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Fundamental rights and wrongs

It’s such a dangerous notion to talk about certain ideas or practices needing to be eradicated or eliminated, especially when one wants to promote diversity, multiculturalism, and free speech… but some things in our world are fundamentally wrong. Some ideas simply do not deserve to linger. But what dictates this line? Something as clear-cut as slavery is a definite “no”, not allowed. Yet other topics, such as spanking children is still up for debate, despite sources of evidence pointing to detrimental effects. Or assisted suicide, as an archbishop in Toronto speaks out against it and endorses greater investment in palliative care, which one may argue, is a similar course of action but simply drawn-out and possibly extending what may be a life prepared and in a position to choose to end (paid for under health care). These are ideas up for debate, but do they need to be? Are they wrong? Are these aspects in our society that represent diverse thinking and are a required mindset to keep modern ideas in check, representing all viewpoints within our populations? Or is there no longer a place for these ideas? Is it not in the best interests of humanity to maintain some of these beliefs? Do we need to evolve beyond it? And what does this look like in a classroom as an “unbiased educator”?

It’s important to note that my examples and their respective sources were accumulated through open sharing of ideas and information on-line, which is wrought with red tape and law. Are laws and ideas that are in sharp contrast to this notion of sharing fundamentally wrong? The current line allows for us to restate what another individual has said person-to-person or verbally, but not computer-to-computer without protections in place. If it isn’t, how does society evolve from and determine that line of what is a fundamentally wrong notion, and what isn’t?


Educational implications

Education and our world is constantly evolving, but everything is evolving at a different pace, and this poses a problem when open information and law come into conflict. In the context of evolution and the betterment of humanity, controlling or putting a price on information seems fundamentally wrong, doesn’t it? If you’re an educator, it should. We want all students to learn, and try everything to make that happen, yet ride a line devoid of opinion. As educators, so much of what we learn comes from so many sources of information we never had to put a price on. As Dean Shareski puts it: “I’m a giant derivative”, and we all are, students and teachers alike, so understandings diverse beliefs should come naturally in educating students to become the next workforce, even if they used open information to do so. But would a nation’s productivity crumble if future recruits learned their information independently from sources on-line? Post-secondary institutions may disappear with this and then gone are the certifications that jobs strictly recognize… is that bad? Post-secondary in recent history has held the knowledge and credentials required for success. Are they, as today’s “great keepers of knowledge” a fundamental wrong of the past, and a roadblock to modern education? All you have to do is pay the price to open the doors of wisdom…

Campion Hall door
By Steve Cadman (originally posted to Flickr as Campion Hall) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Referencing current media, one could connect this to the show, Suits. An individual without a law degree successfully practising law, well that can’t be, not without an expensive piece of paper!

Extending our scope

Broadening our scope, we connect this to politics, particularly videos and advertisements that attack the opposition. I feel that, personally, in a “morally just” world, one could present what they are passionate about, their beliefs, and, dare-I-say, weaknesses, then let the people decide if that’s the kind of person they’d want to share leadership with. It’s what is fundamentally right and what you’d expect of a friend. I’m sure we’re all guilty of misleading people at some point, but our leaders need to be leaders and show the example of being upfront about everything.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. We see the subscription to fear-mongering, paid for by the wealthy and, in some cases, tax money. Trickling down, when presenting a new idea or business proposition for a community, rather than address the negatives and the positives, we simply see a highlight of the problems from the opposition. As a citizen, what is fundamentally right would ask us to remember to address individuals as humans and treat them accordingly as you’d expect someone to address you face-to-face. This includes rebuttals, free of personal attacks or vulgarity combined with a twisted sense of pride, or hiding information to “win” the discussion, as has become visible in comments sections of social media. Pro-tip: it doesn’t make you a hero to speak ill of an individual due to whom they voted for, it makes you a bully, and today we see adults practice cyber-bullying in this light and expect our kids to do otherwise. Educators may push students to learn from the mistakes of others and avoid the self-serving biases attributing blame with “facts”. To quote Arthur Conan Doyle, writer of Sherlock Holmes: It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” And through teaching digital citizenship, does that help combat this problem that is embedded in all forms of human interaction? Whether face-to-face or throughout social media, it is present, and perpetuated by leadership, as seen below.

Conservative Attack Ad


Liberal Attack Ad


This post’s form of political activism doesn’t even come close to rivalling that of Aaron Swartz… and is more about awareness than an action like an active boycotting. I may have painted far more bleak and pessimistic than reality. Yet Swartz’s beliefs on open education and activism connect with our flaws in society and its associated education systems. His story is that of which a relic of the past, a fundamental wrong, unequipped to suit the evolving world, lead to the loss of an innovator and, more importantly, an individual who pursued what was and can be considered “fundamentally right”. As always, this free information is subject to our interpretation and biases, but let the information and facts direct your theory on the matter. How does the educator find the line between fundamental rights and wrongs on this? Is it as simple as being an educator fitting of Lessig’s description of Aaron Swartz: “Like the very best teachers, he taught by asking. Like the most effective leaders <learners>, his questions were on a path, his path.”

Do you agree with my thoughts or comments? The connections it made to politics and education? Why or why not? Comment below!

– Logan Petlak