The International Baccalaureate® aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.
In an increasingly uncertain world, we should aim to connect, not divide. We should be promoting love, not hate. Different cultures and traditions should be celebrated, not criticised (also not simply tolerated). Our differences and personal identities should unite us. At the recent Dr. Martin Luther King Day Breakfast, civil rights activist and the Representative of Georgia, John Lewis gave a speech where he emphasised that, ‘love is a better way, the way of peace is a better way.’ Recent events have seen people of different backgrounds, religions, races and nationalities uniting with each other against injustice, and maybe that shows that we should never lose faith, that there is always hope in humanity.
The president of Harvard University pointed out a few weeks ago that ‘internationalism is a paramount source of our university’s strength.’ Drew Faust also highlighted the fact that half of their deans are immigrants and thousands attend their university every year. “In times of unsettling change, we look toward our deepest values and ideals,” Faust wrote. “Among them is the recognition that drawing people together from across the nation and around the world is a paramount source of our university’s strength.”
A recent article by Headteacher Neil Bunting emphasises the need to embrace global citizenship and internationalism, now, more than ever. Despite much education, he points out it is unfathomable that in the 21st century we continue to see events that shock and distress us. We teach our young people to be tolerant, forward-thinking and lifelong learners, yet it seems to contradict with the global trend. Without meaning to go political, Neil writes clearly and concisely. Many may disagree with aspects of his writing but the overall message is hard to argue against; many barbaric and uneducated choices are being made by world leaders, both in the so-called developed world as well as developing world, that seem to be catering to xenophobia, prejudice, stupidity and cultural intolerance and in turn, also promoting them.
Education is key; both in and outside schools, to help people understand the benefits of internationalism, connecting with others from different faiths and religions, and in order to separate fact from fiction (fake news is something we should debate in all classrooms, not just theory of knowledge). History has a tendency to repeat itself – the use of propaganda for ill-intentions, manipulation of information and selfishly looking after number one. More integration, not less, is a major part of the solution. We all have a responsibility to help in this. Connecting all the various and different parts of societies is another major factor. The infamous 1%-99% divide must be bridged, bringing people together and understanding each other’s situation. We should intensify the teaching of global citizenship, of being responsible, balanced and wise decision-making.
Let us promote sympathy and empathy, and condemn hate and terror. Students (in fact, everybody) should have the opportunity to practise activities that foster respect, responsibility, compassion, courage, trust, perseverance, honesty, gratitude, self-discipline and citizenship. Students should also be given the chance to show kindness and develop their character, serving others whenever possible. The importance of character, kindness and working as a team for an agreed shared goal, cannot be stated enough. Schools should continue to work together with communities in order to enhance all childrens’ learning experience.
Nel Noddings, author of various books and articles that call for all schools to focus on ethic of care, argues that caring should be a foundation for ethical decision-making. How does one become a caring person? Noddings states that a caring person ‘is one who fairly regularly establishes caring relations and, when appropriate maintains them over time’. Noddings identifies education (both in the traditional sense and the not so traditional, including at home) as central to a culture and creation of caring in society. In fact, she views the home as the primary educator and argues for an adjustment of social policy to this end. This is not to sideline the role of schools but simply to recognise just what the home contributes to the development of children and young people.
We must encourage civil, harmonious and peaceful attitudes towards each other. A critical mind is required in times like these; ask the Why? What? Maybe? questions, which may be tough and initially not seem harmonious and peaceful. But honesty in asking them, with love for each other, seems a positive and genuine way forward. We are fortunate that we now live in a world where many people have worked hard to allow people to travel freely, regardless of race, religion, gender or nationality. Do we really want to go back to the narrow-minded mindsets where people are judges on their passport or worst still, on their religion? Do we really want our young people to have obstacles when travelling as opposed to the freedom many of us have experienced, and the amazing benefits gained from sharing what we have seen and learned?
‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime’
– Mark Twain –
A final word of warning; it is worth bearing in mind that the distinction between “us” and “them” is often just a step or two away from bigotry and chavinism. It may seem that we are going backwards and reverting to stereotypes and prejudices we thought were long left in the past. Yes it is depressing, but the answer is not to bury our heads in the sand, to give up or become apathetic. We need to champion the values of global citizenship, intercultural understanding, cultural intelligence and open mindedness. At the end of the day, we are one being on one planet. Let’s work together and put our faith in humanity.