By Abderrafia Ait Bourchim
By Abderrafia Ait Bourchim
Rabat – A universal truth acknowledged by many is that education is the heart of planting seeds that will bring about an intellectual elite, rich reservoir of knowledge and a human will that creates positive change. As Nelson Mandela once said, “education is the icon of change.” However, the issue of whether true “education” can exist without freedom of speech has raised hot debates among many psychologists, scientists, scholars, educators and teachers. (Doha Debates, Qatar’s World Innovative Summit for Education, WISE).
I have always been against those who believe that education is complete without freedom of speech. These people argue that education is simply something that leads to a job that meets one’s basic needs of living, mainly food and shelter. Dr. Nagla Rizk, Professor of Economics at the American University in Cairo is one who makes this argument. She came from a family of doctors in Egypt, who spent their lives treating the sick. “You want to tell me their education was worthless?” she questioned. “What is wrong with training that helps somebody find a job to provide for his or her basic needs and make a living for their family?” (Qatar’s World Innovative Summit for Education (WISE), Doha Debates; Monday, December, 06 2010). She relies upon statistics that show many successful scholars worldwide were born in countries where they were deprived of freedom of speech.
What Dr. Rizk did not address, however, was that those “educated” in freedom-of-speech deprived countries reached higher positions and made greater accomplishments once they went abroad. She did not answer why those scholars go abroad and achieve their aspirations. One could conclude that it is simply because they are not given enough freedom of speech in their own country.
On the other side of argument, Tariq Ramadan, a Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University, said, “to survive is a basic right, but to think is a noble right.” He emphasized the fact that education should encourage freedom of speech. He also reasoned that any education system spreading knowledge without critical thinking would be counter-productive – breeding “parrots and sheep.”
As a teacher trainee myself, I can see that limiting the objective of education to only meeting basic needs does not lead to a meaningful education. Education should have additional goals such as supporting positive change, generating creativity and independent thinking and enhancing innovation within one’s society. It is only through open and engaged discussion that learning can stretch from the impossible to the possible.
So then, how can forward progress of society through education be attained without freedom of speech? I say, it cannot. Without the ability to argue, probe, question and criticize, there can be no change and worse, not even the contemplation of change. Freedom of speech gives confidence to people’s ideas and thoughts. It allows people to weigh the cause and effect of decisions in their own minds and in society as a whole.
Hence, the very essence of education should protect freedom of speech. Otherwise, it will be an education of distorted worth, producing “parrots and sheep” following the system. Without freedom of speech, education is a fool with no ability to think on his own.
Edited by Ann Smith
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