Thursday, February 07, 2008

Not-So-Great Britain, Say UK Teachers

A group of British educators refuse to forgive their predecessors for their bad choices. In order to punish their ancestors, they are going to take out their hatred on the next generation of young brits:

"Don't teach children patriotism"

Patriotism should be avoided in school lessons because British history is “morally ambiguous”, a leading educational body recommends.
Teachers should not instill pride in what they consider great moments of British history, as more shameful episodes could be downplayed or excluded.
Three quarters of teachers felt obliged to tell students about the danger of patriotism. The survey suggested neither pupils nor teachers wanted patriotism endorsed by schools.
The institute - part of the University of London – asked nearly 300 pupils aged 13 to 14, and 47 teachers, in 20 London schools, how patriotism should be handled. About 94 per cent of teachers and 77 per cent of teenagers said that schools should give a balanced presentation of opposing views. Fewer than 10 per cent felt patriotism should be actively promoted.

Why such a dogmatic refusal to acknowledge the good as well as the bad? Why such stark dismissal of the repentance, of the atonement, of the change for the better that underscores so much of British history? Why don't they want to see the good along with the bad..?

Why the blind determination to leave the sins of the past unforgiven?

“Forgiveness” doesn’t mean we ignore a bad choice, or pretend that the bad choice doesn’t matter; to forgive is to act like something matters more. To never forgive is to live in the past, to freeze our life into a wax figure tableau representing a single moment, perpetuating the time we were sinned against. To forgive doesn’t mean living within an illusion, or being blind to the past… it means living for the future. What will get us beyond the moment of pain, of failure, of resentment? Forgiveness is fully seeing the sin, and reconciling to it.

If I am unwilling or unable to forgive others, is that merely an excuse to avoid facing judgment myself, being held to account for my own choices and decisions?

If a person doesn't believe that their country can become a better place, what might that say about their own beliefs about themselves? Is a person capable of improvement, or not? Are we really no different, at twenty, at thirty, at forty, than we were at the age of thirteen..? If an individual can learn from experience, why not a nation of individuals as well?

The teachers and I agree on one point: children should be taught that love requires clarity, honesty, and humility. Love is not about lying, Love is not blind, Love is the opposite: true, faithfully persistent commitment to seeing things as they really are. The hard part is that this involves seeing the unseen, seeing into the future, penetrating a cloud of doubts in order to affirm that we can learn from experience, that we can progress... we are not animals, we are Human.

The gurgling little baby in our arms can someday learn to give shape to his dreams, that he is capable of growing to see his own mistakes, in order to learn from them, maybe even some day appreciating the gift of free will that allows him to choose good as readily as evil.. that choosing good can be seen as the treasured blessing that it really is.

1 comment:

truepeers said...

Well, if you're not willing to teach about what is "morally ambiguous" you're not willing to teach about human reality at all. All that we can know about ourselves requires us to come to grips with the ethical and cognitive paradoxes by which any and all meaning comes into existence.

This story is just nihilism dressed up as self-righteousness.

If anything, I see this, like you Charles, as not an escape from but an entrapment in the past. These teachers are taking on a postmodern form of the "white man's burden" that they are no doubt are quick to denounce in the Victorians. But in both cases, there is a desire to transcend "little England" and to appoint oneself guardian of some universal humanity, as if anyone were up to that task.

All that results is that all the world's cultures and peoples who have to be protected from English "moral ambivalence" are denied their own humanity, responsibility, agency: they become victims of the British, and little more. The fact that other peoples have their own ways of bonding their group against other tribes and nations and empires and that any group that wants to survive in history must do something of the same is a reality blithely dismissed by these teachers. Instead of asking by what means the realities of human conflict, and the need for global exchange, can be mediated, they simply want to close their eyes and pretend it all doesn't exist.

Well, if they win the day, there will one day be no England. But there will still be group conflicts and moral ambiguity and a need for shared understandings of ethics and self-sacrifice for higher group causes. No doubt these teachers think they are making a sacrifice for some higher group cause. Unfortunately, they have no idea what it is or how to name it. The best they would offer is some vague Utopian fantasy about universal brotherhood of multiculturalism. And that's a road to violence.