The Education Ministry’s move urging primary and high school students to hold a minute of silence as a sign of solidarity with Palestinians killed in the Israeli attack is likely to have negative effects on children, according to education experts.
"The war psychology should not be reflected on children. The children are already negatively influenced by images of dead children, the most affected Palestinians in the Israeli raids, displayed by the media. It is not right to further reflect this atmosphere onto children by such a move," Mehmet Bozgeyik, secretary-general of the teachers’ union, Eğitim-Sen, told the Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
Primary school and high school students across Turkey stood silent Tuesday for a minute in line with the Education Ministry’s direction to show their sorrow for Palestinians who had lost their lives in the Israeli attack in Gaza. Education Minister Hüseyin Çelik viewed the move as part of Turkish children’s democratic reaction to the human tragedy in Palestine, but education experts and child psychologists have said the move was likely to develop partisan feelings in children.
"The move may develop a sense of antagonism and prejudice against Israelis in the future in these children. The government displays a so-called sensitivity toward the incidents in Gaza but in reality it plays up to voters ahead of the local elections," Bozgeyik said. "Many children died, too, in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Caucasus. Did the government do the same for them?"
For child psychologist Aylin İlden, raising the awareness of children of world matters was important but the move would not have the same affect on children at different ages and levels of education.
"Among these children were six-year-old and 12-year-old children. Little children are intellectually incapable of understanding what is going on (there and in Palestine). It is harmful for children to act with a partisan motive and it is not right to advocate by using children," İlden said.
Stating that children needed more concrete knowledge about the issue and the motives behind such a move, she said, "It may have been better to provide children with such information through their teachers with stronger content."
Intellectual discussion should complement action
Child psychiatrist Professor Emine Öztürk Kılıç said it was good for children to learn more about what was happening in the world but it was not an appropriate way to realize this through a ministerial direction.
"The way it was applied is not likely to serve its original purpose. Any such practice will also remain useless and insufficient unless it is reinforced with intellectual activities and discussion," Kılıç said.
"The move could be undertaken to develop an anti-war understanding in children but this should be explained well to the children through intellectual discussion and more concrete information on the issue. It is important to clarify the purpose such a move serves. Otherwise the move itself has no use," she said.
The event itself and speeches made before, during and after the minute of silence, were also important to complement and maximize the move’s message and effect, according to Kılıç.
For İsmail Koncuk, president of another teacher’s union, Türk Eğitim-Sen, the move could be the right one to raise children’s awareness about the issue but it was also a political move ahead of the March local elections. "The government in reality did not take a concrete step to end the war between Israel and Palestine. Moves, such as a minute of silence, are not enough and the government is simply playing up to its voters," he said.