Monday, September 18, 2017

Conflict resolution : Physical violence or logic? A flaw in our education system?

Just this year alone (2017), citizens of Malaysia were shocked by the news of the death of the UPNM student, the bullying case of Nhaveen, and the death of twenty-three students from a religious institution (pusat tahfiz). The UPNM student was killed by his college mates by using an ironing device which had caused third degree burns on his body due to a misunderstanding about a laptop. As for the bullying case of Nhaveen, it was all because of him being effeminate and for being different than his fellow male comrades. The death of the twenty-three students was caused by 7 teenagers who have set the religious institution on fire due to taking offense of what the tahfiz students have advised them (‘do not abuse drugs’) when they have encountered them on the streets during an outing.

What do all of these cases have in common? All of the offenders have resorted to physical violence instead of using logic in order to solve problems (nothing was solved, only more problems occured)  and make decisions. In all of those three cases, there are other ways to resolve misunderstandings or problems. Instead, all use of logic got thrown out the window. 

Resorting to logic involves proper management of emotions and being effective about it. Their way of resolving conflict are all based on emotions. Having emotions isn’t a bad thing. But it all depends on how we project those emotions and manage them. When emotions are being projected in an unhealthy and innefective manner, people can get hurt. Just look at those three tragedies. Of course the offenders were somehow angry, ashamed, disappointed, etc. Humans have the right to feel all these emotions. But the way they have been projected and managed by the offenders are all ineffective and unhealthy which is manifested through the use of physical violence and murder. They managed and projected their emotions at the expense of another person or group and thus have caused in deaths.

Now, moving on to what have typically ensued from these three tragedies. The most prevalent comment on social media would be to blame the education system. As an educator myself, I personally agree. Other than that, netizens would resort to blaming the teachers for not teaching the students to behave morally. I also personally (partially) agree to that. Not because the teachers don’t have the commitment to teach the students, but because of the contents of the subject matter – which goes back to our education system. In our country, we have ‘Moral Studies’ for the non-Muslim students and ‘Islamic Studies’ for Muslim students. Our current education system is going towards critical thinking approach and is eliminating rote learning and memorization methods. However, this is fairly recent. It takes time for it to take effect and becomes known as a part of our society’s strength and characteristic. But to be specific, to think critically about what? The three tragedies are related to morality. Therefore, students must be taught to think critically about moral issues pertaining to situations such as the three incidents. It wouldn’t be enough to talk about moral dilemmas in one or two periods of classes. It should be an on-going effort in terms of implementation and teaching on the part of the policy makers and teachers. As for rote memorization (such is the current method of students for obtaining an A grade in SPM ‘Pendidikan Moral’), policy makers need to do away with the traditional method of how a student taking Moral Studies and Islamic Studies should score an A. This is more than grades we are talking about. This is about the minds of the future citizens and the impact it can give to a nation as a result of how these two subjects have been taught and assessed. I think this is how the concept of logic can be embedded in our education system. 

Should the burden of educating the youths be placed solely teachers?  Of course not, parents should do their part as well. But educate on what? Just to be good? How about teaching them the value of logic and manage emotions well? But of course, if the parents themselves don’t realize the importance of these two concepts, the aforementioned incidents could again occur in the next generation. 

 All in all,  we all should see the value of logic while being compassionate at the same time and inculcate a habit of resorting to logic when a situation that needs it arise. 

To end this essay, I would like to share a quote by one of my favourite philosophers, Ayn Rand:

“There are only two means by which men can deal with one another: guns or logic. Force or persuasion. Those who know that they cannot win by means of logic, have always resorted to guns [violence].”

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