TEENAGERS TURN THEIR BACK ON ABSTRACT HUMANISM 1
Ilian Rizov, Rosen Nenkov
The teaching programme for intercultural understanding developed by the Ministry of Education and Science for use in the classroom is aimed at provoking children to think actively: to think for themselves, to place themselves in other people’s shoes, to think in agreement with themselves. The role of the teacher in this process is to teach them involvement.
If an instruction manual of “hatred management” is ever written, it would inevitable emphasise the use of the most important element: fear of anything different. This mechanism is infallible, supported by the natural human reflex for self-preservation which is usually transformed into a fear of the incomprehensible. Then there is the other back-up instrument: “management through the restriction of knowledge”. This creates a simple and clear chain: the lack of knowledge of the other, to a state of fear, to a state of hatred and people divided amongst themselves. The elevation of differences into fetishes becomes a method by which some human communities dominate others. So no wonder individual humans with a blinkered view of the word tremble when they meet someone different.
Life constantly poses the problem of incomprehension of the people and the rejection of differences. For children at school, the “other” is usually a misunderstood peer, a rejected genius, a “dim” pupil, a poor or rich child, a Gypsy or a Turk. Even when connected with the study of specific events and individuals, humanistic principles are difficult to understand as a guiding principle for children at a tender age between 7 and 18. There is a clear need for education specially dedicated to human relations and the problems connected with them. Our proposal for a programme of interculturalunderstanding is a addressed at teachers working with children between the ages of 13 and 18. It is intended for class lessons or as an element of elective study. The aim is to use education to help young people to open up paths for understanding individual human fates which incorporate the universal principles of human existence, diverse cultural affiliations and personal identification.
The content of the programme is structured in five themes: I, My Friends, My Family, Our Relatives, People from My Town or Village. These areas are most frequently associated with people’s cultural identity and their problems, born, out of inter-cultural incomprehension and the lack of respect for human rights.
The programme proposes mechanisms which take into consideration the individual experience of teenagers and further develop their social and psychological reflexes. With the help of the teacher they turn their backs on abstract humanism and, without noticing, accept the ethnocultural self-identification of their school friends of different ethnic backgrounds as something completely natural.
The development of the skills of interculturalunderstanding inevitably leads to the improvement of intercultural relations. If the teacher manages to provoke children to develop their sensitivity and skills to comprehend those who are different, they will gradually arrive at the conviction that cultural identity and its related self-identification is an individual right and an existential need. In addition to the skill of understanding those who are different, the programme may be used to provide knowledge in the area of human rights and information about institutions involved in their preservation.
1 Published in Ethnoreporter, N3, 1998. [обратно]
© Ilian Rizov, 1998