Full text (pdf): EGR09 00 Editorial

A member of our Editorial Committee recently told how his sister had asked him for help with a situation involving his nephew. What had happened was that the boy, aged eleven, was working in an Education for Citizenship lesson at school about the exploitation of children, child soldiers, refugee camps and life in them, and he was refusing to read about it, study it, understand it, feel it… there was too much suffering and he could not understand why he had to do that task.


His parents, confused and unsure, asked what they should do in this case. They had, of course, always believed that their son’s sensitivity was a good thing, but in this case it appeared to be making him freeze and preventing him from continuing to learn. As parents, they had always told their children of the need to have empathy, know about the world, think from the perspective of others, be familiar with their contradictions… but seeing him freeze like this had made them rethink some of their processes. Was he too young to come to terms with this knowledge, to understand why all of this was happening? Should they talk to the teachers to see if he could be temporarily excused from the task on that occasion? Or would that be giving too much space to this hypersensitivity and restricting the necessary process of learning about frustration, even if it was as a one-off?


A parallel story to this, but in a much more difficult context, can be seen in a story that was published in the press a few months ago after the attacks in Paris. A few days after the attacks, a young child was interviewed by a channel called “Le Petit Journal” at one of the places where the violence and bombs had caused death and destruction. On that spot, the child was interviewed in front of a scene of flowers and candles. And there the child expressed his concern:


“They are very bad. Bad people aren’t nice, and we should be very careful because we will have to move house,” the child said after the journalist asked if he knew what had happened. Hearing this, his father joined in with the interview to calm his son, saying “Oh no, don’t worry. We won’t have to leave; France is our home.” The boy was still unsure and repeated that the people responsible for the attack were very bad: “They have guns. They can shoot us, because they are really bad, daddy.” The adult gave a response that surprised the child but did not really convince him: “We have flowers.” “But flowers don’t do anything daddy!” the child replied. “Of course they do, look, everybody is leaving flowers. They are to combat the guns,” his father replied. “Are they to protect us? And the candles?” the child asked. “The candles are to remember the people who went yesterday,” the man said to his son. After this brief conversation the boy looked at his father giving him a big smile and, still perhaps somewhat sceptical but this time much more convinced, told the adults that he already felt better[1].


How this father handled this issue with his son could certainly be the object of an interesting discussion, especially from the perspective of the psychology of learning. When watching the video, it is interesting to put oneself in the child’s place and consider how he accepts the premises that his father proposes. At these ages, children investigate, as Piaget showed, and easily incorporate certain principles. The only condition is that they have to be at least weakly consistent, that they have some degree of causality[2].


A third and final story might be one that we do not know, a story about children who do not even know that they are learning by investigating. For now they only know that they have left their homes in Syria or Guatemala and that they are now in Turkey or on the Mexican border without any chance to be sensitive, to refuse to accept what is happening to them. It is true that they refuse to accept that they might lose their families, that their lives are in danger, or that they might end up face down on a beach like Aylan Kurdi, a little boy they were told about who lived in their town and died on the journey to the Greek island of Kos. None of them comprehend that this image had a surprising effect when the photo-journalist Nilufer Demir took a photograph of the body of his companion that would travel all over the world. If the unexpected effect had been that people and politicians reacted and everything changed so that their lives were no longer in danger and they were even welcomed or could return home, this would not have been so unexpected. Perhaps it would fit into their schemes and would be consistent that, although everything might be horrible and bad people exist, there is always a solution, there is always hope.


What really happened though was that the people and politicians were shocked, but the politicians (those who make the decisions) got over it. They forgot, or chose to forget. The scars of conscience, the result of reality’s wounds were treated with the cosmetic surgery of vested interests or fear or power or a mixture of everything. And so, every week hundreds more children like Aylan appear, thus giving rise to many more children who become accustomed to the inconsistent concept that life is worth nothing, that everything is more valuable than human rights and that hope is a vital organ that was at some stage excised. That there are no flowers or candles. Nobody will remember them. Neither will anyone fight for anything to happen differently. I say that it is inconsistent but really, if we look at the world, at stories, at the news, at artistic narratives… it would seem that this is something very consistent, perhaps the most consistent thing in our world.


Global learning (GL) counters this. It is a pedagogy of hope that, as the three previous stories show, cannot be limited to consciousness-raising or awareness-raising. Both are the door to something else, much more powerful and significant. With the metaphor that we used above, both aspects create wounds that are bigger or smaller and with time turn into scars. Global learning tries to do something greater, something much greater. It is true that these scars are a memory, the presence of something that affected us in the deepest sense of the word. They awaken a memory in us of something that happened or that is happening in our being. In this case, in our world. GL, or education for change, reminds us that these scars, in the case of the world and history, can also be doors. Doors that are an entrance to the depths of working for justice, happiness and love. They are calls and opportunities to build on and share in the breadth of our dreams, and all of this is something that cannot – indeed must not – be lost as children grow.


One of the parents of contemporary pedagogy, John Dewey, reflected on how learning is based on experience and how this in turn has two parts: an active part and another passive one. For example, the active side would be bringing one’s finger close to a flame and the passive side would be… burning oneself. In more general terms, all learning involves an element of suffering. With all true learning, we do something and “it” does something to us. Consequently, experience becomes one of the keys to learning with this double face[3].


With the three children we met in the previous paragraphs, we have seen how their level of experience would differ. This presents a challenge for educational systems in general, but it is also an opportunity for the mission of Global Learning in particular. GL takes this diversity and gives it value, making hope the cornerstone of educational systems. In this way, children feel that they are being called upon to change the world within the scope and style of their possibilities, with the view that in the future they will have to include this task in the list of what makes their lives meaningful. Therefore, conscience-raising or awareness-raising are not sufficient; instead it is necessary to go further. In order to pass through this door, very diverse forms and ways of training are needed. And, furthermore, we must observe and reflect on how all of this happens.


All of these tasks are specific to GL and must provide the capacity to intervene in reality in terms of human rights, but also through care, happiness and love, if it is possible to separate these. Therefore, what we are talking about is learning how to put these four words into effect, to make them more than just abstractions: justice, care, happiness and love. When we go through the door that shows conscience-raising and awareness-raising, we find a great palace where we can participate in life, enjoy it and support it. This in turn is somewhere that is complex, diverse and difficult to understand, but with the pedagogy of hope running through our veins, our scars turn into something more striking: they are marginal notes about reality that become the central text that shapes our lives. So, hope is recreated and turned into a near possibility. This was something that another girl had no doubts about, a girl called Malala who can certainly give the children mentioned above good reasons to think that hope is something that has meaning:

“As far as I know, I am just a committed and even stubborn person who wants to see every child getting quality education, who wants to see women having equal rights and who wants peace in every corner of the world. Education is one of the blessings of life—and one of its necessities. That has been my experience during the 17 years of my life. In my paradise home, Swat, I always loved learning and discovering new things. I remember when my friends and I would decorate our hands with henna on special occasions. And instead of drawing flowers and patterns we would paint our hands with mathematical formulas and equations.


We had a thirst for education, we had a thirst for education because our future was right there in that classroom. We would sit and learn and read together. We loved to wear neat and tidy school uniforms and we would sit there with big dreams in our eyes. We wanted to make our parents proud and prove that we could also excel in our studies and achieve those goals, which some people think only boys can.


But things did not remain the same. When I was in Swat, which was a place of tourism and beauty, suddenly changed into a place of terrorism. I was just ten when more than 400 schools were destroyed. Women were flogged. People were killed. And our beautiful dreams turned into nightmares. Education went from being a right to being a crime. When my world suddenly changed, my priorities changed too. I had two options. One was to remain silent and wait to be killed. And the second was to speak up and then be killed. I chose the second one. I decided to speak up.


The terrorists tried to stop us and attacked me and my friends who are here today, on our school bus on 9 October 2012, but neither their ideas nor their bullets could win. We survived. And since that day, our voices have grown louder and louder. It is the story of many girls. Today, I tell their stories too. I have brought with me some of my sisters from Pakistan, from Nigeria and from Syria, who share this story. My brave sisters Shazia and Kainat who were also shot that day on our school bus. They experienced a tragic trauma. And my brave sister Kainat Soomro who went through severe abuse and extreme violence, even her brother was killed, but she did not succumb. (…)


I am going to continue this fight until I see all children at school. I feel much stronger since the attack that I suffered, because I know that nobody can stop me, nor can they stop us, because now there are millions of us who are standing together. My great hope is that this will be the last time, this will be the last time that we must fight for education. We want everyone to come together to support us in our campaign so that we can resolve this once and for all.


(…) So we will bring equality, justice and peace for all. Not just the politicians and the world leaders, we all need to contribute. Me. You. We. It is our duty. We must work… not wait. I call on my companions, girls and boys, to stand up in all of the world.


Let this be the last time that a child loses life in war. Let this be the last time that a classroom stays empty. Let this be the last time that a girl is told that education is a crime and not a right. Let this be the last time that we see a child out of school. Let’s begin this ending. Let this end with us. And we will build a better future, right here, right now. Thank you so much[4].”


As we can see, Malala Yousafzai’s lecture when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 goes far beyond raising awareness or conscience. It includes a commitment to hope that is set in motion, a call to action for something that seems impossible. GL supports with meaning and practice this constructive madness that we should feel running through our arteries from our childhood. This process of learning might involve suffering, but it is proof that we are alive.


(With regards to the issue you have in your hands, we, as always, try to offer you contributions to further explore our subject area. We hope that the article by Jorge Osorio, from Chile, helps you to reflect along these lines, with its suggestion that we should rethink the public agenda on citizenship education in the current context of Latin-American society. His article gives us an interesting insight into education policies on the matter, proposing some sources for critical citizenship education.


The second article presents a best practice in an education centre regarding global learning in an education centre in Madrid. The originality of the proposal, by Raquel Pardo, is that instead of adding a GL issue to the subject, she uses an ingenious idea and a characteristic of the history of literature: the locus amoenus. We invite you to read the text to see what it means and how they have developed it.


The third main article, by Miguel Ardanaz, is the follow-up of an article we published in issue 7. In the previous article, a model was presented for working on curriculum planning as a whole using GL perspectives. Now, after putting the model into practice, the evolution of the “global learning optics” model is presented, developed using a template based on metaphor-images that aim to create a type of social and cosmopolitan thinking skill.


In the review section, we comment on two recently published books: the first one is part of a school network and coordinated by Cesar Rincón de Castro. “Global Cosmopolitan Identity” is a reflection and a proposal on education for global development in education centres that aims to raise awareness. The second book is the English publication “Towards the Compassionate School”. We thought it would be interesting to link the idea of citizenship and compassion in the school environment, and here we have this example, edited and co-written by Maurice Irfan Coles. We would like to thank Álvaro Sanz and Miguel Ardanaz for their work.


As guest journal, on this occasion, we bring you the prestigious Policy & Practice, from Northern Ireland. It is a leading journal in the field we work in. We would like to thank its editor, Stephen McCloskey, for his collaboration which we hope will lead to new forms of collaboration.


As a guest article from this journal, we give you the article entitled “The Relationship between children’s perceptions of the natural environment and solving environmental problems” by Sarah O’Malley. We feel it is an interesting article that can contribute a great deal to us all, both in terms of its subject matter and style.

[2] PIAGET, J and INHELDER B. (2007). Psicología del niño. Madrid: Morata.

[3] DEWEY J. (1995). Democracia y educación. Madrid: Morata.

[4] Nobel Lecture by Malala Yousafzai, Oslo, 10 December 2014.