Politics cannot be taken out of education


Recently, Cursor published an article about Dutch academics boycotting Israeli universities and the research that is used to aid military technology. There were a few reactions to the Instagram post but one comment in particular distinctly caught my eye.

A person dropped the following comment below the Cursor post: “Let's not make education about politics.” And, I couldn’t help but wonder how on earth do you make education apolitical.

I took a moment to self-reflect in order to better understand where that came person is coming from - our different gender identities, cultural, social, economic upbringing, and the nature of politics in our respective regions. I realized that this person could reach this statement about education and politics was a direct reflection of privilege. And I cannot begin to fathom how they did.

The nature of education and politics is subsidiary to the larger relationship between education and society. And as we all know, education is enmeshed in the very fabric of society and social life. And, seeing as micro and macro politics steer our daily efforts as we walk through life, how could it be that we keep those two separate? Mind you, this is nothing like secularity but even the very decision to secularize institutions is a political one. Everything from research funding, tuition fees, to negotiating with your professor or the very exchange of knowledge is guided by the intricacies of politics.

So, how could it be? We can all agree that education is meant to broaden one's line of thought and to enhance collective intellect in general. As a result, it creates a sense of responsibility (as we see in the ‘political’ decision to prioritize the clean energy transition and sustainable practices at the TU/e, for example). Politics and education are two areas that rely on the same disciplines that are centered on learning. Every teacher was once a student, every leader was once an apprentice. The implication of keeping education apolitical is, thus, grave for the future generations of leaders and decision-makers.

Finally, to be privileged enough to choose neutrality when it comes to matters which concern the value of human life, is to stay complacent to the oppressive systems which put those very lives at risk. The way I see it is as such: whilst you have the luxury of choosing to stay apolitical and enjoy your daily freedoms, that comes at the expense of siding with the oppressor when you choose to no longer voice those concerns for those unable to. Looking at the Palestinian crisis in particular, it’s more so a humanitarian crisis than a political debate in which choosing to stay quiet enables the dehumanization of the Palestinian people. That is also to very lightly touch on normalizing crisis and suffering in ‘Third World’ countries and specially so in the MENA region.

Simply because you are not directly affected by the injustice in Palestine does not mean you have no say in the outcome of the situation. The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is not led by political leaders but by civil society.

“No one is free until we are all free.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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