From the editor

| April 10, 2018 | 0 Comments

I was deeply moved by a poster carried by a protesting student in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parklands, Florida in the US, earlier this year (read more about the incident on pages 26 and 32). The poster, a deft change-up of the words contained in the famous “Serenity” prayer, read: “I will no longer accept the things I cannot change. I will change the things I cannot accept.”

I was moved because scores of American high school students have decided to speak out en masse about their government’s inaction when it comes to gun laws. What moved me most, however, was that it’s taking teenagers to send the message.

The great, late theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking (he died on 14 March 2018) realised people’s natural inclination to procrastinate. Hawking spoke urgently and frequently about the fate of humankind, especially during his last months. His central thesis on each occasion was that humans must leave Earth within 100 years if we want to survive. This highly respected scientist cited various threats to the planets, including global epidemics, overpopulation and climate change.

The threats mentioned above are all by-products of human activity – and you may be interested to know, says journalist Winnie Yu, that the real-life concerns that occupy the minds of children aged four to six in many parts of the world are generally cyber and traditional bullying, domestic abuse, the collapse of the family, natural disasters such as floods and droughts, and yes, violence at school.

Our magazine’s mandate is to feature the stories of schools that are agents of change. Multiple schools based in Cape Town, where a new awareness of how precious water has welled up, will share their knowledge with us in the next edition – but, right now, you can read another uplifting story about the water crisis on page 61 (and find out how to become a citizen scientist on page 60).

Yes, I said uplifting. Urgent change should not frighten us or the children in our care. It should propel us all to ask, says Tim Nuttall on page 28: Who am I? Who are we? How do we feel that we belong? How do we feel that we do not belong? What do we stand for? What do we stand against? Why is stereotyping so pervasive? How aware are we of our unconscious biases? How aware are we of the assumptions that we make?

Xolisa Luthi, principal of new ISASA member school, Fleurhof Future Nation School, has written an article on page 20 that strikes right to the heart of the matter. He says: “In the past, the teacher was the one standing in front of a class and passing knowledge to those who were sitting behind the desks. A student was the one sitting behind the desk, listening to the one called a teacher. In this current era, I believe that the teacher is the student and the student is the teacher.” Writing about his research into Quaker schools (see page 24), British author Nigel Newton takes the point further, saying: [I’ve] come to see that inclusiveness may be important to education because learning is really about being open to receive “the other”. Curriculum content is one of these “others”. Students who have been encouraged to practise inclusiveness towards fellow students – and have seen this role modelled in their teachers – become more disposed to receive the “otherness” of new learning opportunities.

Across the globe in Indonesia (see page 33), researchers are trying to quantify an essence regarded in that country as crucial to the teaching profession: the “calling of the soul”, or panggilan jiwa.

We featured this story because it’s about people who are willing to converse across cultures to save the planet. Similarly, (see page 69), public school Blouberg Ridge Primary in the Cape Town area has partnered with American organisation Level Up Village. Simply put, scholars from all over the planet talk to each other about real-life issues. Says teacher Paola Carnegie, “I had always thought of myself as a humanitarian, but when I did the [Level Up Village] training, I realised how much I lived in my own world.”

So many teachers and other school stakeholders writing in this edition of Independent Education recognise the urgent need for all education stakeholders to embrace a global viewpoint to solve our planet’s problems. It’s simple: break down the symbolic walls and embrace those around you. Our species is called humankind, so let’s be good to each other.

Luthi says in his article on page 7: “We are in an era where a classroom is moving from a physical space to a virtual space.” I like to imagine that the teacher who fits into that space is one who asks each child, “What global project are you busy with this week?”

In his last recorded public speech, Hawking reminded children of the importance of developing resilience and panggilan jiwa. He said: “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder what makes the universe exist. Be curious. However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. While there is life, there is hope.”

 

 

 

 

Category: Autumn 2018

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