FIVE school teachers have been given show cause letters by the Education Ministry for being “excessively” critical of the Government in public forums and the like. I wish I could find out what they said; it would be nice to see what “excessive” is.
The Education Minister also said that civil servants should be loyal to the Government and any criticism should be done via the “correct channels”. But all this silencing of educators is not undemocratic, he says because it is done via the law – namely the General Orders which civil servants are bound by.
These are really old justifications that have been used for decades.
Firstly, one has to wonder what “proper channels” there are and whether they are effective or not. If these channels are not open to the public (and I am certain by “proper” it is meant “discreet”) then they can easily be ignored.
Secondly, just because a law exists to silence people, that does not make it right. A power provided by legislation can be just as undemocratic as an unfettered discretionary power.
These five teachers are facing the beginnings of disciplinary action for things which they did outside of the classroom. But the Youth and Sports Minister has chipped in saying that things done within the classrooms should not be used as a “political platform”.
Well, sure, it would be unseemly and inappropriate for any sort of political campaigning to be done in classrooms. Kind of pointless as well, since schoolchildren can’t vote.
But I wonder; what if a history teacher decides to point out the fact that Umno was late in joining the calls for independence and in fact the originator for that call was the Malayan Left. Would this be political?
And that is just within the context of schools. Universities offer courses and have departments whose entire purpose is to examine critically what happens in society, which includes what the Government does.
A Social Science Department that does not cover race-based policies in the country will not be doing its job. An economics department that does not explore the effect of corruption on the well-being of the country will not be doing its job. A law faculty that does not criticise unjust laws and judgments will not be doing its job.
However, recently, public universities have received a circular, once again written under the authority of legislation meant to control civil servants, where we have been told that we can’t say or do anything that could be deemed as manifesting disloyalty to King, country and government.
Well, I can tell you that makes my job as a Human Rights and Environmental Law lecturer very simple then.
I think I can just turn up to class for the rest of the semester with a guitar and sing Kumbaya with my students for an hour.
Of course I won’t do that. This is because my responsibility as a lecturer, and a teacher’s responsibility, is first and foremost to our students. Our job is to broaden their horizons and to show them not just what is, but what should be.
As long as what is being taught is backed up by good research and sound reasoning, then what is said should not be penalised.
If we do our jobs well, we produce thinking graduates and by this we serve the people and the nation. Not the Government.
by AZMI SHAROM
Read more @ http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/brave-new-world/2017/03/29/allow-room-for-critical-thinking/#cALvx43M61RX07Xl.99