Why do we keep asking ‘why?’

Like most people I learned about the horrific news in Paris via Facebook. The most common response in my social media feed seems to be ‘why?’

The mass murder of civilians is an evil that those who live in peaceful countries collectively struggle to understand – as we are so far removed from war.

Yet on a broader level the teacher in me wonders if the very question of ‘why’ is a failure in education.

As a laser-like focus goes on the 3Rs means that the arts and social science are pushed aside as a frivolous waste of time. Forget about history- we need our kids on the path to well paying jobs in the future. Current events are pushed aside – we’ve got units to cover, standards to meet, external assessments to worry about.

Over the holidays I read The Gate by Francios Bizot a fascinating account of the only westerner taken prisoner by the Khmer Rouge and lived to tell the tale. My mind immediately turned to the situation in Iraq and Syria and found many connections between the past and today.

  • The fall of an ancient empire
  • Colonisation by western powers
  • Military coup
  • Wide-spread corruption, income inequality
  • Civil war, revolution, widespread killing of civilians
  • Mass movement of refugees

There are other countries that have followed a similar course – Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia immediately spring to mind where similar situations have unfolded in my lifetime.

There are other countries which have followed that same dark path.

Yet there are also countries that have not.

The question of ‘why’ is a failure in education but not just on an individual level of those who perpetuated these horrible acts. On a global level we are failing to heed the lessons – we are blind to the conditions which enable violent extremism to rapidly multiply until that extremism is impossible to ignore.

Yes our children need to learn to read and write, do maths in order to become productive members of society. But let us never lose sight that we also need to educate our children to lead a better global community than the one we live in now.

As current events demonstrate, we ignore the study of humanity – both the good and the evil – at our collective peril.

One thought on “Why do we keep asking ‘why?’

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  1. Timely for me as we enter the final week of Year 10 classes in Victoria Australia. Do I halt the regular, exam preparation to spend a lesson talking about these issues? I think we will, primarily because I think the students will appreciate it. It’s a common refrain in my staff room to hear us lamenting the lack of ‘worldliness’ in many students. I think sometimes we have our standards and curriculum to blame.


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