“A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.“ – Nelson Mandela former President of South Africa.
It’s Human Rights Day, 21st March 2023.
I find myself pondering the issue of human rights and to what extent these have been addressed in the country since that fateful day on the 21st March 1960 when police at the Sharpeville police station opened fire on a peaceful crowd that had gathered in protest against the apartheid pass laws.
Sharpeville 21st March 1960 Photo by Bonile Bam in the Museum Africa.
Today I read the following official notice on the Parliamentary website:
“On Human Rights Day, South Africans are asked to reflect on their rights, to protect their rights and the rights of all people from violation, irrespective of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, whether they are foreign national or not – human rights apply to everyone.” www. parliament.gov.za
As I write I feel a deep concern regarding the plight of the Zimbabweans in the country, now being scapegoated for the failure of the government to deliver on the promised rights of education, the right to earn a living etc.
In my view, without a deep understanding of the structure of prejudice within each one of us, it is unlikely that the lofty ideals enshrined in the Bill of Rights of our Constitutional democracy will ever be realized.
This newsletter seeks to unpack this structure of prejudice; how it arises in its various forms and why it is critically important that students today can discriminate between the competing ideologies and worldviews that beset us on a daily basis. As educators we have a responsibility to equip students with the tools to navigate the challenges of today’s world: how do beliefs and ideologies arise and how do these become social movements which shape our destinies individually and collectively.
I have written an article on this topic, “More on memes, beliefs and worldviews” using examples from my own encounters with teachers and schools over the past decades and Zulfiqar has written on the emergence of Wokism in recent decades in his article “Dispatch IV from Dispatches From a World Gone Mad.”
Mattia Gallino, a Learning Unlimited graduate who completed his A levels in History, Psychology and Sociology in 2021 and is now studying International and European Law at Maastricht University has written an article on artificial intelligence and the manner in which its emergence in today’s world presents both opportunities and challenges to human rights, “The Transformative Impact of AI on Society, Business, Education, and Everyday Life.”
It is my sincere wish that education today provides students with the tools and insights to navigate the complexities of our age and, in the words of the late Dr Ian Dallas, live a self- directed life, not dependent on the whims of the epoch.
“The lived life must be self-directed, not dependent on the whim of epoch.” – (Ian Dallas, The Entire City)
More on memes, beliefs and worldviews by Sharon Levy
Over the past few months I have been watching the progress of a family of Egyptian Geese who have been placed by the groundsmen of the RBHS in an enclosed bore water tank for their safety and protection.
Recently the one remaining gosling was left alone as the parents and other siblings had flown off. It was not clear to me whether it had remained in the tank by choice or whether it had never discovered its innate ability to fly.
Beliefs have a similarly ambiguous role. They provide us with security whilst at the same time limiting our sense of what is possible.
I am pleased to report that yesterday on my walk I passed by the tank and saw that the last gosling had flown away.
Wolfie and Sheba our LU huskies at the water tank
The remaining gosling.
What I believe and what my assumptions about reality are even though they sometimes become apparent to the conscious mind are often embedded in the unconscious.
Rigidly held beliefs lead to intolerance and conflict (inner and outer) and unexamined assumptions and determine our outlook, opinions and actions.
What is often overlooked is the provisional and tentative nature of such assumptions.
My own journey as a teacher has led me to look into the manner in which these assumed beliefs and attitudes express themselves in classroom practice.
Growing up in apartheid South Africa and the subsequent transition to a constitutional democracy provided ample opportunity to see the correlations between beliefs and interpersonal behavior. My research into these correlations led me to examine the ideologies underlying the apartheid era and the manner in which these influenced child rearing and educational practices.
Beginning with an exploration of the assumptions of the scientific paradigm and the manner in which policy makers are influenced by these assumptions and how these translate into classroom practice became a hobby horse of mine.
One such research pilot conducted in 2003: “Exploring Teacher’s Views on Science as a key to Curriculum change in Science education” demonstrated the pervasiveness of assumed beliefs and how upon examination of these assumptions teachers were able to explore alternative methods of instruction and became more tolerant of alternative points of view.
Change could only take place in a safe environment where these assumptions could be examined and made explicit by the individual.
Steve Taylor, Ph.D., is senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Beckett University and he discussed the resistance of groups to examining their beliefs. “When a person’s belief system is threatened, it creates cognitive dissonance. The possibility that the principles of your worldview are false–and that you have much less power and control over the world than you thought–feels dangerous and disorientating.
In order to deal with cognitive dissonance, I argue that some sceptics use the same basic methods as religious fundamentalists. I describe three of these methods here.
Fundamentalist religious groups create fear by ostracizing and punishing anyone who strays from their beliefs; refuse to consider any evidence that contravenes their beliefs, perform irrational cognitive contortions to dismiss evidence against their beliefs, such as when creationists try to explain the existence of fossils by saying that “God put them there to test our faith”. “
Another opportunity presented itself when I was approached by the Human Rights Commission due to the prevalence and persistence of racism in schools and asked to develop a program that promoted racial tolerance and a culture of democracy in post -apartheid schools. This programme was piloted in various cultural settings in the country and the findings presented at an international conference on “Healing Racism” in Connecticut, USA in 1999.
The key note speaker at the conference (who appeared on the podium accompanied by body guards as never had a day passed when she did not receive death threats since her “Blue Eyed/Brown Eyed exercise”) was the former primary school teacher Jane Elliot. Following the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, Jane has continued to repeat her discrimination experiment to this day in educational as well as corporate environments (see https://youtu.be/1mcCLm_LwpE “We are repeating the discrimination experiment every day, ” said educator Jane Elliott. July 8, 2020
Jane Elliott, an educator and anti-racism activist, first conducted her blue eyes/brown eyes exercise in her third-grade classroom in Iowa in 1968.
These exercises in situ provide opportunities for students to encounter their own prejudices and beliefs and evaluate to what extent they can stand up to scrutiny.
So what has all this got to do with Learning Unlimited today?
The manner in which young children are programmed by memes to adopt a particular world view; is starkly demonstrated in the BBC documentary “In Search of Sandra Laing” produced by Antony Thomas in 1977.
In this documentary the teachers, students and parents who knew Sandra Laing are interviewed and actual footage of the typical school day lays bare the social and cultural conditioning which is embedded in the curriculum.
To view this documentary visit the link below.
Use password: Docu1
Scroll down to find ‘THE SOUTH AFRICAN EXPERIENCE’ and below that click on the link for ‘In search of Sandra Laing‘.
Sandra Laing (born 26 November 1955) is a South African woman who was classified as Coloured by authorities during the apartheid era, due to her skin colour and hair texture, although she was the child of at least three generations of ancestors who had been regarded as white. When Laing was 10 years old and at an all-white boarding school, the school authorities expelled her because of complaints from the parents of other students, based on her appearance: primarily her skin colour and the texture of her hair. They believed she was “Coloured”, a term for mixed-race people.
The resurgence of xenophobia in South Africa today and those unashamedly targeting Zimbabweans as scapegoats for the ineptitude of our current political order is one such instance where we are directly affected. Those former and current students who have been or are currently being tutored by our Zimbabwean tutors have personally been enriched by their interaction with these fine human beings. They have been targeted by what has become known as Operation Dudula fuelled by government policy that “Zimbabwe Exemption Permits are set to expire in June 2023” and preparations have begun for a mass deportation of Zimbabweans out of South Africa.
In previous newsletters I posited that self- knowledge is a key goal of education and that the examination of one’s own beliefs and assumptions is a critical element of the education of our children today.
What our beliefs are is less important than our willingness to examine them for ourselves so that we are not simply swept along by a current fad or fashion, which memes typically represent.
Nor is this a once-off affair. In our rapidly changing social landscape, issues arise which constantly challenge our belief systems and world views. Our willingness to be open-minded and to be attentive to our emotional responses and triggers in each encounter is vital to our individual health and wellbeing. Now more than ever with the breakdown of traditional values and beliefs is it imperative to show reflective judgement in the midst of competing memes clamouring for our allegiance and attention.
Violence, prejudice and social conflict are symptoms of competing and conflicting worldviews; and the emergence of Wokism in more recent times is yet another example of an emerging worldview sand values. Zulfiqar addresses the emergence of Wokism in his article below: “Dispatches from a world gone mad: Dispatch IV)
Education today can surely not be confined to discussions on the wave/particle theory of matter; or the rise of fascism in the early part of the 20th century.
Our students today need to be able to arbitrate between different points of view and distil from these those views and values they most resonate with and are commensurate with their own articulated beliefs and views.
Dispatches From a World Gone Mad – Part II by Zulfiqar Awan
Dispatches: “A written message, particularly an official communication, sent with speed.”
Events flow and erupt into the realm of what can be known with the senses from the subterranean forces that have driven and continue to drive the unfolding of history. However that’s not it. It takes an individual of insight and one who recognises what Machiavelli calls ‘occasion’ to understand, read and respond correctly to what is revealed in the moment. This form of human being is rare in modernity, as most have simply not been taught to SEE and ACT appropriately. Consequently, the individual becomes a plaything of history, swept away by events or whims instead of being a constructor of events.
The late Dr. Ian Dallas, wrote in the last few pages of his last publiication, ‘The Entire City’:
“The lived life must be self directed, not dependent on the whim of epoch.” (Ian Dallas, The Entire City)
Since 2016, a miasma has swept across the world causing confusion, anxiety, depression, and silence for those questioning it. It is known as Wokism and it is the whim of our time, our epoch. Its aetiology lies within the French Revolution of 1789. Its natural logic is to destroy the lives of people of both genders, of all races, and—if need be—those of every age, all to leverage an otherwise unworkable ideological agenda. It is nihilist and destroys everything it touches. The obsession with egalitarianism has blinded its proponents from what the brilliant Scottish Philosopher Adam Ferguson had forewarned:
“Radical Egalitarianism is an undermining path to dictatorship.” (Adam Ferguson, A History of Civil Society)
Wokist thinking was almost totally imported from French intellectuals who flourished in the second half of the twentieth century. One thinks of Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Derrida, and especially of Michel Foucault. The form of thinking that was originally shared in the coffeehouses of Paris eventually made its way into the university system of Europe and then into the world of American higher education. Finally, in very recent years, much of this thinking has poured out onto the streets in the form of “Wokism”.
In the early 20th century, a German school of philosophy called the Frankfurt School developed a social philosophy called Critical Theory. At bottom, Criitcal Theory critiques culture and challenges the underlying power structures of society. It is a movement to “liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them,” reinterpreting western culture as a story of the oppressor vs. oppressed. Hierarchies of power make up societies, and those hierarchies must be torn down. The goal of this movement, implicit or explicit, is nothing less than the complete dismantling and rebuilding of the rich and sophisticated ancient and early modern Western culture from the ground up. Taken up by Western academics in the 90s, it permeated nearly every single university in Western Europe. In recent years, it has leaped from the ivory towers of academia and begun to germinate its seeds in media and corporate culture. It has become the moral compass of what is termed post-modernity (interestingly enough undermining post-modern philosophy per se). The hierarchies that separate the oppressed and oppressors and demarcate the battle lines between both are race, sex, and gender identity–bear in the mind that these are the only powers we have left over as both political and economic power have been stripped from the consumer-‘citizen’.
Concepts such as logic, science, and reason are viewed as tools of the oppressive white patriarchy. Values like individualism, hard work, punctuality, and delayed gratification would be understood as perpetuating white supremacy. Critical Theory has become more than a social philosophy and is the primary philosophical driving force behind the new civil ‘religion’ of Wokism.
Wokism has become a new religion. It has its high priests, temples (universities and malls), influence over the pulpits (mass media), and a god (radical egalitarianism). Since humanist- secularism had failed to create a philosophy or way of life that offered a moral compass, purpose, and meaning, Wokism rose from its ashes. Wokists purport to be inspired by its version of truth, justice, righteousness, sin, and judgement. The tearing down of oppressive power structures helps give purpose to the individual and the collective. These values are reinforced, idolised, ingrained, forced in public rituals like sensitivity training or confronting white fragility. It has offered people a form of social bonding, one that modernity’s division of labour had destroyed in the name of the efficient industry-for-profit output, a black stain whose effects are still prevalent in a modern education.
The utopian and never to be achieved end-goal of the adherents of Wokism is the kingdom of god’ on earth which is a society liberated from its current evils. The politics behind such a movement, they don’t realise, only benefits the ‘oppressors’ who are the banking-capitalists, who in turn are the one’s funding and propagating such a social philosophy.
Today the crucial and urgent matter that subdues us all is the creditor-debtor relationship In an unjust monetary system governed by an elite ruling class who have no loyalty to race, religion, gender, or sex.
Such social issues as sex, gender, and race equality are crucial. However, to focus ONLY on them distracts us from asking the crucial questions of our time.
The excellent ancient Roman orator, philosopher, and lawyer asked an eternal pivotal question that we must ask ourselves and each other in times of crisis:
“Who stands to gain?”
So I ask, ‘who stands to gain’, from the whims of our epoch?
The Transformative Impact of AI on Society, Business, Education, and Everyday Life By Mattia Gallino
In recent years, the world has experienced a surge in technological advances, with artificial intelligence (AI) taking centre stage in this revolution. As the integration of AI into various aspects of life continues to gain momentum, it is crucial to examine the potential impact on society, business, education, and our everyday lives. This newsletter explores the myriad ways in which AI is changing the landscape of human interaction and the implications for the future focusing mainly on the effects on education and society.
Education: The implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) in education has an immense potential to transform teaching and learning processes, creating more efficient, personalized and inclusive educational experiences. By leveraging AI, educators can harness the power of data-driven decision-making and adaptive learning strategies to cater for the unique needs of individual students, thereby enhancing overall learning outcomes.
AI-powered adaptive learning systems, for instance, are capable of analysing student performance data in real-time, identifying knowledge gaps and adjusting instructional content accordingly. This enables the provision of customized learning pathways, allowing students to progress at their own pace and ensuring that they receive the appropriate support and challenges to optimize their learning experience.
Moreover, AI-driven intelligent tutoring systems (ITS) are emerging as an invaluable resource for both students and educators. These systems provide real-time feedback, guidance, and scaffolding, simulating the experience of one-on-one tutoring and thus making high-quality educational support more accessible and affordable. By offering personalized feedback and targeted interventions, ITS can help bridge the gap between struggling students and their peers, contributing to a more equitable educational landscape.
In addition to enhancing teaching and learning processes, AI is also improving administrative efficiency in the education sector. AI-powered tools are being employed to automate routine tasks, such as grading and record-keeping, freeing up educators to focus on more meaningful and impactful aspects of their work. Furthermore, AI-driven predictive analytics can be used to inform resource allocation and policy development, ensuring that educational institutions are better equipped to respond to the diverse needs of their student populations.
Despite the numerous benefits of AI integration in education, it is essential to address the potential challenges and ethical concerns that may arise. Ensuring equitable access to AI-driven educational technologies is paramount in order to prevent the exacerbation of existing educational disparities. Additionally, the responsible use of student data must be prioritized to protect privacy and maintain trust in educational institutions. By addressing these challenges, AI can be harnessed as a powerful tool for advancing educational equity and enhancing the overall quality of education.
Society: The infusion of artificial intelligence (AI) into various aspects of society has far-reaching implications, with the potential to transform the way individuals interact, work and access essential services. As AI systems become more sophisticated and integrated into diverse sectors, they are driving a multitude of societal changes, necessitating a nuanced understanding of their impact.
In the realm of transportation, AI is revolutionizing the way people and goods move through the development of autonomous vehicles and advanced traffic management systems. Self-driving cars and trucks, enabled by AI algorithms, promise to enhance road safety, reduce human error and improve fuel efficiency, thereby decreasing transportation costs and environmental impact. Additionally, AI-driven traffic management systems have the potential to optimize traffic flow and mitigate congestion, enhancing the overall efficiency of transportation networks.
Healthcare is another sector experiencing significant transformation due to AI. By harnessing the power of AI algorithms, healthcare providers can deliver more accurate diagnoses, personalized treatment plans and streamlined patient care. AI-driven tools, such as medical imaging analysis and predictive analytics, are enabling earlier detection and intervention for a range of medical conditions, resulting in improved patient outcomes and more efficient healthcare systems. Furthermore, AI-powered virtual health assistants can provide remote monitoring and support, expanding access to healthcare services, particularly for underserved populations.
Despite the myriad benefits of AI integration in society, it is crucial to recognize and address the potential challenges and ethical considerations that accompany this paradigm shift. One significant concern is the potential loss of jobs due to automation, as AI systems are increasingly capable of performing tasks traditionally carried out by humans. This displacement may disproportionately affect workers in certain industries and exacerbate existing socioeconomic inequalities. To mitigate these effects, it is essential to invest in workforce development initiatives, such as retraining and upskilling programs, to equip individuals with the skills needed to thrive in an AI-driven labour market.
Another critical concern is the ethical implications of AI deployment, particularly regarding privacy, surveillance and algorithmic bias. As AI systems become more integrated into daily life, they often rely on the collection and analysis of vast amounts of personal data, raising questions about data privacy and the potential misuse of information. Additionally, the increasing use of AI-driven surveillance technologies, such as facial recognition, necessitates a careful examination of the balance between security and individual privacy rights. Finally, the issue of algorithmic bias, stemming from biased data or flawed algorithmic design, may lead to discriminatory outcomes, perpetuating existing social inequalities. To address these challenges, it is essential to prioritize transparency, accountability, and the development of ethical guidelines for AI deployment.
Business: The business world is undergoing a massive transformation due to AI. Organizations are leveraging AI to streamline operations, enhance customer experiences and drive innovation. By automating repetitive tasks and providing data-driven insights, AI is enabling businesses to be more agile and responsive to market changes.
AI is also driving the emergence of new business models and revenue streams, as companies capitalize on the opportunities presented by AI-driven products and services. However, the rise of AI demands that businesses also adapt to new challenges, including managing the ethical implications of AI use, upskilling their workforces, and ensuring data security.
Everyday Life: AI has already begun to permeate our daily lives, from smart home devices to AI-powered health and fitness apps. These technologies are streamlining mundane tasks, providing personalized recommendations and improving our overall quality of life. However, as AI becomes more ubiquitous, it is essential to be mindful of potential drawbacks, such as threats to personal privacy and the psychological impact of increased reliance on technology.
Legal Education at Maastricht University: The introduction of AI within the legal curriculum at Maastricht University, particularly in the context of International and European Law, presents both opportunities and challenges. AI-driven tools can greatly enhance students’ understanding of complex legal concepts and facilitate more effective research, analysis and decision-making. For instance, AI-powered legal databases can enable law students to rapidly identify relevant case law, statutes, and scholarly articles, thereby streamlining the research process and allowing them to focus on developing their legal reasoning and argumentation skills.
However, the integration of AI in legal education also raises important ethical and human rights concerns, particularly in relation to privacy and the right to a fair trial. As law students increasingly rely on AI-driven tools to assist in their studies, they may inadvertently contribute to the development of AI systems that could potentially infringe on human rights. For example, AI algorithms used in predictive policing or sentencing decisions may perpetuate biases inherent in the data they are trained on, leading to discriminatory outcomes and undermining the right to a fair trial.
To address these concerns, it is crucial that legal education at Maastricht University deals with the ethical considerations raised by AI and its potential effects on human rights. By fostering a critical understanding of the potential risks and benefits of AI in the legal realm, law students will be better equipped to navigate the complex interplay between technology, law and ethics. Furthermore, promoting interdisciplinary collaboration between law and computer science students could encourage the development of more equitable and responsible AI systems, thereby safeguarding human rights while maximizing the potential benefits of AI in the legal field.
The impact of AI on society, business, education and everyday life is vast and multifaceted. As AI continues to evolve, it will usher in a new era of innovation and change, providing countless opportunities for growth and improvement. However, it is essential to navigate this transformative period with care, addressing the challenges and ethical considerations that accompany AI’s rapid development. By doing so, we can ensure a future where AI serves as a powerful and responsible tool for the betterment of humanity.