Be Nice and Care

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.

– IBO Mission Statement –

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.

Yasir Patel

Character and Kindness

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

A historical and important voting process took place last week in Britain, with 52% of the voters opting to leave the European Union after 43 years of involvement.  Various outcomes have come about as a result with many discussions taking place as to what happens next.  Many have stated that whatever one’s view is of the result, it is now vitally important that people join forces and work together collaboratively in order to positively push Britain forward.

Human character can be defined as “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” One’s character can be beneficial to oneself, to others, or a combination of both (although this is quite rare).  Our actions with those we interact with regularly (colleagues, family, friends and acquaintances) give an indication of how much our character leans towards serving oneself or others.  However, we should be conscious of how we treat each other and how our character plays out with the various groups of people we interact with.  Working together and serving others should be embraced, not forced.  

In and around North County San Diego, California, you will come across ‘kindness meters’.  The idea behind these is to provide the public with a fast and accessible opportunity to do something good for others, including complete strangers.  It only takes a few seconds to impact another person positively.  More recently, some schools in the area have focussed on Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and integrated this within the curriculum.  This is nothing new but an explicit mention always helps.  In the English curriculum this is referred to as PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education).  The benefits of SEL and PSHE, both in the short and long term include academic success as well as emotional wellbeing.

Nel Noddings, author of various books and articles that call for all schools to focus on ethic of care.  She 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.

Students (in fact, everybody) should have the opportunity to practice activities that foster respect, responsibility, compassion, courage, trust, perseverance, honesty, gratitude, self-discipline and citizenship.  Students should also be given the chances to show kindness and develop their character, serving others whenever possible.  Would a kindness meter work in schools?  Maybe, maybe not, but 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.

Yasir Patel

Sources:

Moral Courage

Written on Friday 20th November, 2015:

As school ended last Friday, terrible news broke in France, but sadly, it was not dissimilar to incidents that are happening every day in other parts of the world.  The attacks, we know, were horrific and extremely saddening – all the more so because they seem closer to home. We all know Paris, or know of it through friends.  It was a reminder that we live at a time of discord and hatred, much of which seemed far away though now much closer.  A complex range of emotions were no doubt felt by the community as is normal following such devastating acts of violence.

What do we do as international schools?  How do we explain this to our children?  How do we react?

It is time for moral courage in our response.  All international schools must be aware of the social impact attacks like this can have and their effect on others.  This begins in our immediate surroundings and around our school.  It can, should and does go way beyond in creating a positive impact in our world.  How deep that impact is, depends on our intentions.   At times like these, we must go beyond academia, beyond bickering, beyond first world complaints, and seek to create a positive impact in our world as deeply and with the best intentions we can.

Many schools have a vision statement that talks about lifelong learning and participating in the global community.  It also talks about having an open mind and being willing to listen and change your opinion.

We should want students (and our community) leaving our schools as young adults to influence the world by making decisions with moral direction.  This is a necessary long-term strategy.  However, we must acknowledge the here and now too.  What are we doing to make the world a better place now?  We should consider everything at our disposal, from facilities to technology to purchasing power.  How can we use all these various aspects of our lives in order to enable a situation of reconstruction and reconciliation for “the other”?

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.  

Friday was and still is scary, discomforting and we enter an unknown, both physically and emotionally wary.  However, the unknown brings excitement, discovery and possible solutions to the discomfort both now and in the long term.  We need to be bold in our aim for equity, justice, peace and a better world for our children and their children.  

The International Baccalaureate’s Mission states that the organisation aims to create young people:

  • who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

The time is now.  Our impact needs to be felt now.  

I am sure you will join me in expressing our sorrow at the events in Paris last Friday, as well as similar suffering around the world.

Yasir Patel