Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sad day when politicians hold a school to ransom

TUESDAY, 27 APRIL 2010 13:48

If the above words quoted in Lim Kit Siang’s blog were uttered and they were true, we have reached the highest level of idiocy in charting the future of Malaysian education. How much shame must we parade in our desperation to win this or that election that is a theatre of the absurd anyway?

The essential question is, how dare we use education – the only means for social and economic progress for ALL races – to bribe voters!

We hear all too often now that education is being ‘prostitutionalized’ in the name of political gains. That gentle profession and a noble enterprise, from the Latineducare (drawing out the potentials) have been overused in election campaigns. From rice to roads, credit cards to cruises, youth facilities to new universities – all these have been used as political baits throughout our history.

We are in a pathological condition. Education and the building of educational institutions must be a non-partisan endeavour.
As the philosopher John Dewey would say, education is the only means for social and educational progress, and the teaching of thinking will never bring the child to any dead places, so we must take heed of this notion of education for all. 
Education must become a vehicle for the development of a critical citizenry, regardless of who is in power, as the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire would say.

Have we no shame when we say that only if the people vote for this or that party, money will flow to the children of that community? Have we no sense of understanding of human rights and dignity when we deliberately create apartheid system of education through preferential treatments by virtue of who votes for us?
Denying children’s rights
We are denying children the right to be intelligent when we use programmes of the gifted and talented as political tool and as means to punish electorates. We are denying at-risk youth alternative educational settings that will give them hope and vision when we are merely interested in their potential as paid hooligans during election campaigns.

In the United States it does not matter which government is in power, the approaches to educating the future generation differ only in the emphasis towards making the schools perform better.
Whether it is Ronald Reagan’s NCEE report of ‘A Nation at Risk’, Bill Clinton’sGoals 2000, George Bush’s No Child Left Behind, or Barack Obama’s Race to the Top – all these have the goal of grand scale inclusiveness, although the ideology and modus operandi might differ.
In them, these are the mandate given to each state to implement standards of excellence to make society better. Never have I heard, as an American educator myself, of this or that school denied of funding by virtue of the community's political leaning. It would be a Supreme Court case if a school district is denied money due to the teacher union’s endorsement of this or that candidate in the gubernatorial race, for instance.
If we continue to see in Malaysia at every election campaign, money being promised only if votes are being given, then we have become an immoral nation of peoples that do not care for the next generation of children.

Already we have educational institutions entrenched in race and the propagation of racial superiority – at a time when we trumpet to the outside world our ‘Malaysian-ness’.
We not only have elite schools for one race, expensive schools for the gifted and talented of one race, universities only for this or that race, and grants and scholarships for only one race – we have them when all these are supposed to be coming from a ‘1Malaysia’ government in which the taxpayers are of all races.

Already we are seeing more seeds of racialization in education and the ‘apartheid-ization’ of schooling planted in order to further the agenda of race-based politics.
The ‘one-school-fits-all’ (Satu sekolah untuk semua) movement/campaign is also deeply suspect. Which ideology will hegemonize, which culture will be made dominant, and what will be the nature of ‘nationalism and patriotism’ shoved onto the minds of the young?

These are serious questions we need to ask ourselves as a nation – how have we politicized and prostitutionalized education? What will be the political, social, and cultural implications of this game we are letting politicians play?
It is game that reflects out pathological state of mind as we continue to see our institutions crumble, no longer able to withstand the weight of our contradictions.
What then must we do?
We do not have time to entertain ethnocentric politics anymore; our society has been fragmented into classes of rich and poor, marginalizing people of all races to newer character.
All forms of race-based politics in this century of post-modernity, flux, and shifting ideologues is racist in nature. It is racism for the convenience of control and the furtherance of unseen violence masked as ‘progress and civility’.

We must go back to the study of educational philosophies rather than advance the practice of educational prostitutionalization.

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