Religious Generation versus Liberal Education?

“We will raise a religious generation” was the statement of PM Erdoğan made last week. Prof Fatma Gök assessed this much disputed statement for bianet. She said that the republican ideology as well as the AKP saw education as a tool to raise certain generations.

At the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Extended Meeting of Provincial Chairs in the beginning of February, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, "We want to raise a religious generation. Do you expect the AKP to raise an atheist generation?" His statement created quite a stir in the Turkish media and was discussed controversially. Erdoğan commented the voiced criticism: "Do you want the youth to become thinner addicts? Do you want the young people to be a generation that rebels against the older ones? Do you want the youth to be a generation cut off from national and moral values without any integrity and concern?"

The Head of the Boğaziçi University Faculty of Education, Prof Fatma Gök, said in a statement made to bianet that she found the prime minister's speech utterly grave.

"Education is the most important device for ideology"

Gök said that they analyzed the situation as education scientists and by problematizing the result they worked on how to create a more liberal education. Gök reminded that the prime minister did not feel the need to consider these aspects but openly announced, "We are going to raise a religious generation".

The education expert pointed to many schools of thoughts world-wide that contemplated the up-bringing of people in an educational framework. According to Gök, the prime minister adopted one school out of all these schools of thought that he saw as a tool to change the manner of education.

Gök deemed it a common truth that people engaged in pedagogy pursued a free democratic education independent of politics, the state and the capital. She referred to Louis Althusser to define the general functions of education in capitalist societies: "Education is the most important device of ideology of a society".

All governments wanted to shape education according to how they wanted to raise the people but they could not say it openly, the academic claimed.

"Education happens at a point where the society and the individual are merging. Therefore, the people in power try to shape education", Gök argued.

"Children cannot be subjected to a religious up-bringing"

Gök explained that the process to make education more and more religious started in 1980. She emphasized that no education system could do such thing as raising a religious generation and that this was nothing to be desired. The expert said that this was also completely wrong in terms of pedagogical aspects. Gök continued:

* Generations of any society cannot be subjected to being raised religiously. This is very wrong in consideration of the science of education.

* Moreover, children should not be exposed to any religious suggestion. We know how problematic religious education and ethic courses are nowadays.

* Religion cannot be grafted into children and the concept of "sniffers" cannot be put up as an alternative. It is unacceptable to tell a person 'We will either be sniffers or religious people'.

"Either freedom or the 'package of national and moral values'"

"We see the field of education as an arena. It is a political field where those who want to shape social institutions in their existing form battle with those ones who want change". In Gök's opinion, schools are very different from other social areas:

"There is no mass participation like students in [other] social areas. We will either liberate them or we are going to squeeze them into the 'package of national moral values' put together by those who want to continue this order".

Gök is not satisfied with the existing package of national and moral values put together by the AKP and said it would lead to a more advanced stage were the Islamic drift is aimed to become stronger.

School in the hands of the power became an institution to establish a dominant power, Gök stated. According to the academic, the reason for this is the fact that school is also a place of resistance at the same time:

"Somebody who goes to hospital would not resist but a child going to school does. The school is being ridiculed, students quarrel with teachers and teachers with the administration because the power to control and being controlled might clash".

"Right now, school is a structure that cannot be fully controlled by the power and they want to change that".

"Republican ideology of national education is the same"

Gök underlined that no regime wanted to leave school and education alone. In her opinion, the term "raising a generation" described the same situation in both the 89-year national education ideology and the AKP's education ideology.

Fatma Gök stressed the difficult issue of realizing education that was purified of any ideologies. Therefore, people in Turkey had to pursue a society with a more balanced ratio between the economic capital and the social and cultural capital, she propounded.

"Education free of any ideologies is the dream of some liberal pedagogues. This is a very pleasant belief. Yet, it does not coincide with reality. If we were a liberal society we could fancy liberal education but we have to struggle a lot in order to get there". (EKN)



İstanbul - BIA News Center

08 February 2012, Wednesday

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