(Read part #1 on Socio(pathic) Skills; the dark tangent of Student-Centred Learning?)
For people familiar with the proposed content of our upcoming Educators’ Workshop in Islam Awareness Week, I want to direct your attention to the conundrum in the United Arab Emirates, where the government is throwing its full weight behind market forces’ demand for total student-centredness against the wishes of a population concerned about the undermining of their religious and cultural values – which in our context might read as “ethical and cultural values.”
I wish to share this interesting solution proposed at the 2013 International conference on Argumentation, Rhetoric, Debate and the Pedagogy of Empowerment where Fouad Rushdie Al-Hatab, a former educator on al-Jazeera’s children’s channel, held a lecture entitled The Strategy of Teaching Debate*.
He points out the general objective of education is not so much “skills“ as much as it is to instill “values and principles [of] freedom and democracy“ (19m05s) and “self-learning, body language, critical thinking, courageous research skills, listening skills, respecting others, self-confidence…comparison, evaluation skills“ (Sound familiar?)
However, he then follows this by clearly stating that subjects of debate should be constrained, saying: “but in our community and culture (…) we cannot present just any topic to be debated.“ He exemplifies with the statement: “we cannot say the end justifies the means“: “ (…) in our great religion (…) the means should be allowed by the Islamic Sharia (…and…) because we raise our children on principles“ (21m00s).
As I concluded in my paper, it is naive to believe “that SCL alumni will accept any “limits of debate“ based on religious argument, especially as more and more alternative cosmologies [become available through media]. On the contrary, SCL alumni impact on society via use of uncontrolled digital media may have an unforeseen and self-perpetuating effect in further pushing the envelope of the debate…”
Whether one is disturbed by my bus adventures for reasons of social utilitarianism, ethics or religious belief, we are all in the same boat; how do we avoid that the freedom of the empowered child – awash in a global village without fixed value references – turn them into egotistical sociopaths.
Chillingly, Mr Fouad Rushdie Al-Hatab juxtaposes our open nihilism in the West to his own circumstances: “(there is) no restriction in the West, they choose any topic they want“, because “principles of life in the West (…are…) based on liberty and freedom, everything is allowed and subject to debate (…)” This forms the true teaching battleground, and I am to put this at the core of my Religious Education session development.
* original “أ.فؤاد رشدي الحطاب , “استراتيجية تدريس المناظرة من خلال نموذج تطبيقي [lecture recording], 4th International Conference on Argumentation, Rhetoric, Debate and the Pedagogy of Empowerment, delivered 12 January 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK96zyUm8UE (accessed 2 November 2013).