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Violence and Extremism. Lynn Davies Centre for International Education & Research . Educating Against Extremism. Trentham, 2008 Nature of extremism Identity, joining and leaving Segregation, faith schools Justice, revenge and honour Free speech, offence and humour

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violence and extremism

Violence and Extremism



Centre for


Education &


educating against extremism
Educating Against Extremism

Trentham, 2008

  • Nature of extremism
  • Identity, joining and leaving
  • Segregation, faith schools
  • Justice, revenge and honour
  • Free speech, offence and humour
  • Towards critical idealism
background of extremists
Background of extremists
  • Can be highly educated
  • Preference for absolutism, singular truths, polar differences
  • Sense of mission and unique place in this
  • Religious/political justification
  • Drawn into a ‘brotherhood’
  • Terrorists are altruists, not criminals
educational alternatives
Educational alternatives
  • Comfort with ambiguity and provisionality
  • Acceptance that political and religious leaders may have got it wrong
  • But not a relativist stance
  • Need for a value system
  • But a value system which can be critiqued
issues relating to faith schools
Issues relating to faith schools
  • Locking in of cultural identity
  • Promotion of belief system as superior
  • Disposition to favour others with same devotional orientation
  • Exclusionary beliefs very powerful, especially for the young
  • Therefore a need for critical reflection on doctrinal errors (e.g. defence of slavery)
  • Tolerance is a negative value (we only tolerate things we don’t like or believe in)
  • If we are less judgemental, do we slip into moral indifference?
  • Distinction between beliefs and actions in terms of tolerance
  • Therefore we need a means to know what to disrespect
the myth of equal value
The myth of equal value
  • Modern multifaith education tries to teach that all faiths are equal and not in competition
  • But this is hypocritical and untrue
  • Unlike cultural identities, religious identities are exclusive, not able to be overlaid or have parts exchanged
  • To present the view that religions are in harmony is to presuppose that they are all good
  • So R.E. should look at claims to ‘truth’, past wrongs in the name of religion, and also religion alongside other ideological systems
is education meaningless without a religious dimension
Is education meaningless without a religious dimension?
  • View that religion has a concept of human dignity and worth that exceeds any secular account (in spite of UDHR)
  • Radical Islam teaches that there is no such thing as morality in Islam – simply what Allah taught.
  • View that secularism is a moral ‘vacuum’
  • Contemporary curriculum (such as sex education) seen as immoral and devoid of responsibility
citizenship education dilemmas
Citizenship education dilemmas
  • ‘Citizenship education is both the promotion of (assumed) common values (freedom, responsibility, honesty), irrespective of class, sex, gender, ethnicity, cultural and religion and, at the same time, is about encouraging young people acquire the skills to question and evaluate values’ (Watson 2004)
nationalistic values
Nationalistic values?
  • Teaching national curriculum and culture can (as in Occupied Palestine) provide confidence
  • But promoting ‘Britishness’ is actually more divisive than cohesive: what is distinctive about ‘British’ values?
  • Patriotism can promote ‘civic illiteracy’ and uncritical support for government
rights cutting out the middle man
Rights: cutting out the middle man
  • Conventions accepted by (nearly) all countries of the world
  • Provides independent criteria for assessing other value systems and actions
  • Because of the continual juxtaposition of rights and responsibilities, it circumvents the problem of ‘tolerance’
  • Rights is not a belief system, it is an ethical system: can be ‘spiritual’
rights respecting schools unicef
Rights Respecting Schools (UNICEF)
  • Developed in Nova Scotia and UK
  • Premised on UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as basis for all school life
  • All children, teachers, parents and ancillary staff learn about the convention
  • Teaching/learning methods and relationships match this
  • Active participation in decision-making
  • Emphasis on working for change
why does it work
Why does it work?
  • It appeals to children’s self-interest
  • It connects them to children everywhere
  • It derives from a higher authority (all but 2 of the world’s nations) and is not simply the school’s rules / mission statement)
  • It links to what enables people to learn
  • Does not give permanent behavioural identities
why does it work 2
Why does it work? (2)
  • Use of UNCRC avoids moral or cultural relativism; knowing what is a right and what isn’t
  • Realisation of conflicting rights promotes higher order thinking and reasoning skills
  • Changes teacher behaviour
  • Research shows adolescents in RRSs have higher self-esteem, greater participation
  • Contagion effect: learning about own rights results in support for rights of others
rights and culture
Rights and culture
  • Need to learn ‘about cultures’ or ‘diversity’ as it affects rights, not as stereotypical properties
  • a) when rights of a group are infringed
  • b) when the rights of others are infringed in the name of a culture or religion
critical idealism
Critical idealism

Answer to extremism is not ‘moderation’, but a highly critical and informed idealism. This needs 5 types of criticality in education :

1. political education including conflict studies, comparative religion, non-nationalistic citizenship education - critical scholarship

2. Understanding of rights and responsibilities -critical (dis)respect

critical idealism 2
Critical idealism (2)

3. Skills to weigh up alternative ideals and means to pursue them – critical thinking

4. The acceptance that ideals should be provisional – critical doubt

5. The acceptance that ideals and their holders may be mocked – critical lightness

caf joke after unsuccessful attack on saddam hussain
Café joke after unsuccessful attack on Saddam Hussain…

Following the attack, the Iraqi Information Minister has summoned all Saddam’s body doubles to a meeting to tell them:

‘The good news is that our beloved leader has survived, so you all still have jobs. The bad news is that he has lost an arm’.