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Ethnic violence in Myanmar

Vaibhav Karajgikar

Religious and ethnic tensions in Myanmar have created a flashpoint for violence that has quickly escalated into widespread communal clashes over the last few months. The minority Rohingya Muslim population in the country has persistently been denied basic human rights. Attacks by Buddhist extremists since 2012 have resulted in over a 100,000 people being displaced. Counterinsurgency operations are now being conducted by the Myanmar military, forcing the Rohingya population to flee their homes and villages (Al Jazeera, 30th November, 2016).

The United Nations describes Rohingya as a religious and linguistic minority from western Myanmar. However, the Burmese government claims that they are recent migrants from the Indian subcontinent and as such, the country’s constitution does not include them among indigenous groups qualifying for citizenship (Burma Citizenship Law, 1982). This law defined a concept of Burmese nationhood based on being Burmese and Buddhist, and in turn justified the discrimination and persecution of the Rohingyas. Decreed stateless status has provided the legal basis for continuing arbitrary violence against the community along with severe restrictions on their right to freedom of movement, limited access to health-care, denial of rights to education and employment opportunities. The majority Buddhist population in the western state of Rakhine has historically looked upon the Rohingya as outsiders and the public hostility against them is gaining momentum with catastrophic effects. The state sponsored violence against the community has disrupted normal functions in the region. An overtly hostile stance by the government is evident in its policies to address the issue.  During the widespread violence and systematic persecution of the Rohingyas in 2012, the website of the Burmese President carried a message stating that “the only way to end communal violence in Rakhine State was to send Rohingyas to either UNHCR refugee camps or to a third country”. Furthermore, the government has continuously failed to hold security forces accountable for systematic violations of human rights (Rohingya Blogger, 13th December, 2016). Military efforts to arm and train non-muslims in the region has raised serious concerns in the international community on the legality of ethnic cleansing in the country (The Burma Times, 3rd November, 2016).

The weakest sections of the community i.e. children are paying a heavy price. Education for the Rohingya youth is all but banned in the country with security measures at school and university entrances to prevent any Rohingya Muslims from entering the premises. Government restrictions imposed on travel across the state has made it impossible for children to attend middle and high schools which are further away than village primary schools. A few schools that still remain open to Rohingya children in face issues of severe overcrowding, lack of resources and an ever present danger of attacks (VOA, 23rd February, 2016). Policies that are institutionalizing racial discrimination under the pretext of national security will most likely serve to destabilize the region further.

 

References:

  • Al Jazeera News, “UN: Rohingya may be enduring ‘crimes against humanity’”, 30th November,2016; retrieved on 14th December, 2016

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/rohingya-enduring-crimes-humanity-161130052743649.html

  • Taung Pyo Let Wel, Rohingya Blogger, “Several Women Raped and Elderly Men Beaten Severely in Zee Pin Chaung”, 13th December, 2016; retrieved on 14th December, 2016

http://www.rohingyablogger.com/2016/12/several-women-raped-and-elderly-men.html

  • “Myanmar police to arm, train non-Muslims in conflict-torn region”, 3rd November, 2016; retrieved on 14th December, 2016

http://burmatimes.net/myanmar-police-to-arm-train-non-muslims-in-conflict-torn-region/

  • VOA, “Myanmar: Rohingya Children Losing Future Without Education”, 23rd February, 2016; retrieved on 14th December, 2016

http://www.voanews.com/a/myanmar-rohingya-children-losing-future-without-education/3203595.html

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University of Pennsylvania: A Sanctuary?

Anna Venguer

As Rudolf outlined, the U.S. Presidential results have induced a wave of protests throughout educational institutions around the country. The backlash of the election has fostered a series of movements within our own university, including calls to make UPenn a ‘sanctuary campus’ (The Daily Pennsylvanian, 22 Nov. 2016) The President-elect has asserted that he will deport millions of undocumented immigrants and students believe that the ‘sanctuary’ status will bar the university staff and administration from assisting Trump in his endeavor. The undocumented students are currently protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival Program (DACA) that President Obama put forth using an executive order. The fear, however, rests in Trump undermining this executive order with his own.

The Daily Pennsylvanian article outlines how university students on Penn campus have advocated for UPenn to take a stand as a ‘sanctuary campus’ and have taken the appropriate steps for the President and the rest of the administration to back this request. Yet, a UPenn Law Professor Chang-Muy recognizes that this policy shift could conflict with an executive order if Trump repeals the DACA. As such, Chang-Muy cautions that this term might be more symbolic than constructive, because disobeying federal laws will likely have profound ramifications. Nevertheless, students have continued to move forward with their demands in an effort to undermine Trump’s authority and protect undocumented students on campus.

An article published by Breitbart, a staunch Trump-supporting news outlet, on the other hand, has described this push towards ‘sanctuary’ universities as a move to “defy federal immigration law.” The article highlights a recent march on Stanford University demanding that Palo Alto be transformed into ‘sanctuary grounds.’ Criticizing other “elite” universities for calling on their administrations to establish “refugee camps for illegal aliens,” the article is very explicit in its disapproval of the growing momentum for so-called ‘sanctuary campuses’ across the country. The article also suggests that Trump will likely quash these illegal movements once he comes into power in January.

After leading a campaign rampant with xenophobic, misogynistic, and racial slurs, President-elect Trump has already begun to see hostile responses to his upcoming Presidency throughout university campuses around the nation. The move towards establishing ‘sanctuary’ campuses, represents one of many reactions to the threat of implementing more more stringent immigration policies that target minorities and undocumented individuals.

References:

Laracy, Charlotte. “A Petition is Calling for Amy Gutmann to Make Penn a ‘Sanctuary Campus.’ Here’s What That Means.” The Daily Pennsylvanian, Nov. 22nd. http://www.thedp.com/article/2016/11/sanctuary-campus-petition. Accessed 28th Nov. 2016.

Pollack, Joel B. “‘Sanctuary Campus’: Stanford Students Demand Illegal Alien Refugee Camp.” Breitbart News, 16 Nov. 2016. http://www.breitbart.com/california/2016/11/16/sanctuary-campus-stanford-students-demand-turn-campus-illegal-alien-refugee-camp/. Accessed 28 Nov. 2016

A Century Later: Colonial approach to education continues to divide Kashmir

Vaibhav Karajgikar

The continued tensions between Pakistan and India may not be at the point of a full scale war between the two nations yet. However, regular skirmishes and cross border shelling in one of the most militarized regions in the world is continuing to affect the economic, social and cultural lives of over a million people, with little hope of any immediate respite mediated through political discourse (BBC News, 14th November, 2016).

The religious connotations of the conflict continue to polarize the population due to policies of the Indian Government that are preventing a certain section from observing their religious rights (J and K Headlines, 25th November, 2016). The resulting trauma and social conflict is serving to alienate Muslim youth, further aggravated by separatist propaganda. The lack of a cohesive approach over the last sixty years to educate for peace and co-existence is an underlying factor that continues to hamper peace process in the region. Given the lingering history of the conflict, there are many issues affecting the educational development in the state. In the case of Kashmir, the beginning of modern education system traces back to religion and colonialism education in Jammu and Kashmir, which was modeled after the British education system due to the effects of colonization. A movement towards the western definition of education marginalized the traditional religious schools, and had a modernizing effect on the population educated by western standards. In the late 19th and early 20th century, mission schools in Kashmir were educating and modernizing a selected group of elite Hindu class, with the Muslim majority ignored by the leaders. The 1965 Indo-Pak war led to the creation of the current Line of Control between Pakistan administered Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir .The war also uprooted many students from their homes, and negatively affected their school routine, a trend that continues even today. It is of critical importance to assess the various impacts of the military bunkers established within and in the vicinity of schools and exploring the link between the presence of the military and the growth of the various psycho-social problems among the student community in the Kashmir valley. Furthermore, the educated yet unemployed group is a recurring phenomenon in Kashmir, where educational development has preceded economic development.

Recent endeavors to bring the issue to the attention of the international community are faced with limited success, with key officials from the UN urging for sustainable peace (NDTV, 25th November, 2016). There is however, a lack of consensus on what measures can be implemented to curtail the violence and provide a platform to start rebuilding the region (Dawn, 21st September, 2016). The case presented from the Indian perspective includes accusations leveled against Pakistan towards funding military groups in the region to create instability, waging a proxy war, spreading anti-India sentiment among the people of Kashmir through media and consistently breaching the terms of the UN Resolution 1172 passed in 1948 which accepts India’s stand regarding all outstanding issues between India and Pakistan. On the other hand, Pakistan claims that according to the two-nation theory Kashmir should have been with Pakistan, since it has a Muslim majority. Allegations also include inhuman treatment of Kashmiri civilians at the hands of the Indian Armed Forces (backed by evidence from humanitarian agencies).

Whether it is by religion or region, Kashmir is not a unified voice on the matter of its future. Apart from the unending call for democracy and human rights standards, Kashmiris differ in their opinions all over the territory. This continues to complicate matters, with very little importance being given to the voice of the people most affected by the ongoing conflict, in discussions regarding solutions.

References:

  • Anwar Iqbal and Masood Haider, “US expresses ‘concern’ over Kashmir violence”; 21st September, 2016; retrieved on 25th November, 2016 http://www.dawn.com/news/1285043

Schools Struggling to Mend Colonial Divisions

Anna Venguer

The language of instruction in a school can have more profound implications than what one would assume on the surface – what language students are learning to read, write and speak in. Languages are laden with history, and their incorporation or marginalization in educational institutions can encompass complex power dynamics in a society. Only last week, on the 21st of November, a massive protest erupted in Bamenda, Cameroon regarding the language of instruction in schools and in the judicial system (Ventures Africa, 24 Nov. 2016). Initially colonized by the Germans, and then split into two separate mandated territories by the League of Nations, Cameroon has undergone several language transitions and is still struggling to mend the repercussions of its turbulent colonial history. Both a BBC news video and a Ventures Africa article suggest that the power struggle between the English and French languages in Cameroon are deep-rooted in the country’s colonial past.

In a BBC video, a protestor can be heard screaming that, “French speakers should back off” and outlining that, “the fight is bigger than they can think.” In this video the protestor is depicted in the middle of the protest arguing that they have the “proper means” to carry out their education, health, and judicial systems and that the boundaries between these two areas should be respected and the French should not infringe on their English-speaking institutions (BBC News, 23 Nov. 2016). This protestor is suggesting that the French are attempting to relegate English in both the school and court settings. As such, this man echoes the principles put forth by proponents of Dependency Theory, that suggest that core nations, such as France, are still exerting their influence in periphery nations, such as Cameroon, in order to bolster their own social, economic, and political ambitions. Therefore, by having educational institutions advance the French educational agenda, over other official school systems and languages, they might be trying to reinforce world power dynamics. Dependency Theorists highlight how the formal schooling curriculum and syllabus of many of former colonies reflect the needs and priorities of their colonial counterparts.

On a similar note, the Ventures Africa article has claimed that use of “language is at the heart of the protest.” The Ventures Africa article highlights how the Cameroonian Teacher & Trade Union (CATTU) has declared sitting strike to show their solidarity with the ongoing protest. Yet, unlike the BBC video, the author of Ventures Africa makes an important claim that this protest could escalate to a full-fledged civil war. The author therefore suggests that the question of language as a language of instruction is rooted in a much deeper understanding of what language encapsulates – culture, history, and most importantly, control. Here, the article touches on how this issue could instigate a cascade of violence as these two almost autonomous segments of society collide over who should maintain this control over language.

The protest has shed light on the vastly different societies that were artificially tied together during the process of colonization in Western Africa. Nevertheless, neither of these articles consider whether the spread of English would also be regarded as an imposition by a former colonial power. We must therefore consider whether there a way to unite these two areas of Cameroon without claiming that one language is dominant to another?

References: 

Jokate, Olumide. “Colonisation is at the Heart of the Language Protest in Cameroon.” Ventures Africa, 24 November 2016. <https://venturesafrica.com/colonisation-is-at-the-heart-of-the-language-protest-in-cameroon/> Accessed 24 Nov. 2016.

“Bamenda Protests: Mass Arrests in Cameroon.” BBC News, 23 November 2016. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-38078238> Accessed 24 Nov. 2016.

 

Racial Tensions in Trump’s America

Rudolf D’Silva

Since the triumph of Donald Trump’s presidential run last Tuesday, there have been increased racial tension and violence reported in schools and universities across the United States, according to ABC News (Whack, 2016). At San Jose University, as well as other universities across the country, minority students have become targets of physical and verbal attacks from primarily Caucasians, based on reports from Vice News (Gilbert, 2016). Trump’s seemingly prejudice attacks towards Muslims, Latinos, women, and many other disenfranchised groups, throughout his campaign, have fostered negative feelings amongst many throughout the country. For some it sparked a form of justification to be and act on prejudice feelings, while for others, Trump’s controversial discourses created a sense of fear and rebellion in reaction to his victory. Many holding prejudice attitudes towards minority groups have threatened both students and faculty promoting diversity in schools across the country (W 2016). The tension/violence emerging in the wake of Trump’s victory undermines many of the core values taught in American schools, such as tolerance, civility, and so forth.

Emerging tensions/violence is not only perpetrated and fueled by Trump supporters. In downtown Los Angeles student protesters, upset with election results, damaged property, according to the LA Times (Hamilton, 2016). Angry students in schools and universities across the country have been cutting class in order to protest election results. These protests have fueled tensions amongst Trump supporters and anti-Trumpers. Reports have surfaced of African American’s attacking Caucasians for the simple reason that they look like Trump supporters (G 2016). Racial tensions emerging in lieu of Trumps victory is creating an uncomfortable environment for all students across the country.

In the wake of the turmoil occurring throughout the country, schools have become a spaces were disgruntled individuals, with opposing political perspectives, express their animosity towards one another. Tension/violence fostered by animosity expressed by anti-Trump and Trump supporters have developed non-conducive learning atmospheres in many schools and universities. Not only are students afraid for their physical safety, but the psychological strains created from the growing hostility makes it difficult for students to focus in schools. For example, it is possible that many students who have various perspectives about the current political atmosphere fear to express and defend their positions in classrooms, due to fears of becoming targeted, shamed, or victimized. This fear suppresses the free flow and exchange of ideas that are used by universities to expand the minds of students, in preparing them for their various life goals.

References

Donald Trump Wins U.S. Presidential Election [Photograph]. (2016, November 9). Street Insider, New York. http://www.streetinsider.com/

Gilbert, D. (2016, November 12). Students Confront Hate. Vice News. Retrieved November 14, 2016. https://news.vice.com/story/hate-crime-reports-emerge-at-schools-and-universities-in-wake-of-trumps-election

Hamilton, M., Queally, J., & Demick, B. (2016, November 9). Trump win sparks student walkouts and protests across the U.S.: ‘I expected better’ Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 14, 2016. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-protest-trump-20161109-story.html

Whack, E., & Reeves, J. (2016, November 11). Schools Report Racist Incidents in Wake of Trump Election. ABC News. Retrieved November 14, 2016. http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/schools-report-racially-charged-incidents-election-43476177

Kashmir: The “new normal”in a Conflict Zone

Vaibhav Karajgikar

Despite schools in the regions being shut down for the last four months, cross border skirmishes between the Indian and Pakistani armies and the ever present threat of violent protests, the state government has decided to go ahead and conduct Board level examinations in Kashmir starting today (The Times of India; 14th November, 2016). Over a 100,000 students are appearing for the secondary school exams across tenth and twelfth grades. Government officials claim to have set up adequate security measures to ensure that the exams are conducted smoothly across the centers. However, safety of the students remains a prime concern given that twenty seven schools in the region have been burned down over the last couple of weeks. The officials are looking for the perpetrators responsible but have made little progress to determine the responsible parties (Al Jazeera ; 11th November, 2016).

A number of concessions have been made to aid students with their preparation. About fifty percent of the year’s syllabus has been dropped due to poor coverage on account of schools remaining shut under the imposed curfew. Students have also been given the choice to appear for the exams in February, 2017. However, only 2% of the eligible students have opted to appear for the exams next year. The pressure of losing out on an academic year is forcing the vast majority to appear for the exams despite the volatile situation.

Political agenda seems to have taken precedence over security concerns of students. The coalition government in Kashmir, in a rush to have some semblance of normal functioning in the region, has chosen to wield education as a tool to depict normalcy on the surface at the least. Furthermore, the destruction of a number of schools by arson may in part be a retaliation to the decision of the Indian Army to occupy schools in the region as forward operating bases, making them targets for attack. The use of education as a measure to exert influence over opposing forces is playing out at high levels between the government and separatist forces. A number of appeals on the public domain by officials of the Kashmiri government seek to influence separatist leaders by pleading for education to be spared of the violence for the greater good of the younger generation. The separatist leadership in turn is accusing the government of false concern given that many of the youth detained due to alleged participation in protests are still in jail without adequate measures to process and release them (BBC News, read “The Education Debate”; 2nd November, 2016).

Yet another disturbing trend highlighted from the Pakistani point of view is the cost that Indian authorities are willing to endure to come out on top in this conflict. New Delhi justifies its record in Kashmir by arguing that it can make agitation in the valley prohibitively expensive. Further, it claims to possess the resources needed to absorb the cost of the Kashmiri operation. From the Indian point of view, what makes the situation volatile is the fact that the Pakistani government is subject to military’s veto which means that any measures by the Pakistani Government to negotiate and conduct bilateral talks may fall short of actual progress in the case that the Pakistani Army uses its considerable power. For now, the political powers appear to be at a stalemate, with both sides resorting to leverage the crumbling education framework to exert pressure on the other.

References:

  • The Times of India, “Students to sit for Kashmir secondary school exams”; article dated 14th November, 2016; retrieved on 14th November, 2016

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Students-to-sit-for-Kashmir-secondary-school-exams/articleshow/55410210.cms

  • Rifat Fareed, Al Jazeera, “Who is burning down Kashmir’s schools?”; article dated 11th November, 2016; retrieved on 14th November, 2016

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/11/burning-kashmir-schools-161102102009566.html

  • Gowhar Geelani, BBC News, “Mysterious fires keep Kashmir children out of school”; article dated 2nd November, 2016; retrieved on 14th November, 2016

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-37819842

 

 

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Syrian School Bombing – Schools as Targets

Anna Venguer

Schools, like hospitals, are typically regarded as zones of peace where unprotected, vulnerable individuals can be granted safe haven in times of conflict. Yet, the war in Syria has defied all traditional conflict norms and as a result both schools and hospitals have become common, deliberate targets. For example, on October 26th, a deadly air strike in the rebel-held Idlib province of Syria destroyed a school and killed twenty-two students (BBC News, 28 Oct. 2016). Amidst the ongoing conflict, this attack embodies one of many incidents that have harmed innocent civilians since the outbreak of violence in 2011. Yet, this atrocity in particular has shaken the international community and captured news headlines around the world. UNICEF Director Anthony Lake has proclaimed this bombing has been the “deadliest attack” on a school since the war began (BBC News, 28. Oct. 2016). In response, the United Nations has advocated for an inquiry into the strike to investigate culpability and bring justice to the perpetrators. In addition, the UN High Commissioner Ban Ki Moon has declared that if proved to be deliberate, this attack constitutes a war crime.

BBC and Aljazeera articles highlight how both the Russian and Assad-led Syrian governments are vehemently denying responsibility for this attack. The fervent denial can be explained by the widespread, deeply-held moral belief that schools are neutral locations that tend to house young, innocent children. The Conflict and Post-Conflict Blog echoes this idea, in their blog “Back to School or Back to the War-Front?”, when it asserts that schools should be free from attack, because they tend to be “second homes” to society’s most vulnerable class; children. Although both BBC and Aljazeera articles illustrate this refusal by both governments to accept responsibility for the bombing, the Aljazeera article sheds light on the inconsistencies in some of these denials. For example, the article reveals how while the Russian foreign ministry urged for an international inquiry, the Russian defense ministry claimed that the pictures of the attack were fabricated (Aljazeera, 28 Oct. 2016). These inconsistencies in the Russian government officials’ statements cast doubt on their credibility, but do not explicitly attribute blame.

The extensive international outrage from this attack can be partially attributed to the fact that this is the fifth school in Syria that has been targeted since 11 October 2016 (Aljazeera, 28 Oct. 2016). The danger of this trend becoming more solidified in the ongoing conflict, is rooted in the fear that this ongoing military violence will ultimately lead to a disillusionment with the safety or purpose of schools. This, in turn, will undermine the governing notion embedded in the Human Capital Theory, that advocates that education is intrinsically associated with greater individual productivity, and therefore favorable rates of return. Investing in school infrastructure and access to education is seen as the cornerstone of economic growth in a developing nation. Yet, if school campuses become tactical targets during war, parents have a decreased incentive to put their children in danger and the government and foreign agencies also have a decreased incentive to improve and invest in educational infrastructure. Further, attacks on schools could also prompt students to associate schools with death and could induce psychological damage. Students that survive school attacks or lose friends or teachers during them will likely fear or resent these educational institutions. If schools continue to be common targets throughout the Syrian conflict, it is likely that this will have devastating long-term impact on how children view education as an institution.

References: 

“Back to School or Back to the War Front?” Conflict & Post-Conflict Education, 18 Oct. 2016. https://conflictandpostconflicted.wordpress.com/2016/10/18/back-to-school-or-back-to-the-war-front/. Accessed 2 Nov. 2016.

“Russia Denies Involvement In Deadly Syria School Attack”. Aljazeera, 27 Oct. 2016. <http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/10/russia-denies-involvement-deadly-syria-school-attack-161027131715280.html>. Accessed 2 Nov. 2016.

“Syria Conflict: UN Urges Inquiry Into Deadly Air Strike on School” BBC News, 28 Oct. 2016. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37794362&gt;. Accessed 2 Nov. 2016.

Mutual Struggles Amid the Violence: Israeli and Palestinian Women

Rudolf D’Silva

The decades of violence ensuing in the Israeli/Palestinian region has caused many to overlook how such violence has hindered educational opportunities for women in the region. Sexual violence against women is a systemic issue faced by many Palestinian women, according to Julie Bindel, a reporter for the International Business Times (Bindel, 2016). Women are often married at young ages, and marital rape is not recognized within the region (B 2016). Serious women’s issues, such as the disregard of marital rape, are often over shadowed by the continual violence plaguing the region. For example, in late September there was yet another surge of violence after a Palestinian man stabbed an Israeli soldier, leading to a series of conflicts over the next few days, according to CNN reports (Visser, 2016). It is continual violence such as this, which makes it difficult for Israeli and Palestinian officials to prioritize women’s rights.

Israeli women claim that they suffer the same patriarchal injustices Palestinian women experience. However, no news reports explicitly state that sexual violence is experienced to the same degree amongst Israeli women as they are amongst Palestinian women (B 2016). Regardless of ethnicity, sexual violence has serious psychological impacts on its victims. Given many Palestinian women are married at young ages, impacts their ability to pursue higher forms of education. This collectively limits Palestinian women’s ability to gain economic mobility, and other forms of liberation. Secondly, given marital rape is not recognized as a crime within the region, it undoubtedly increases the likelihood of nonconsensual sexual encounters amongst married couples. For married Palestinian women who may be pursuing higher forms of education, and are victims of marital rape, the psychological stress resulting from that rape, is likely to make it difficult for these women to focus on their education. Eventually, this influences the quality of education these women receive.

Another obstacle, limiting access and quality of education for both Israeli and Palestinian women in the region is the fear many male family members have of sending the women of their family to different villages to study (B 2016). Due to the ensuing violence, many men fear for the safety of their female relatives. This fear emerges from the idea that women are less capable of taking care of themselves in hostile environments. The defensive attitude male family members have, though well intended, limits women’s access to various forms of education, and economic opportunities.

Ultimately, although the continued violence raging amongst Israeli and Palestinians is tragic, it has blinded many in the region of the struggles the women in their communities must regularly endure.

 

References

Bindel, J. (2016, October 27). How Arab and Jewish Feminists Unite to Fight Sexual Violence and Patriarchy in Israel. International Business Times. Retrieved October 31, 2016, from http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/how-arab-jewish-feminists-unite-fight-sexual-violence-patriarchy-israel-1588589

HOPE [Photograph]. (2014, November 1). Fabulously Made. http://garsijanovski.blogspot.com/2014_11_01_archive.html

Visser, S., Carey, A., & Salman, A. (2016, September 17). West Bank, Jerusalem violence flares after recent calm. CNN. Retrieved October 31, 2016, from http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/16/middleeast/west-bank-violence/

Supreme Court takes up Transgender School Restroom Case

Anna Venguer

Last Friday, the US Supreme Court announced that it would take up Gavin Grimm’s case on transgender discrimination in school restrooms (The Washington Post, Oct. 28 2016). Gavin Grimm, a seventeen-year-old student that was female-born, identifies as male and has been taking therapeutic hormones since the age of fourteen to undergo his gender transformation. After his school board ruled that he was barred from using the boy bathrooms on campus, he was required to use specifically allocated unisex restrooms instead, prompting him to sue the school for its discriminatory requirement. The Court of Appeals of the Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of Grimm, but the Supreme Court has yet to finalize its ruling, which they have now announced will take place before June.

The crux of the case has shed light on a critical issue plaguing schools around the nation, namely the treatment of transgender students within academic settings. In his op-ed in the Washington Post on October 28th, Grimm outlined how the heightened focus of this case, coupled with the school’s discriminatory policy, have reinforced the stigma surrounding his transgender identity and escalated the degree of bullying and harassment he faces at school. Grimm outlines how he has felt compelled to change his behavior to minimize the humiliation of going to a separate, sometimes inconveniently located restroom. For example, he has resorted to drastically limiting his fluid-intake to reduce the number of times he has to go to the bathroom during the school day. This harmful behavior has induced several Urinary Tract Infections and demonstrated how his marginalization at school has had grave ramifications for his well-being.

Despite Grimm’s grievances, one of the primary objections behind transgender-friendly bathrooms in schools is the fear that it will pave the way for inappropriate or violent behavior (The Daily Wire, 22 April 2016). An article released in a local Virginia newspaper, where the case takes place, explores this fear by drawing on five reported cases of transgender violence in restrooms. This article pins the rationale of the school board’s policy on the notion that a transgender friendly policy will trigger a cascade of similar, violent cases.

The Gendered Education blog, touches on how education is traditionally “heralded as an equalizer” by providing all students with the same opportunities, tools for learning, and metrics for defining academic success (Hickman, 25 Sept. 2016). Nevertheless, Gavin Grimm’s case reveals the power that lies in the backbone of educational institutions and how they have the ability to shape a student’s capacity to learn. Adequate learning conditions thus encapsulate more than qualified teachers, robust learning materials, and a solid infrastructure; they should promote healthy, safe environments. Yet, how can schools balance their desire for equal treatment with their guarantee for non-violent or appropriate conducts in these restrooms? Education has the power to mold norms and shape an institutionalized policy, whether it be transgender-friendly bathrooms or lack thereof. The norm set in schools through the upcoming Supreme Court ruling could permeate into other areas of life. Further, this ruling could redefine what values are protected the umbrella-term “safe” academic settings.

References:

Balingit, Moriah and Barnes, Robert. “Supreme Court Takes up School Bathroom Rules for Transgender Students.” The Washington Post, 28 Oct. 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-takes-up-school-bathroom-rules-for-transgender-students/2016/10/28/0eece4ea-917f-11e6-a6a3-d50061aa9fae_story.html. Accessed 3 Nov 2016.

Grimm, Gavin. “I’m Transgender and Can’t Use the Student Bathroom. The Supreme Court could Change That.” The Washington Post, 27 Oct. 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/im-transgender-and-cant-use-the-student-bathroom-the-supreme-court-could-change-that/2016/10/27/19d1a3ae-9bc1-11e6-a0ed-ab0774c1eaa5_story.html?utm_term=.56642b4c371c. Accessed 3 Nov. 2016.

Hickman, Gabrielle. “Education For All: Let Girls and Boys Learn?” Gendered Ed Blog, 25 Sept. 2016. https://gendereded.wordpress.com/2016/09/25/girlsandboys/. Accessed 3 Nov. 2016.

Prestigiacomo, Amanda. “5 Times ‘Transgender’ Men Abused Women and Children in Bathrooms.” The Daily Wire, 22 April 2016. http://www.dailywire.com/news/5190/5-times-transgender-men-abused-women-and-children-amanda-prestigiacomo. Accessed 3 Nov. 2016.

Education, Economics, and Violence: A Venezuelan Tale

Rudolf D’Silva

In the past few months a series of protests have erupted on the streets of Venezuela, leading to regular bursts of violence amongst protesters and police officials, as reported by Andrew Cawthorne of Independent news (Cawthorne, par. 2 & 9). Furthermore, it is reported that much of the violence is resulting from the economic collapse of Venezuela’s oil industry, making it difficult for the government to provide food imports for the countries populous, according to Flora Charner of CNN (Charner, par. 3). Several conservative media outlets, such as Fox News, have reported that the people of Venezuela believe the food shortage is the result of the countries socialist style government (Baier). However, many Venezuelan government officials, including president Nicolas Maduro believe this is nothing more than a coup, which has been instigated by American operatives within the country (Cawthorne 12).

Nonetheless, the violence which has emerged from protests has caused many families across Venezuela to not send their children to school, at least until the violence subsides (Cawthorne 19). Although the news articles do not state the reasoning why families are keeping their children from attending school, it can be reasonably presumed that families fear for their children’s safety. Although cities, such as Caracas, already have a reputation for being dangerous, the recent surge in violence, resulting from the protests and economic hardships, has led to a further rise in criminal acts such as robbery and murder (Charner 1-20). It is no wonder why parents are cautious about sending their children to school in Venezuela. It is likely most parents want to shield their children from the chaos ensuing throughout the country. Also, it is likely, parents are keeping their children from attending schools to protect them from physical harm, which may result while traveling to and from school, as well as while being in school.

Violence in any community largely affects student’s ability to gain a quality education. Although having inadequate time in a classroom setting influences how much any given student will learn, the drastic effects on education result from the hostile environment violence nurtures. The hostile environment violence fosters impact student’s ability to focus and retain precious information that may benefit students in their future. In the long run, hindering the educational quality of Venezuelan students could lead to a less productive nation. The economic situation in Venezuela, contributing to the protests and violence, is an issue the Venezuelan government will need to resolve soon in order to minimize the educational collateral which may result from it.

References

Charner, F. (2016, October 15). The face of hunger in Venezuela. CNN. Retrieved October 25, 2016, from http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/13/americas/cnnphotos-venezuela-food-crisis/

Cawthorne, A., & Ulme, A. (2016, October 27). Ozens injured as violent protests erupt in Venezuela against ‘incompetent autocrat’ President Maduro. Independent. Retrieved October 27, 2016, from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/venezuela-nicolas-maduro-violent-protests-anti-government-demonstrations-caracas-a7382421.html

Rawlins, C. G. (2016, October 26). Opposition supporters take part in a rally against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas[Photograph]. Reuters, Independent, Venezuela. https://news.vice.com/article/venezuelan-police-and-anti-government-protesters-clash-as-crisis-continues

Venezuela’s collapse prompts surge in asylum seekers [Video file]. (2016, September 20).Retrieved October 27, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DyV8xtQslM