can work on the target language while practising their 21st-century skills. Language classrooms may not always have a multicultural structure if the students come from the same background. By integrating multimedia and web tools in the classroom, learners can reach out to peers from different countries, share their experiences in practising the language and overcome some of the challenges they face while learning. Interactions through social networking platforms, emails, web 2.0 tools, recordings, and video conferences with target language speakers are among contemporary ways to improve cultural awareness and connection (Murray & Bolinger, 2001;Wu, Marek & Chen, 2013).

Teachers can help the students get to know the culture and provide a network to make them witness a culturally diverse setting. Teachers should pave the way for creating a harmonious classroom, as is indicated in the photo above, welcoming all races, ethnicities, religions, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, and disabilities.

Practical tips for teachers to promote cultural diversity in foreign language classrooms

Nowadays, language teachers try to focus more on communicative techniques and blend them with process and product-based instructions (Richards, 2006). Projects, portfolios, learning journals, and collaborative works are popular in designing learner-centered lessons. While giving such assignments, teachers can encourage the use of authentic materials that represent different ways of life and communicative styles. Even if there is no access to technological resources, adapting lesson plans, curriculums, and materials to implement cultural teaching can be a good solution.

In addition to using coursebooks or teacher-made instructional materials, integrating different teaching resources allows student autonomy to have dynamic learning of culture in language classrooms.

Here are 12 simple ways of familiarizing students with cultures and fostering cultural creativity: 

  • greeting each other in various languages in the morning
  • reading about or bringing realia like food, clothing, crafts or any kind of daily objects from different cultures
  • playing music from other cultures and doing some dictation activities with lyrics
  • bringing in authentic materials like newspaper or magazine articles, posters about the lesson topic of the week and creating a bulletin board in the classroom or a page on portfolio websites
  • encouraging students to display learning journals, diaries or making posters out of them to display on the bulletin boards or portfolio websites
  • inviting or video conferencing with a native speaker or a target language speaker who also has proficient knowledge about the culture
  • communicating online with penpals from the target culture
  • introducing and practising cultural etiquettes
  • practising non-verbal cues like facial expressions or gestures from the target culture
  • writing collaborative online blogs, recording podcasts or videos about cultural elements
  • celebrating the special days or festivals of target cultures along with the ones in local culture to embrace diversity and awareness
  • organizing a cultural day in which students introduce concepts or materials from the target cultures

Teachers often want to focus on teaching culture, but they may not know how to implement the cultural content in the lessons or may experience other constraints like lack of material, time, or planning (Castro, Sercu & Méndez García, 2004; Young & Sachdev, 2011). Taking simple steps to engage in activities like the ones suggested above can help boost interest in cultural topics and raise cultural awareness. Such a positive classroom atmosphere and the dynamic between students and teachers promote cultural awareness for improved interaction.

Dilara Özel

Dilara Özel

PhD Student and Research Assistant at Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, Turkey

Dilara Özel is a PhD student and also a research assistant in Guidance and Psychological Counseling program at Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, Turkey. She received her master’s degree from the same department in METU with a master thesis titled An Examination of Needs and Issues at Refugee- Receiving Schools in Turkey from the Perspectives of School Counselors. She is an alumnus of the Faculty of Education Bachelor’s Program in Guidance and Psychological Counseling department at Boğaziçi University, İstanbul. She worked as a volunteer at several projects and trained in peace education, conflict resolution, and human rights. Then, she gave short training sessions on negotiation and mediation techniques. Dilara worked as a school counsellor at a private college with preschoolers. Her research interests are peace education, multicultural education and refugee studies.

Ayşegül Yurtsever

Ayşegül Yurtsever

English teacher, Bursa, Turkey

Ayşegül Yurtsever is an English teacher in Bursa, Turkey. She completed her master’s degree in English Language Teaching from Hacettepe University in Ankara with a thesis titled A Teacher Inquiry into the Effects of Teacher’s Motivational Activities on Language Learners’ Classroom Motivation. She holds a B.A in ELT from Boğaziçi University, Istanbul. She previously worked as an assistant language teacher in Belgium. Her research interests include the psychology of language learning, self and group dynamics.

References

Byram, M., Holmes, P., & Savvides, N. (2013). Intercultural communicative competence in foreign language education: Questions of theory, practice and research. The Language Learning Journal, 41(3), 251-253. doi:10.1080/09571736.2013.83634

Byram, M., Lloyd, K., & Schneider, R. (1995). Defining and describing ‘cultural awareness’. The Language Learning Journal,12(1), 5-8. doi:10.1080/09571739585200321

Castro, P., Sercu, L., & Méndez García, M. C. (2004). Integrating language‐and‐culture teaching: An investigation of Spanish teachers’ perceptions of the objectives of foreign language education. Intercultural Education, 15(1), 91-104. doi:10.1080/1467598042000190013

Geertz, C. (1973). The Interpretation of cultures: Selected essays. New York: Basic Books.

Kramsch, C. (1993). Context and culture in language teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kramsch, C. (1998). Language and culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Murray, G. L., & Bollinger, D. J. (2001). Developing Cross-Cultural Awareness: Learning Through the Experiences of Others.TESL Canada Journal, 19(1), 62-72. doi:10.18806/tesl.v19i1.920

Wu, W. V., Marek, M., & Chen, N. (2013). Assessing cultural awareness and linguistic competency of EFL learners in a CMC-based active learning context. System, 41(3), 515-528. doi:10.1016/j.system.2013.05.004

Richards, J. C. (2006). Communicative language teaching today. New York: Cambridge University Press.

UNESCO. (2017). Making textbook content inclusive: A focus on religion, gender, and culture. Paris

Young, T. J., & Sachdev, I. (2011). Intercultural communicative competence: Exploring English language teachers’ beliefs and practices. Language Awareness, 20(2), 81-98. doi:10.1080/09658416.2010.540328

Further Reading

Byram, M. & Grundy, P. (eds.) (2002). Context and culture in language teaching and learning. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters

https://www.learningforjustice.org/

https://www.education.com/worksheets/community-cultures/