Building a sense of community

Sheel

“We are neglecting to teach our students the most fundamental and urgent lesson: how to make peace in the world around them. And by forgetting to do so, we are promoting violence.” So writes David Jackson Cook in an article titled “Every teacher a peace teacher”. Although this statement is about the United States, it is worth examining its value for our own country today. We are a country with many religious traditions that each have peaceful coexistence at their core, but excepting their brief mention as a part of our history and culture, we avoid referring to them in our schools in the name of secularism… and thus also curtail the possibility of imparting vital lessons about how to live peacefully with each other despite our differences. Given the violence that has crept into our society today, it is perhaps important that we begin to take the task of imparting community feeling – not of this community or that but as one whole – more seriously.

The task seems daunting, especially given the pressures of our already crammed timetables: where do we fit it in? To my mind, the social studies class offers one avenue where one may experiment with helping build a sense of community. As teachers, we frequently look upon social studies as a broad mix of several subjects – geography, history, civics, and at the high school level, economics too. But in helping students learn these ‘subjects’, we forget that all of these are in fact meant to enable us to understand the community we live in better. Let’s look at them from this perspective: geography is about place – the planet and/or country(ies) we spend our lives in; history is about what happened in these very same places over a certain period of time; civics tells us about what principles and laws we follow as a country, what our, the citizens’, rights and duties are, etc.; while economics is about the exchange of goods, commodities and services between the very same people. If this is true, then can we really avoid the idea of “community” at all?

The author is a PhD scholar at English and Foreign Languages University. She can be reached at sheel.sheel@gmail.com.

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