We Can Have a Greater Impact


by the Editorial Board
August 22nd, 2017


[aesop_content color=”#000000″ background=”#ffffff” component_width=”600px” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up” revealfx=”off”]

The United World Colleges boasts more than 60.000 alumni from more than 181 countries, embraces a genuinely progressive education, and reflect values of a globalised world. Though alumni are zealous defenders of UWC values, our movement lacks coherency in its political ambitions. Peter Howe, the current Head of College of Atlantic College, said in an interview with the Flying Dutchman in February 2017: “historically UWC graduates have shied away from politics”. This is perhaps why we fail to have the considerable political impact one would expect from a movement of many more than 60.000 members. To achieve political impact, we must first acknowledge that our movement is, in fact, a political movement.
a
Naturally to be a part of the UWC movement one need not subscribe to a specific political view. Afterall, our most significant value is arguably the celebration of difference. To be a United World College student or alumni is not equal to being socially liberal – though many will argue the opposite. The movements core values do, however, reflect some political standpoints.
a
The founding of United World College came forth of Kurt Hahn’s belief that by breaking down cultural, linguistic and physical barriers we could prevent future conflicts. A global education, he believed, could unite the youth and end all which divided mankind when UWC was founded in the 60ies. For humankind to see past the colour of skin, the prerequisites of individual backgrounds, and the conditions of one’s body became the bedrock on which a sustainable and peaceful future was to be built. The United World Colleges continue to nurture an understanding of individuals that goes beyond physical circumstances. In this way, our movement’s core values reflect a political entity that does and should strive for racial justice and gender equality. These are two of the universal issues our movement should be constantly engaged in.
a
An additional aspect of our movement is internationalism. “Nothing but goodwill between nations and classes can save this generation from wars and revolutions,” Hahn said in a speech in 1936. “And education can help to build this bedrock of goodwill as a foundation of the society to be.” In an increasingly hostile world, Kurt Hahn recognised that the way forward was past isolationism. Our global education emerged from Kurt Hahn’s thought of internationalism, and so to reject it would be to go against the fundamental principles that created the United World Colleges. Today, we face increasing nationalism across the Western world. Such nationalism leads to isolationism, and Kurt Hahn acknowledged that division among countries eventually leads to conflict. Therefore, as our movement is global in nature and devoted to peace, it should advocate for a more globalised world.
a
Another of Hahn’s learning principles was that “direct, respectful relationship with the natural world refreshes the human spirit teaches the important ideas of recurring cycles and cause and effect. Students learn to become stewards of the earth and of future generations.” “Respect for the Environment” is one of UWC’s ten values, and so environmentalism an inherent a part of our movement.
a
Before founding United World College, Kurt Hahn was dean of the famous German School “Schule Schloss Salem”. The values of Salem were very similar to our movement’s. Hahn, however, outlined one principle that he later did not include in UWC’s core values – at least not in its literal form. One of his “Seven Laws of Salem” was to “free the sons of the wealthy and powerful from the enervating sense of privilege.” Kurt Hahn believed that social classes in the 1920ies and 30ies had become so isolated that their division undermined the greater good of society. He thought that a person’s entitlement to something often meant the exclusion of others to be allowed similar privilege. Kurt Hahn firmly believed in equality of opportunity, and though his Seventh Law of Salem did not literally carry over to UWC’s core values, the United World College organisation states that “the UWC education should be independent of the student’s socioeconomic means.” Greater equality of opportunity for all, therefore, should be central to the ethos of our movement. If income or wealth becomes a barrier to be a part of our movement, then how can we possibly follow Hahn’s lead in “uniting young people from all backgrounds on the basis of their shared humanity”?
a
We often dislike getting too political in our debates on and off campuses. We fear that by not tolerating even the intolerant we may not stay true to the value of “celebrating difference.” It is indeed paradoxal, but it must not undermine the impact that our movement should have: to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. We cannot deny that by being a part of the UWC movement, we are a part of a political movement. A political movement that today is as relevant as ever. As a political entity, there exist universal issues which our movement should engage in politically. These are issues central to the very ethos of UWC and cannot be disputed:

a

Gender Inequality
a
Climate Change
a
Income Inequality
a
Racial Injustice
a
Rise of Nationalism
a

If we acknowledge that our movement has certain political standpoints, then we can have significant impact on society. We can become a greater force for change.

 

[/aesop_content]

991 views