Pedagogy for Solidarity

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Which part of our curriculum
comprises solidarity?  

There has been a general assault in the last 25 years on solidarity, democracy, social welfare, anything that interferes with private power, and there are many targets. One of the targets is undoubtedly the educational system…” (Noam Chomsky, 2000)

     It is true there are people specialised in peace, environmental, and even solidarity issues, people who give conferences, who write material to be used as special transversal units in different courses throughout the school term. Some schools raise money for poor children in Third World countries; others compete to be the one which collects the most. Similarly, they want to be the number one in sports or in the academic ranking. Yet, are the real causes of injustice mentioned and analysed? It would be a mistake to confuse real commitment with ICL –intercultural awareness or intercultural competence–, which, although valid and effective to increase international tolerance and cross-cultural understanding as well as providing real meaningful content, does not necessarily entail raising students’ awareness of the fact that wars, exploitative child labour, hunger, unemployment, poverty, violation of human rights and environmental degradation have their roots in global economic interests, nor does it entail getting students to reflect upon the causes and consequences of these evils, teaching solidarity or encouraging active involvement and participation.

     The new spirit of the age (is:) “Gain wealth, forgetting all but self.” We want to stop that. That’s not what we’re like. We’re human beings. We care about other people. We want to do things together. We care about whether the kid down the street gets an education. We care about whether somebody else has a road, even if I don’t use it. We care about whether there is child slave labor in Thailand. We care about whether some elderly person gets food. That’s social security. We care whether somebody else gets food. There’s a huge effort to try to undermine all of that--to try to privatize aspirations so then you’re totally controlled…” (Noam Chomsky, 2000)

Then, what can we teachers do to promote solidarity among students? First of all, the impoverished should be the central aim of solidarity and educational needs should arise from every person’s needs, from acknowledging that education must be a fundamental right for all people, understanding that without education there is no possible safe, healthy or environmentally sound world, recognising that this is unachievable without international political charity and real commitment.

     Teachers must be key social actors with a major role to play not only locally but also globally. As teachers, it is our responsibility to commit ourselves to acting cooperatively within the international context by helping our students understand global issues such as starvation, unemployment, child labour and community development, by building partnerships with organisations seeking to raise awareness of global issues, of the work being undertaken in the south for economic, social and political changes and of the need for a more equitable world order. As teachers, we must give them hope that they can peacefully fight for a better world for the others and for themselves if they associate.

     Teachers can receive training, attend seminars and conventions to improve the way we teach. We can work hard to reach objectives; can choose whether to use one or another syllabus and method. We can learn about the hemisphericity theory and learning styles, and try to array lessons in a wide range of ways to offer students opportunities to make use of their most highly developed intelligences. However, failing to teach moral virtues, to assume universal human responsibility, and to take clear positions on these issues amounts to taking no interest in social matters and showing indifference to hunger, poverty and child slavery.

     As educators, we are challenged to embrace a global perspective of the complexity of current affairs with a positive and constructive view of the future, playing an active role in education in values by mobilising ourselves and our students to contribute to effective world solidarity. Doing that will change the way we teach, research, serve, live our profession, and connect with our world community. Indifference is the worst form of violence and converts us into accomplices of moral evils such as the systematic cruel exploitation of 400 million children worldwide.

“(Solidarity) is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.” (Pope John Paul II, 1987)