Once upon a time I was a school teacher. I’m not a teacher anymore, but I still believe that teachers are some of the most powerful people in the world. But education isn’t just about teachers, although they can and do change people’s lives. It may be a cliche but education is life long. A listening ear and an open mind are what’s required for real education.
In the last couple of weeks the world has been shaken up a bit more than usual by events particularly in the USA and the UK. Events that have forced people, including me, to stop and listen. To stop and think. Events that have made people talk. However talking is of limited value if that’s all that happens. The world needs action, and I have been encouraged to see some action happening in the last couple of weeks. There is more to do, and more to talk about. And sometimes stop talking and listen. Listening is key to learning.
I was reading this article in the Guardian recently. Half way down I got a little shock as I read the name of Henry Dundas. It’s a name that is familiar to me, as I have a china statue, made in 1805, of this man in my house. I inherited it from my grandmother, and it belonged I think originally to my great grandparents. There is a scrap of paper with a handwritten note in my great grandmother’s writing to say who this person is. But not what he was. I have never even really thought about it. To me this was a quite attractive small china figure that had been in my memory for ever.
Now I know who he really was. It’s shocking. I don’t know why my great grandparents had this figure, I cannot imagine it was because they admired him. So, what should I do with it? For now we have turned his face to the wall. Perhaps a museum would like it? Perhaps he should go to the bottom of the garden pond and rest among the tadpoles, newts and fish…
There is another interesting article on the BBC website here about how slavery was the foundation of wealth in Scotland, where Dundas was from. Slavery was basically the foundation of wealth in many cities the world over. It was sanitised and covered over by people like Dundas through charitable acts, schools and hospitals, art galleries – think of the Tate… Often though there were strings attached – shutting out certain sections of the population, access only for those privileged few.
Through education we can uncover this history, learn the full facts. Through listening to the voices of those who have in the past – and even more shockingly in the present – been silenced and shut away, we will realise the true extent of the oppression that denies justice to all.
Only then can change happen.