Sunday, February 12, 2012

Kemalist nationalism is passé, the new target is a religious youth: Professor of Education responds to the idea of raising a religious youth

A few days ago, Prime Minister Erdoğan declared his party's vision for the youth: to raise a religious generation. These statements immediately raised concerns among different parts of the population as it resonated the indoctrination principles of education, also visible among Kemalist nationalists. Following this, PM Erdoğan snapped at the critics and asked whether they would rather see the youth becoming homeless kids who are paint-thinner addicted--a social problem that arose in Turkey after the 1990s mostly, similar to Brazil and India. In the context of Turkey, this social problem was also related to the armed conflicts in the East and Kurdish provinces. Thus counter-posing being religious to a social problem, homeless kids with paint-thinner addiction, PM Erdoğan deepened the polemic over indoctrination towards rendering the youth more religious through education, which he seemed to advocate earlier, by implying that rebelling youth would end up being homeless with substance addiction. According to this logic, then, religion would be their salvation.

Education scientist and head of the Department of Education at Boğaziçi University, Fatma Gök evaluated these statements. Ekin Karaca wrote for Bianet:

"Religious Generation versus Liberal Education?

“We will raise a religious generation” was the statement of PM Erdoğan made last week. Prof Fatma Gök assessed this much disputed statement for bianet. She said that the republican ideology as well as the AKP saw education as a tool to raise certain generations.
Istanbul - BİA News Center
08 February 2012, Wednesday 
At the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Extended Meeting of Provincial Chairs in the beginning of February, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, "We want to raise a religious generation. Do you expect the AKP to raise an atheist generation?" His statement created quite a stir in the Turkish media and was discussed controversially. Erdoğan commented the voiced criticism: "Do you want the youth to become thinner addicts? Do you want the young people to be a generation that rebels against the older ones? Do you want the youth to be a generation cut off from national and moral values without any integrity and concern?"
The Head of the Boğaziçi University Faculty of Education, Prof Fatma Gök, said in a statement made to bianet that she found the prime minister's speech utterly grave.

'Education is the most important device for ideology'

Gök said that they analyzed the situation as education scientists and by problematizing the result they worked on how to create a more liberal education. Gök reminded that the prime minister did not feel the need to consider these aspects but openly announced, 'We are going to raise a religious generation'.
The education expert pointed to many schools of thoughts world-wide that contemplated the up-bringing of people in an educational framework. According to Gök, the prime minister adopted one school out of all these schools of thought that he saw as a tool to change the manner of education.
Gök [...] referred to Louis Althusser to define the general functions of education in capitalist societies: 'Education is the most important device of ideology of a society'.
All governments wanted to shape education according to how they wanted to raise the people but they could not say it openly, the academic claimed.
'Education happens at a point where the society and the individual are merging. Therefore, the people in power try to shape education', Gök argued.


'Republican ideology of national education is the same'

Gök underlined that no regime wanted to leave school and education alone. In her opinion, the term 'raising a generation' described the same situation in both the 89-year national education ideology and the AKP's education ideology.
Fatma Gök stressed the difficult issue of realizing education that was purified of any ideologies. Therefore, people in Turkey had to pursue a society with a more balanced ratio between the economic capital and the social and cultural capital, she propounded.
'Education free of any ideologies is the dream of some liberal pedagogues'."

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For a critique of Erdoğan's mentality compared with Kemalism, please see Galatasaray University professor and GİT - Türkiye member Ahmet İnsel's column in Turkish: