Studying at UWCSEA is an opportunity which only a privileged few can avail. Our community is extremely diverse and is what many regard as the perfect incubator for civilised discussions about the issues surrounding race, religion, ethnicity and gender.
Charity, Change and Civility Start at Home
Studying at UWCSEA is an opportunity which only a privileged few can avail. Our community is extremely diverse and is what many regard as the perfect incubator for civilised discussions about the issues surrounding race, religion, ethnicity and gender. This however, is not what the average UWCSEA student can see and hear on the ground. When talking about the issues surrounding race, religion, ethnicity and gender, there is a dichotomy. On one side there is a palpable sense of tension, with the sensitivity around these issues creating an atmosphere where one cannot say anything which challenges certain orthodoxies and on the other end there is a growing backlash, which strives to oppose these orthodoxies by being insensitive in any way possible. The existence of these very two extremes is something that is detrimental to the possibility of civil discourse on the issues of diversity.
For a problem of this magnitude, there is unfortunately no clear solution which has been found yet. However, the closest we, as the UWC community, can get to solving this problem is by having more conversations about the issues of diversity at home. The burden for beginning these conversations falls on parents. While many parents wish to keep politics and other divisive issues away from the dinner table, the benefits of bringing politics to the table seem to far outweigh the risks.
Many parents are worried, with good reason, about the effects and impacts of social media on their children yet their focus usually lies on teaching their children not to post things which can harm their future or on keeping their children safe from online predators. The risks of online extremists are simply not seen with the same amount of fear by parents as they sometimes wrongfully believe that children are not interested in politics. Today’s extremists seek to hijack this very political apathy and weaponise it to radicalise unsuspecting teenagers. Living in a world which has been through two recessions, two pandemics, and a multitude of revolutions and uprisings in my short lifetime, members of my generation hold very cynical attitudes towards politics and politicians. This has been exploited by many extremists, who use catchy slogans and disinformation to trap these teens into supporting movements which can only be characterised as hateful, regardless of one’s political affiliation.
It is every parent’s job to protect their child and the issues of politics should no longer be verboten at home if parents want to be successful at doing this. Parents should frequently bring up current events at the dinner table, especially with issues related to diversity, due to the fact that the members of the UWC community would be richer if many misconceptions related to these issues were quashed at home, instead of being argued over insensitively at school. Parents also wield the power to teach their children about arguing their point of view in a more civilised manner instead of resorting to hate and name-calling to get their way in an argument. Name calling only degrades the quality of discourse, and discourages people from even considering talking about these deeply pressing issues.
While our status as expatriates gives us a limited say in local public policy, in our diverse bunch of home countries we can definitely make a difference. Which is why it is so important, that we make sure that the conversations which take place in our sometimes sequestered communities are constructive. As mentioned before, the short lifetimes of my classmates and I have been wracked by many events which have caused the global movement of refugees. The Syrian Civil War, the War in Afghanistan, the Genocide of the Rohingyas in Myanmar are just three examples out of the tens of hundreds of conflicts and other unfortunate events which have caused refugee crises within the past 10 years. When parents teach their children the value of civility, it makes it much easier for students to begin convincing others to help out these people in need. Only when parents bring up these issues in the first place, can students develop a further understanding of the issues we already learn about at school, and about those that we don’t.
Now, even if sometimes these conversations do not go as planned and devolve into shouting matches, it is better that these shouting matches take place within the four walls of one’s home where both sides can learn from each other. It is for these reasons that parents should start consciously bringing up issues related to diversity when they have time to discuss it with their children. By doing so, they would help themselves and the communities they are in, both here and in their home countries, become more welcoming to people of different races, genders, religions, ethnicities or backgrounds. This may be a small step, but it can go a long way in realising the goals around which our College was founded.