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John Simkin

ICT in Education: The Future

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Even if I agreed 100% with John's assessment of nationalism, I'm still not sure I'd agree that "it is our responsibility as educators to do what we can to bring an end to nationalism". It's our job as educators, I think, to present our students with all sides of the argument (whatever it is) and the evidence with which to evaluate the different approaches. If we've done our job well, then the students should, themselves, be able to come to a sound judgement regarding nationalism or any other -ism. Any other approach, it could be argued, comes closer to indoctrination than to education.

First of all it has to be stated that all teachers have political objectives. In most cases, the political objectives of the teacher are shared by society at large. The teacher is therefore promoting the dominant ideology. As a result, these teachers are not seen as being “political”. However, those who are teaching against the dominant ideology, are automatically identified as being “political” and are often accused of trying to indoctrinate their pupils. Yet it is impossible for an individual teacher to indoctrinate pupils.

Attempts to indoctrinate children in schools does take place. However, this is only when there is general agreement about the message that should be conveyed. For example, a belief that children should not be racist.

The idea that a teacher can be a neutral chairman is a myth. Does Mike really believe that: “It's our job as educators, I think, to present our students with all sides of the argument (whatever it is) and the evidence with which to evaluate the different approaches.” After all, that is not what he was arguing when discussing the teaching of the Holocaust.

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=3104

Would you be willing to present evidence in the classroom suggesting that Hitler might have been right in his views on Jews? Would you be happy about presenting KKK leaflets from the 1930s claiming that Afro-Americans were inferior to white people?

The evidence approach to history in the classroom is obviously a positive development. So also is the emphasis now placed on interpretations of the past. However, both these developments have been in themselves influenced by the dominant ideology. This in itself influences the subjects we look at and the questions that we pose of the evidence that is presented. We might present a wide variety of different sources on Nazi Germany but we know beforehand what kind of interpretation we want those students to end up with. I agree with that position. I would be horrified if I thought that anything that I did in the classroom might encourage a student to develop racist ideas.

Nazi Germany is an easy one because we are all in agreement about this topic. Other topics are far more complicated. Take for example, the bombing of civilian areas during war. For example, a discussion on this topic has been taking place here:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=357

Jim Hudson, a history teacher from Texas, has argued that the dropping of the first nuclear bomb on Japan in 1945 was justified. This is a very complex issue and historians are deeply divided about the morality of this action.

Mike argues that the teacher should objectively present the evidence and allow the student to make up their own mind about the subject. I would argue that when compiling that evidence the teacher would be influenced by their own views on the subject. For example, a teacher who believed the dropping the nuclear bomb was justified would concentrate on selecting evidence that concerned the political aspects of the decision. Great emphasis would be placed on the lives of the Allied soldiers saved by the decision. The teacher who thought this decision was immoral would also use the same sources. However, they would make sure that there was several first-hand accounts on the personal impact that the bomb had on the Japanese people. A special focus would be on the impact it had on “innocent” children. Questions would also be posed in order to get an emotional response from the students.

I would argue that in cases like this, the teacher will help to shape the response of the student to the subject material. That the political views of the teacher will influence the political views of the student. In many ways, this is more dangerous that the narrative approach to history. Looking back we can all agree that in Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, students were indoctrinated into believing a certain ideology. We probably could agree that a similar thing went on when history teachers taught the British Empire at the end of the 19th century.

I definitely believe that the way we teach today is an improvement on what went on at the end of the 19th century. However, I think we would be fooling ourselves if we thought we had removed ideology from the classroom.

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