Should Scotland’s young people and educators take some credit for the recent award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU and its citizens? ‘I will be adding it to my CV’ boldly asserted one educator. And so he should.
Recently I wrote a chapter relating to Nuclear War Education for a wider study into the teaching of controversial issues in the classroom. I was clear that the success of such a project or policy rests in a single outcome – no one presses the trigger. If we can create diplomatic, democratic, even decent leaders in the process than we are half way to achieving our goal. The other half comes through developing the responsible active citizens that CfE envisaged. Citizens are the bulwark and safety valve against the extremes and excesses of politics. And so our young people need to be as adept at sitting in the Commander in Chief’s seat as taking to the streets and manning the barricades. We can claim some success in that we do not regularly witness such excesses individually or on mass. However we must always be on our guard as politics, economies and societies can shift all too quickly especially at times of despair and disillusionment.
If we are to continue at peace and in relative harmony that the EU sets to achieve then we must make sure our young people are equipped with the skills, knowledge and attributes to administer, develop and maintain peaceful civic society.
A major test of that will be the approach of questions relating to self-determination for Scotland. The question has now been answered regarding at which age participants can be to take part in the referenda. The question now is are they equipped to take on that responsibility? True impartial education might be such that the need to do this for themselves in independent learning fashion. However as guardians of civic society educators must create the framework. Balanced resources and opportunities need to be created for discussion, debate and ultimately decisions from the newly enfranchised.
Running alongside this debate last week was the announcement of a major input of resources to support Remembrance activities and memorials. At this time of year I certainly remember preparing the groundwork for young people to have the opportunity to learn about Remembrance and the Armistice. In the old Standard Grade course if one was not in he trenches by this term then the war plan had failed (a failing of the course was that it was so regimented and restricted). Trench warfare continued until December when the Christmas Truce and Armistice brought the conflict to a halt in S4 classrooms. At this time Joyeux Noel and All Quiet on the Western Front were played in full despite it being said to be the ‘worst form of teaching’ at Moray House. Not enough young people have the opportunity, due to chaotic family lives and short attention spans and distractions out of school) to be able to watch quality films from start to finish. The purpose of watching the films was not to promote conflict but to highlight the horrors of war and promote peaceful solutions and cooperation.
Films only go so far though. Whilst they open students eyes to the atrocities of war nothing is more powerful than taking students to the battlefields of France and Flanders. As the bus passes by cemetery after cemetery and row upon row of graves the true horrors of war come home to students. The stories of heroism and hell mesh together and most students come back loathing war and making their own pledge to maintain peace. Sometimes that peace is simply forming a new friendship on the trip with the previously described ‘geeky’ one and sometimes it is more longer term commitments- ‘Sir, I want to come back again, I want to get a job where I can travel the world.’ Hopefully the Scottish Government will give some thought towards assisting Scottish schools on these battlefield pilgrimages. Actions like this are what is required to accord with the vision and values of the EU. Education contributing to peaceful coexistence of countries and more importantly human beings.
By film or by field study. a generation exposed to the full atrocity of war and extremism are unlikely to repeat it. They will do all they can to preserve peace. What about our political leaders? Will they do the same? Will they take actions that promote peace? And what does that say about their education? What is for sure, many politicians will lay claim to the Nobel Award regardless of what they have on their Citizenship CV or what they have endeavoured to put on others citizenship CV.