Extremism and brainwashing kids at school – A crime against humanity?

In recent weeks, the issue of extremism and brainwashing in UK schools has once again re-occurred in the media and in parliament.

Specifically, education secretary Nicky Morgan announced that there would be certain school reforms following ‘disturbing’ findings in Birmingham schools.

These findings were uncovered by education commissioner Peter Clarke. He was appointed to the role when a letter, detailing what was happening in certain schools in the Midland, was uncovered.

Known as the ‘Operation Trojan Horse’ letter, it showed plans to push a more Islamist doctrine in some schools – ousting any teacher who did not actively follow the same agenda.

The report

In his report, Clarke found that in some Birmingham Schools there was an Islamist ethos that was not only “intolerant” but also “aggressive”.

In some cases, sexism, homophobia and hostility to other forms of extremism were being actively promoted.

Clearly, this level of intolerance is not acceptable within our schools, primarily because of the ease with which children are easily led.

How do you solve the brainwashing and extremism problem?

In response to Clarke’s findings, Morgan introduced two new reforms, aimed at helping head teachers to overcome any obstacles in running their schools in the correct manner.

She introduced a new education commissioner for Birmingham, where the majority of extremism is in evidence, as well as a new board of head teachers for staff to receive extra support.

These new tiers of oversight were specifically created to support teachers, making sure that extremist views are not influencing their work.

The responsibility placed on the shoulders of a teacher, at both primary and secondary level, is often a heavy burden to carry.

And it is important that they are properly supported and regularly assessed, to make sure the curriculum is being taught correctly.

Religious extremism needs to be avoided and an understanding of difference and diversity should be instilled in our school system.

Conclusion – a crime against humanity

The period up until the age of 18, is one of the most important periods in a person’s life. The ability to absorb information will never be better and a child’s ideals are very often moulded at this time.

For this very reason, brainwashing children to extremist views can be seen as a crime against humanity.

Children have the right to have a balanced upbringing, where an innate tolerance and understanding of cultural and religious diversity is a strong platform for the future.

If our children are influenced by extremist versions of religion, humanity will suffer when our society becomes more fractured and intolerant.

Educating women in the third world: what is the socio-economic impact?

Educating women is purported to be one of the most valuable investments a developing country can make. Research has found that nations that educate girls to the same degree as boys benefit from longer life expectancies, lower birth rates and higher economic growth. Evidence also shows that educating girls reduces child malnutrition rates and lowers the risk of HIV infection. So, if educating women is such a good idea, what is holding the third world back?

One of the most obvious reasons is financial constraint. For many families it is still a priority to educate boys; they see the son as the main future breadwinner who will therefore support his parents in their old age. The extra cost of educating females is not seen as necessary because a daughter will eventually be financially supported by her husband. In addition, with unemployment rates so high, wouldn’t educating girls bring more competitors to the employment sectors and only make conditions worse?

Other issues which limit education for women are cultural constraints. The lack of employment opportunities for women in developing countries, often stemming from social and religious traditions, devalues the need for equal education.

This point is highlighted by UNICEF’s (United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund) Damien Personnaz: “There are a lot of religious leaders who do not think that to send a girl to school is a big priority. This is actually the most difficult barrier to overcome, but we’ve been doing so in working with the communities involved in many countries in South Asia, in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.”

Government oppression is another factor. During the Taliban’s rule of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, almost half of the nations’ schools were destroyed; under the regime, females were completely banned from academic study.

With so many obstacles to overcome, can anything be done to improve the situation?

It could be argued that foreign assistance might help. For an example, in Afghanistan, since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, the UN (United Nations) and other groups have invested in opening education facilities such as the Women’s ICT Centres. The number of girls attending school has increased by over 30% since 2001, and literacy levels have greatly improved.  The ability to read and write has given many more women the chance to vote under the nation’s new political rights.

Educating girls creates educated mothers and has a huge socio-economic impact. Women will pass on knowledge, and a greater financial freedom, to their children. It is a cycle built for prosperity, but can only function if enough employment is available for the newly educated work-force. Women who are educated can not only help build a stronger economy, they are able to better protect themselves from disease, sexual exploitation and gender-based violence. For a country to prosper in the modern world, both men and women must break from the tradition which states ‘girls belong at home’.