I'm bemused sometimes by edubloggers in the western world who feel like they are up against immovable resistance to their efforts to integrate technology in their facilitation of student-centered learning. A scan of the news today prompted me to share some short stories from our local front to put things in a different perspective. But first, I'd like to mention something that I first wrote here nearly a year ago:
I’ve been to lots of places in the world, and have yet to find a country, a city, or even a mountain village in Guatemala that was not simultaneously global and local, and simultaneously jihadist (reactionist) and McWorldly (assimilationist). Somebody ought to just ban dichotomies outright so we can try looking at reality instead of black and white caricatures of it.
The same goes for where I am now, in the midst of people who crave change as well as those who worry about what they could lose if things change any more. The following stories are just some examples of the reality we work in, and should not be taken as blanket generalizations.
Foreign language education "unconsitutional"
The Turkish newspaper Radikal reports that Prof. Şükrü Akalın, President of the Turkish Language Institute (if I am permitted to translate that organization's name into English) advised the Turkish Parliament's Turkish Language Research Commission that education in foreign languages is contrary to the constitution and detrimental to the fabric of Turkish society. Currently thirteen universities in Turkey deliver some or all of their degree programs in other languages, as well as numerous K-12 schools around the country, in particular schools that offer the International Baccalaureate.
Prof. Akalın added that Turkish entries in the Eurovision Song Contest should not be performed in English, but that ship has already sailed since Turkey won the competition in 2003 with an English language song.
The YouTube Wars
Prof. Akalın was probably pleased last week when, for a few days at least, we lost our access to that Eurovision winning song. In response to a satirical video that was offensive to the memory of Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, a Turkish court shut down any access to YouTube.com. The offending video was uploaded supposedly by Greeks wanting to antagonize their neighbors, and it prompted a war of offensive and counter offensive videos and endless (and pointless) comments. It is against the law here to insult Atatürk, but since the offenders were "out there" somewhere beyond prosecution on the Internet, punishment was levied on Turkish Internet users instead.
The story is even sadder as I remember attending a conference in Athens last fall with several Turkish colleagues, and we were pleasantly surprised at the warmth of so many Greeks, including several who spoke with us in Turkish.
Some children long for a boring day at school
Another recent Radikal story focuses on two of the 170 million child farmworkers worldwide. Fatma, age 12, and her big brother Nevzat work eight months a year migrating from one region of Turkey to another, working in tobacco, cotton, hazelnut, tea, and sugar beets. Fatma explained to the reporter that she'd like to stay in school and realize her dream of becoming a doctor, but her family desperately needs the money that she and her siblings can earn. During her breaks she reads in the shade of a tractor, and hopes to make it back home to sit in class before school ends for the summer and the family leaves again to work in the cotton fields.
The more things change...
Without putting guilt on anyone, I just wanted to share today how the world isn't always flat, and that there can be dramatic differences from one place to another. Yet in spite of those differences we can have the feeling of "I've seen this before" as we see different outcomes of basic human nature in the face of hope and fear. How we act on our hopes and fears has everything to do with the way we educate --or withhold education from-- our children.