Every so often something appears in the news or on tv that truly sends a wave of despair over me. As a natural optimist, and positive thinker, it really does take a lot to wear me down. Even so, this is one of those pieces of news that really got to me.
On Monday evening hundreds of thousands of Scots watched the first episode of the new BBC Scotland series, The Street. In the episode, viewers witnessed a shocking, violent racist attack on a street busker in Glasgow city centre. I refuse to post the video of the attack here as it is not only shameful, but filled with foul and abusive language. However, if you wish to see what happened, you can do so here: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/video-sickening-racist-attack-glasgow-3158282
The article states that the ‘so-called’ man responsible for the attack was convicted – but he is one of many who believe it is okay to treat people in this manner…..many of whom will never be forced to confront their behaviour or the effects.
As a human being, it sickens me to think I share the earth with people who do not value others in the same way as themselves because of the colour of their skin, or the religion they practise, or the political side on which they fall. As a teacher, it fires me up and makes me even more passionate about my vocation and the importance of instilling acceptance, tolerance and values in the children I teach and encounter every day. It makes me care even more about giving children opportunities to explore and identify emotions in themselves and in other people, in building emotional literacy and empathy, as well as recognition of this incredible world we live in, and how amazing the creatures are who inhabit this earth.
My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors.
In the many heated and anger-fuelled conversations I have seen happen online since this video was aired, one comment appears regularly – the idea that education is the key to confronting these attitudes. Education is a vital resource in building an understanding of the world. Education is so much more than ‘ABCs’ and addition and subtraction. Education has the power to open up minds and give people the chance of seeing the world from the point of view of another person.
It is clear that the individuals who perpetrated this attack have not had the opportunity for building up that knowledge, or perhaps have had these attitudes passed down to them from previous generations. They show a complete lack of empathy and emotional literacy – as if they do not know or care what they may have in common with this man, nor do they care about the impact their words have on those around them. Their violence and their aggressiveness looks almost engrained – as if their almost primal anger is their first ‘go-to’ emotion.
Where do these attitudes come from? As babies, we are blank slates, with infinite potential. We are born with the need to connect and to engage with other people. How we are brought up, encouraged, guided, supported and loved through those early years shapes the person we become and the attitudes we have. Yet, I wonder, if you have not had the ability to build your own understanding of the world, your own emotional literacy and empathy…..how can you begin to educate your own children? This is where it falls, not only to parents, but to schools, nurseries, social workers, parenting groups, community workers, everyone who helps to bring up children and support families in raising their children, to help educate and build these values and inner-resources.
Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time. – Rabindranath Tagore –
As a Facebook friend of mine posted, regarding the attack…
“It doesn’t take much really to educate kids, i made a point of buying baby when she was born a selection of dolls of the world, and explain to her that we’re just a small drop in a giant pond That life might take her somewhere unknown and to be prepared to embrace and fit in it.“