Monday, December 31, 2012

Gene Sharp Illustrates How Important Teachers Can be to a Nonviolent Movement

Day 15 of my analysis of Gene Sharp’s The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part One: Power and Struggle, Chapter 2, applied to the climate movement. Reading Sharp’s books are a prerequisite for anyone who wants to help save our life-support system. Please go to Dr. Sharp’s website, buy these books, and study them.

Sharp:  “Significant nonviolent struggles under exceedingly difficult circumstances  also emerged in Nazi-occupied Europe…against a ruthless enemy…The Norwegian teacher’s resistance is but one of these resistance campaigns….[The Norwegian fascist Vidkun Quisling] created a new teacher’s organization with compulsory membership.,,A compulsory fascist youth movement was also set up.

         “The underground called on the teachers to resists.  Between eight thousand and ten thousand of the country’s twelve thousand teachers wrote letters to Quisling’s…Education Department.  All Signed their names and addresses to the wording prescribed by the underground for the letter.  Each teacher said he (or she) could neither assist in promoting fascist education of the children nor accept membership in the new teachers’ organization.

         “The government threatened them with dismissal and then closed all schools for a month.  Teachers held classes in private homes…news of the resistance spread.  Tens of thousands of letters of protest from parents poured into the government office.

         “…about one thousand male teachers were arrested and sent to concentration camps.  Children gathered and sang at railroad stations as teachers were shipped through in cattle cars…On starvation rations, the teachers were put through “torture gymnastics” in deep snow… their suffering strengthened morale and posed problems for the Quisling regime.

         “The schools reopened, but he teachers…told their pupils  they repudiated membership in the new organization and spoke of a duty to conscience.  Rumors were spread that if the teachers did not give in, some or all of those arrested would be killed…the teachers…almost without exception stood firm.”

         “Fearful of alienating Norwegians still further, Quisling finally ordered the teachers’ release.  Eight months after the arrests, the last teachers returned home to triumphal receptions.”

         “Schools were never used for fascist proaganda”.

         I used to be a teacher myself.  And one of my most poignant moments in realizing we needed to do something about climate change came at the end of school one day, when I said goodbye to a class full of just delightful, beautiful 3rd grade kids.  As they walked out the door I thought, “My God, what kind of a future are we dooming them to?”

         In some districts teaching about climate change has been forbidden because it’s “political”.  Good lord, have we really ceded reality away to the point where science can be labeled politics?  Teachers and administrators can be harassed by parents for teaching this stuff.

         But guys, look what the Norwegians stood up to!  What’s a little being harrassed when you’re talking about saving the world?  As teachers, for a few hours every day, we’re surrogates for the parents.  It’s our job to look out for the kid’s welfare, to help prepare them for a successful future.  If we look the other way while climate change is making the planet unable to support our vast numbers in their lifetimes (maybe even by the time they enter adulthood),  are we not concentrating on the little things and ignoring the big thing? 

         Teachers and parents, and students, should be a big part of our push.


This was one story, but Sharp’s books are packed with similar stories.  If we’re going to break the fossil fuel industry’s stranglehold you need to read Gene Sharp’s stuff.  Please muster up the $34.85 (plus shipping) and purchase The Politics of Nonviolent Action.  You can order it HERE.

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