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Friday, January 23, 2015
by azly rahman
I want to share some notes I had this week on how to turn our cities into classrooms.
In between looking those lecture notes on Globalisation, Philosophy, Humanities, Urban Education and Assessment reflecting, dreaming of good things, doing intense creative visualisation, listening to John Coltrane’s album ‘A Love Supreme’, renews my hope in educating others so that they may know a bit more about the world, understand the complexities of the children of the Millennium generation they are entrusted to educate, finding ways to engage those urban and ‘ghetto-gangsta’ kids, turning the ‘city into a classroom’ instead of a matrix of dehumanisation, designing projects and good and new artifacts of learning, understanding the link between global issues and the philosophical self as reflected in the reading of major world text in Humanities, and helping teachers and educational leaders design authentic and humanistic assessment strategies so that human beings will not be forever buried under statistics and numbers but continue to flourish and evolve, like Post-Modern Romantics - because as Coltrane said, “It’s all a world of ‘A Love Supreme’.”
Exciting. I thank thee, Socrates!
Last few days I took a short break from Facebook, and came back with this message:
BACK IN THE FACEBOOK LOOP ...
How’s the world doing these last few days... Malaysia ... same old, same old...?
More suicide bombings, Je Suis this and that, more fights between the old and new Malaysian political foes, that unresolved murder case of the Mongolian model, extradition complications...
We need more good stories of people helping others, overcoming of insurmountable barriers, the everyday heroes in action, of good Samaritans, success stories in education, tales from the trenches of teaching, good teachers doing good work, less nauseating stories of politicians and hypocrisy, kids coming up with good and new inventions...
Aren’t we all sick of today’s news reports?
I decided to think of the city as a way to redesign our education system, since most of the world’s population will be living in cities in this century. I came up with the following notes on the relationship between the city, the child, and the curriculum:
1. I want to think of the ‘city as educator’ rather than a space of alienation, and to design an educational system around the child and the city. Again, the child is central and the city must be his/her resource. How do I do this?
2. When we were growing up, we were not angels... we played truant... we played ‘hookie’ as the Americans would say... We ‘tuang kelas’... We ‘panjat pagar’... We ‘ponteng kelas’ and , as Malaysians would say, and where did we go? Not to the jungle and hang out with chimpanzees... Not to the village/kampong to run around in the padi fields... We go to the ‘city’... or ‘town’...
We hated school... We love the city... Why? How do we turn the city into a ‘classroom’ so that we will run to the ‘global classroom and learn’ and use the school as ‘research centres’ and teachers become resource persons, rather than correctional officers forcing us to learn and to button up our ‘baju kurung’. How do we do this - flip the classroom and turn the city into a great classroom? Any thoughts?
What’s in the mind of the city boy or girl?
3. What goes on in the mind of the city boy or girl these days? Is the school ready to nurture his/her cognitive abilities? Are our teachers prepared to help the city child develop his/her fullest potential, using the city as resources? Do the teachers understand what the ‘Millennial generation’ (of the 21st century) wants or even what it means?
Or what schools should do to house these ‘intellects and a product of the city and its urbanisation process’? What do you educators and parents out there think?
4. The media these days seem to focus on the arguments, debates, fights, and even war amongst adults... Amongst those who, in their old age, want to settle scores and install family members as next leaders, maintaining dynasties.
We have neglected to honour and nurture our most precious national asset - our children and our youth, to provide them with the best educational context they can be in to develop their minds to the max and to become good citizens who value lifelong learning and become compassionate members of our society.
We are doing the opposite - showing our ugliness as older members of society, setting bad examples through corruption, conspicuous consumption, blowing up people with C4, glorifying jihadists, showing our hypocrisy in selective prosecutions, confusing culture with religion and killing each other in the name of god. We are a horrible generation and unfit to be leaving a legacy to our precious children and legacy.
How do we correct this? How do we renew the prosperity of our educational system?
5. Okay, seriously folks... If you don't want those girls to be hugged by K-Pop singers you better create an educational system that’s poppin’ well enough that those kids will love hugging themselves and coconut trees only. How about that as positive narcissism and cultural pride?
I know I will be writing more on ways to improve the lives of our children - our greatest asset, and how the urban environment can be used by skilled teachers and innovative educational planners and imaginative curriculum designers to make learning more exciting on our way to chart a better and less alienated future for our youth.
I hope our policymakers and politicians will stop fighting and start doing their job educating. We have seen enough nonsense done not in the interest of the child, haven’t we?
Thursday, January 15, 2015
by Azly Rahman
Unfortunate. Even sad news. About that poor girl who got sent off because she wore a ‘Malay baju/dress’ on her first day of school, as reported.
This is more puzzling than the ‘Allah Controversy’ that I have been writing about. She was not only eager to be in school but what she wore the first day represents what she was feeling - in this case culturally.
The ‘baju kurung’ is the most gentle of the Malay dress; even the name ‘kurung’ connotes ‘shackling’, ‘confining’, ‘controlled’, ‘thinking and wearing something not outside the box’, ‘in the box/didalam kurungan’, and a range other connotation, signs, signals, signifiers, and representation (the entire semiotic jingbang and shebang of modesty) any Malaysian can think of. Right?
The ‘baju kurung’ is the most ‘nerdish girl-dress’ but its nerdish-ness is not without dignity and cultural pride.
Now explain to us gently: did she wear ‘baju kurung’ or ‘baju kurang’; the latter is the exact opposite of the Malay dress but the most revealing of dresses that reveals things either translucently or transparently or opaquely.
‘Baju kurang’ or ‘lesser dress’ is the exact opposite of shackled dressing; it is the official dress code of many a gangsta schoolgirls in the Bronx, East LA, East Philadelphia, Miami, or even Detroit, birthplace of Motown.
It is worn by girls who think that every day is an audition day of Beyonce, and Lady Gaga, Madonna, Kim Kardashian, or Queen Latifah to attract boys like Snoop Dogg or Jay-Z or 50 Cent. (equivalent to 50 American cents X current Malaysian Ringgit that makes no sense). That's what the ‘baju kurang’ girls attract.
So - can't the Malaysian educators-administrators under scrutiny be able to tell the difference between ‘baju kurung’ and ‘baju kurang’? Or maybe these administrators need to be sent to the Bronx or ‘Da Hood’' to see what ‘baju kurang’ looks like and to appreciate the intense feeling of those non-Malay-Muslims wishing to wear ‘baju kurung’ on the first day of school and not to be sent back home in humiliation - just for wanting to look Malaysian and very modest.
Now, it is fine if the poor girl came to school with ‘baju kurang’ or immodestly dressed and be sent home in a school gardener’s spare T-shirt to cover her ‘dress-lessness/kurang-ness’. That would be fine - in the same manner boys trying to look like K-Pop-Gangsta wearing sagging pants (‘fesyen seluar terlondeh’) inspired by US-Prison Fashion trying to ‘look fresh’ walking around the school like herniated folks - that I can understand.
That is boys’ ‘baju kurang’ fashion or to put it correctly, ‘baju kurang ajar’ when there is not respect for the public when one wears such, even though in a free-speech country such as France.
Be wise, pick your fights
So, Malaysian teachers. Be wise, pick your fights. Choose the best. Those worth fighting for. We have a lot to struggle for on our way to build a great education system. You don't need such a bad publicity.
You leaders are better than this - because in you we trust to bring education to greater heights.
In this case, the greater heights means not talking about ‘baju kurung with tudung only allowed’, but about new ideas in school reform, more engaging and intellectually challenging curriculum, Socratic-teaching methods infused, making students better thinkers and masters of concepts, appreciating and celebrating diversity, taking pride in one’s culture and also in exploring other people’s culture... and more.
These are the themes of out daily toil and struggle as educators and administrators.
Aren’t you folks supposed to be ‘philosopher teachers’ rather than ‘correctional officers’?
Time to go back to school. Teacher Education 101. To shed that ‘baju kurang’ attitude and move outside the box but still appreciating those wearing ‘baju kurung’.
I am now done with my complaint!
But how can we train our school administrators better - especially in matters of diversity, cultural literacy, and equal opportunity in a country badly in need of education for race and religious harmony?
Saturday, January 10, 2015
Friday, January 09, 2015
The journalists at Charlie Hebdo are now rightly being celebrated as martyrs on behalf of freedom of expression, but let’s face it: If they had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the last two decades it wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds. Student and faculty groups would have accused them of hate speech. The administration would have cut financing and shut them down.
Public reaction to the attack in Paris has revealed that there are a lot of people who are quick to lionize those who offend the views of Islamist terrorists in France but who are a lot less tolerant toward those who offend their own views at home.
Just look at all the people who have overreacted to campus micro-aggressions. The University of Illinois fired a professor who taught the Roman Catholic view on homosexuality. The University of Kansas suspended a professor for writing a harsh tweet against the N.R.A. Vanderbilt University derecognized a Christian group that insisted that it be led by Christians.
Americans may laud Charlie Hebdo for being brave enough to publish cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad, but, if Ayaan Hirsi Ali is invited to campus, there are often calls to deny her a podium.
So this might be a teachable moment. As we are mortified by the slaughter of those writers and editors in Paris, it’s a good time to come up with a less hypocritical approach to our own controversial figures, provocateurs and satirists.
The first thing to say, I suppose, is that whatever you might have put on your Facebook page yesterday, it is inaccurate for most of us to claim, Je Suis Charlie Hebdo, or I Am Charlie Hebdo. Most of us don’t actually engage in the sort of deliberately offensive humor that that newspaper specializes in.
We might have started out that way. When you are 13, it seems daring and provocative to “épater la bourgeoisie,” to stick a finger in the eye of authority, to ridicule other people’s religious beliefs.
But after a while that seems puerile. Most of us move toward more complicated views of reality and more forgiving views of others. (Ridicule becomes less fun as you become more aware of your own frequent ridiculousness.) Most of us do try to show a modicum of respect for people of different creeds and faiths. We do try to open conversations with listening rather than insult.
Yet, at the same time, most of us know that provocateurs and other outlandish figures serve useful public roles. Satirists and ridiculers expose our weakness and vanity when we are feeling proud. They puncture the self-puffery of the successful. They level social inequality by bringing the mighty low. When they are effective they help us address our foibles communally, since laughter is one of the ultimate bonding experiences.
Moreover, provocateurs and ridiculers expose the stupidity of the fundamentalists. Fundamentalists are people who take everything literally. They are incapable of multiple viewpoints. They are incapable of seeing that while their religion may be worthy of the deepest reverence, it is also true that most religions are kind of weird. Satirists expose those who are incapable of laughing at themselves and teach the rest of us that we probably should.
In short, in thinking about provocateurs and insulters, we want to maintain standards of civility and respect while at the same time allowing room for those creative and challenging folks who are uninhibited by good manners and taste.
If you try to pull off this delicate balance with law, speech codes and banned speakers, you’ll end up with crude censorship and a strangled conversation. It’s almost always wrong to try to suppress speech, erect speech codes and disinvite speakers.
Fortunately, social manners are more malleable and supple than laws and codes. Most societies have successfully maintained standards of civility and respect while keeping open avenues for those who are funny, uncivil and offensive.
In most societies, there’s the adults’ table and there’s the kids’ table. The people who read Le Monde or the establishment organs are at the adults’ table. The jesters, the holy fools and people like Ann Coulter and Bill Maher are at the kids’ table. They’re not granted complete respectability, but they are heard because in their unguided missile manner, they sometimes say necessary things that no one else is saying.
Healthy societies, in other words, don’t suppress speech, but they do grant different standing to different sorts of people. Wise and considerate scholars are heard with high respect. Satirists are heard with bemused semirespect. Racists and anti-Semites are heard through a filter of opprobrium and disrespect. People who want to be heard attentively have to earn it through their conduct.
The massacre at Charlie Hebdo should be an occasion to end speech codes. And it should remind us to be legally tolerant toward offensive voices, even as we are socially discriminating.
Thursday, January 08, 2015
by azly rahman
It is an act of terrorism upon a group of gung-ho cartoonists and nothing to do with Muslims versus Christians.
Why do I say this?
Do we ever call the Christian and Catholics the biggest global terrorists since time immemorial for the following crimes against humanity?:
- Enslavement of the Africans by the Christian Dutch, Belgians, British, French, etc,
- Enslavement of China by the Christian French, British, and even the Americans?
- Enslavement of the Filipinos by the Christian Spaniards, for 400 years,
- Enslavement of the Javanese by the Christian Dutch for 300 years,
- Enslavement of the Indians (and pre-Pakistanis) by the Christian Britons for 100 years,
- Enslavement of the Algerian Muslims by the Christian French that led to the Battle of Algiers that took the lives of over 1 million Algerians.
- Mass killing of the American-Arawak Indians by the Christian Conquistadors after the expedition of Christoforo Columbo, under the patronage of the Catholic King Ferdinand and his Christian consort Isabella?
- The history of Christian-American enslavement of the Africans beginning from the time of slavery, moving towards the lynching of the Southern Blacks by the Christian Ku Klux Klan, right up to the killing of the four girls in Alabama that further fuelled the American Civil Rights movement?
- The history of America itself as a ‘Protestant-Christian Nation’ that legitimises the enslavement, killings, and exterminating her own people as well as people of other lands - from the time Columbus arrived, to the Revolutionary War, the American-Indian War, the War of 1812, to the Civil War, to the time of Manifest Destiny, to the Korean War, World War I, World War II, the War on Terror that destroyed Iraq, to all kinds of war in-between covert and overt... all done by Protestant-Christian terrorists done in the name of ‘the State’...
Do we want to add more...? Or do we need to understand how capitalism, culture, consciousness, colonisation, and imperialism works and how Europe is now tasting its own medicine of being a ‘Christian’ Colonial Nation...
But is that what Isa (peace be upon him) taught about treating fellow human beings? Do these warmongers even read the Sermon on the Mount and ‘The Beatitudes’ and at least to understand what riches of the Earth means? And do these cartoonists even understand what Muhammad (peace be upon him) means as a messenger of peace?
Subverting existing foundations
I once wrote about cartooning/lampooning Prophet Muhammad and other religious figures.
Here is the excerpt from ‘A lesson before cartooning’. I wrote this in a column about eight years ago at the height of the debate on the Danish cartooning issue. I am reading it to see if I still agree with what I have written, and by all means... say what you folks think, too... it is a difficult dialogue...
“ ... This warfare is part of an ongoing historical march of the ‘clash of fanaticisms’ and of ‘ignorance’. This is the notion of the signs and symbols of colonialism or the ‘book of signs’ that I am frequently writing about in this column. We must now learn how to read the happenings of the day and analyse them from a kaleidoscopic point of view - from the historical, political- economic, and ideological point of view.
“My writings are meant to ‘subvert’ existing foundations, whether they are coming from the right, left, centre, up, and down, etc, of the ideological spectrum. I see myself as providing more questions since no one should monopolise the truth - whether Islamists, Liberals, Democrats, Postmodernists, the Danes or the new Abdullah Ahmad Badawi cabinet.
“But I also believe in praxis - the translation of theory to practice so that we do not merely become armchair ideologues in our field but speak a truth we are comfortable growing up and growing old with. Universal themes of humanity Religion is useful as a bridge to philosophy, and to reason and rationality.
“The cartoon issue might have been a Christian issue of the depiction of Jesus or a Jewish issue with Abraham/ David /Moses or a Buddhist issue with Siddharta or a Hindu issue with depiction of Arjuna/Krshna/Brahma/Vishu/Shiva or whatever that is unfairly caricatured .
“I hope we will continue to think of these issues and enlighten others on the philosophy that we hold dear to our heart. Religion need not be a tool to be turned into firebombs or daisy cutters. There is value in it - which each believer must explore - so that ultimately what exists in our understanding is the presence of the Ultimate Reality and the Supreme Being, or the Lord of the Universe.
“My point is clear on this issue, whether it is a cartoon, or a work on canvas, or a computer- generated image - one must condemn acts that blatantly disrespect the belief system of others.
“I teach comparative/transcultural philosophies here in the US and use The Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata to teach Americans about Hinduism. I also teach the Quran and the Hadith, the Bibles of the Christians and the Jews and texts of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. I have deep respect for these texts and the universal themes of humanity in them as they transcend race and nationalism.
“All have to learn from each other especially in understanding and respecting what others have to teach. If we begin our educational process by hating each other through the denigrating of these symbols, we have already failed to grasp the meaning of education for spiritual life itself.
“Those who see it acceptable to parody and denigrate Jesus (peace be upon him) are probably non-believers of any religion themselves and are used to the kind of freedom of speech that has no boundaries. Muslims must not defend anyone who denigrates any religion, in order for one to be called a good Muslim."
(Written February 2006)
It is a difficult dialogue but certainly violence begets violence. For the millionth time we ask this question: But where do we go from here?
Do we have any answer? I don’t.
Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Published by Gerakbudaya/SIRDAVAILABLE HERE
Friday, January 02, 2015
by Azly Rahman
I wrote these as my Facebook status the day I read about an upcoming gathering to restore ‘Malay pride’ with a proposed gathering of 20,00 people.
RESTORE POWER SUPPLY
RESTORE INFRASTRUCTURE in the CITIES
RESTORE FAITH IN HUMANITY
RESTORE CONFIDENCE IN NATION'S SAFETY
Here is my message:
If you can gather 20,000 prominent people and lock them in a stadium for one day for each to produce ONE great idea of social improvement especially in helping rebuild the lives of the flood victims, improve education race relations, ways to catch those big thieves, invent new and useful things for social improvements, suggest ways our youth can work together towards national unity, and many other useful ways to resuscitate our nation that is now bleeding and going through a near-death experience, I think you will definitely do a great service to the ‘20,000 towering minds’ in their twilight years.
And better still, if they are influential people with corporate connections, they can help raise funds for all these 20,000 great ideas to help the whole nation regardless of race and religion, benefit.
That will be an awesome idea of a ‘Malay renaissance’; a ‘renaissance’ as in Latin for ‘rebirth’, so that we will all undergo karma from the Dark Ages of Malay feudalism where the Malays were made slaves by their feudal lords and if this renaissance nation can last for 300 years (as the Renaissance Period between 14th-17th century took to mature) then we may have a period of Malay Enlightenment where you may see a rebirth of your Diderot, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, and the like of great minds, and then maybe that will pave a new era, from Enlightenment to the Age of Reason and maybe see the Age of Revolution emblematic of the French Revolution and the end of the Monarchy and the birth of the Republic and ‘nation’ and ‘state’, moving on to the birth of Science and Industrialism and so on and so forth... that is what ‘a renaissance’ means - a rebirth or a flowering of ideas, of cosmopolitan thinking, of the centrality of man, of the triumph of Reason, and Liberal Ideas or the ‘ars liberalis’. I repeat, Liberalism.
Yes, Liberalism that you ultra-Malays do not understand as an idea with inextricable link with Humanism, Romanticism, and the ‘arts and science of the free man’... renaissance an inheritor of the ideas of the Hellenistic Civilisation (of Socratic, Platonic, and Aristotelian ideals) you ultra-Malay men and women find “dangerous to Islamism and Malay-ism”.
That’s my advice.
And by the way, one cannot call oneself a ‘renaissance group’. One has to live for 300 years as an idea, a movement, a force of liberalism and let scholars studying that era decide whether there is such an idea of ‘rebirth’ or a ‘renaissance’ that characterises that movement... it is not a self-naming act.. nor a gathering of 20,000 folks in their twilight years wearing head-gears and T-shirts and chanting slogans (We are Malay Renaissance - although there is a rock group of Annie Haslam by the name of Renaissance today based in Pennsylvania playing progressive-rock music).
Humbly I submit such an advice.
Tired of slogans
But seriously I am tired of slogans, especially when poor folks are suffering from the great flood in the Age of Renaissance of the Rapists of Mother Nature!
I’d like to share a message forwarded to me a few days ago.
URGENT MESSAGE FROM A FRIEND :
“... Greeting in Jesus Name. Writing from the East Coast. I am here coordinating rescue n relief efforts on the flood. As I am writing to you, my heart cries out to these victims. The question is... Why are the authorities not mounting a full scale rescue effort? Situation here is bad contrary to what we hear in the press and the statement by PM.
“These are their very own people who are left behind and are neglected. They are crying for help but their voices are not heard. Food sources are limited and many areas are left unreachable.
“Volunteers and foodstuff from many NGOs arrive but they are cut off without access. Convoys of lorries n Van, 4WD arrived, They are also in dire straits just waiting... to turn back or to wait?
“The only available land access road to Kelantan on East/West highway is now totally cut off due to the Landslide Gerik. Air transport should be step up.
“Not only are these people cut off by road, they are unreachable by mobile phones when their batteries depleted.
“We are beginning to receive names and addresses of missing people. Many depress city folks in West coast with relatives n love ones have started putting up names of missing parents n relatives.
“Very depressing for them.
“Pls pass on prayer request to your Church.
“That there be divine intervention that the water level subside.
“That more able body personnels with resources to be flown in to step up the relief effort.
“That Putrajaya will do more than just talk
“That division n politics should be set aside in tragedy like these.
“That personnels involve in this effort will have sustaining strength n mental capabilities to carry on
“That aid will quickly reach victims n that they will be reconcile with their love ones...”
END OF MESSAGE
That is how urgent we as a nation need to attend to. I am glad to read that Malaysians are helping as if they are the best, chosen, and most enlightened nation of people that ever walked on the face of this Earth. There is no considerations of race, religion, class, and creed in this scheme of doing good things at this critical moment in our nation’s history. I am proud to be calling myself a Malaysian living abroad.
Even Mekkah gets punished
Here is what I think about the Great Malaysian Flood.
DIVINE JUSTICE or a JUST GOD or THE MERCIFUL and THE COMPASSIONATE will punish, even an ‘Islamic State’, or especially an ‘Islamic State’, for the biggest sins of hypocrisy, especially for destroying Nature... even Mekkah gets punished, even Iraq gets destroyed, Pakistan going insane, Afghanistan humiliated, Yemen goes up in smoke, Malaysia in utter chaos.
Because Man proposes, God Disposes, Fate does not agree with Free Will.
The Qada’ and Qadar is at war ...
Because as a great liberal thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau once said, “... everything is good in the hands of the Author of Things, everything degenerates in the hands of Man...”
It is therefore a hypocrisy to demand that ‘God’s Law’ be implemented when in each one of us the Kingdom of the Self is in chaos and constantly on the path of destruction.
Would your ‘Malay renaissance’ group agree?