A lesson not learned

on . Posted in English texts

I have an honest question: Did Themis Kotsyfakis not feel embarrassed when the young student sitting next to him on the television panel asked, “Is there any difference between the present situation and the military dictatorship?” (“Anatropi,” Mega Channel, 10.11.2014) I am not asking here if Kotsyfakis felt embarrassed as president of the federation of secondary schoolteachers, or OLME. What I mean, rather, is whether he, as a teacher, felt ashamed about the fact that the senior high school student, who could have been his pupil, had not been taught and therefore could not tell the difference between a democracy and a military junta.

We shouldn’t be surprised that the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn scored the second-highest percentage (14 percent) of votes in the 18-24 age group, according to a Public Issue survey on the 2012 elections. If a politically aware student such as 16-year-old Ioanna couldn’t tell the difference between a democracy and a junta, what can we expect from an apolitical 16-year-old?

Kotsyfakis, and the unionists that voted for him, are also responsible for the fact that about one in four first-time voters in the 2012 elections supported GD. Teachers ought to educate those children on the basics of democracy, the evils of a military dictatorship, the horror of fascism. What was it (surely not lack of state funds this time) that stopped Kotsyfakis from correcting the student and saying, “A dictatorship is one thing, while democracy is quite another. Even our substandard democracy is far better than the junta which you never experienced. People died for this democracy, dysfunctional as it might be. The junta, which you luckily are unable to even imagine, tortured people with electric shocks and foot whipping. No, what we have now is not a junta, it is an imperfect democracy which can only improve when we teach you, and you understand, the difference”? That would be a good lesson for Ioanna, and the thousands of students who were watching the show.

Instead, Kotsyfakis preferred to be the unionist that he is. The only thing he appeared interested in was stressing the need to scrap the government’s education reforms and “returning to the old system,” the system which resulted in GD’s shock performance among young voters.

Sure, students have a lot on their plate. They are burdened by a system that promotes sterile rote learning. But that should not make them copy the vocabulary of their predecessors. “How could anyone blame OLME and our teachers for trying to carry out their pedagogic role?” Ioanna said in perfect union speak. More like something you’d expect from that gray-haired unionist.

Published in ekathimerini.com , Thursday November 13, 2014