Every week in Social Studies we have a current events day. I ask students to bring in a news item to talk about with the class. The past few weeks there has been a lot to talk about. As the days are getting shorter and darker, it’s starting to feel like the world is becoming darker as well.
Why do terrorists want to hurt us?
Today I am listening to President Obama discussing the most recent attacks in San Bernadino, California. ISIL, ISIS, Daesh, IS. Refugees, Syria, Crisis. Gun control.
It’s been a lot to process.
How do you explain radicalisation to teenagers adapting to Canadian culture and learning English?
How do you explain that closing our borders (and hearts) to people in need does not solve the issue of extremism, and if anything can make it worse?
We’ve also had a lot of talks about guns and religion. If we had more guns, would we be safer? If we banned Islam/muslims/refugees … would we be safer?
I found a fantastic video from a new program in Australia:
We know a lot more now than we did on November 17th. But I think a lot of what Waleed Aly has to stay is, and will remain, true.
…Ok, but Waleed Aly is speaking pretty quickly. How can we break this down for students learning English?
I drew this graphic. I’ve drawn it a few times.
The people in the big circle are most people. I asked students – “Would you every kill someone?” (No). “If someone was hurt in the street, would you help them?” (Yes). Questions of basic human decency. This is where most people live – as decent human beings, the best and the worst of us, but still living in relative harmony with each other and not trying to do any harm.
Then I asked about people that don’t feel part of that circle. “What if you were bullied very badly?” … “What if you had been shouted at in the street for the clothing you’re wearing?” “What about if you were told to go home, or called a terrorist?”
When people feel that they don’t belong, are not in that “most people circle”, where do they go? People want to belong (and teenagers know this better than anyone). That’s where we see radicalisation and extremism. When people don’t feel like they are part of something, that they are left out, that they have nowhere else to go – ugly extremist groups can get to them. Those extremists can convince them that revenge on the people they felt rejected by and apart from will fill them, will make them feel better.
Groups like ISIS use Twitter and Facebook and the internet to seek out and find those people that feel isolated and alone and give them a place to belong.
By creating an “us” and “them” world, well, you’ve done terrorist and extremist groups a favour.
What Can We Do?
Open your heart. It’s so cliche – but when people feel that they belong somewhere and have a place, they are less likely to want to make other people hurt. When you feel like you have nothing left to lose, you are willing to lose.
The Most Dangerous Part of Your Day
My last question for my students was, and is a lot lately, “What’s the most dangerous part of your day?” This time of year, it’s walking to the bus stop or getting in a car first thing in the morning or after school. It’s really dark, and there have been a lot of accidents and pedestrians hit because of poor visibility and the rain. This is something we do everyday without thinking. But we do it, and we aren’t afraid of it because we need to live our lives.
We need to live our lives.
And we can fight terrorism even on a very small scale by keeping our minds and hearts open against fear and hate.