Issue 29, Education


As humans, we are not born with the knowledge to survive; we have to learn. And we are constantly learning. Our education takes numerous forms from learning to communicate, learning to read, learning to parent, learning trades, learning to grow crops and harvest, learning to be a professional, learning to grieve and to die. Yet while there are countless informal educational experiences throughout our lives, the formal system of education plays a unique and essential role in our contemporary world. In fact, education is the bedrock of a healthy, thriving society.


Studies demonstrate that increased education provides numerous positive effects on individuals. Education leads to better quality of life, longevity, and positive health outcomes. People with higher degrees are more likely to have stable jobs with benefits (such as healthcare in countries without socialized systems of healthcare) and higher income, sparing them from the harmful effects of stress that accompany poverty. Educated people are also more likely to be able to live in neighborhoods with good school systems and easy access to amenities and leisure, which increases their wellbeing and social connectivity. Education also gives individuals the knowledge and self-confidence to be advocates for themselves, solve problems, and seek necessary assistance. Economically, the benefits are not only felt within a household; neighborhoods, states, and countries with a larger percentage of well-educated citizens are more likely to prosper and function effectively.


Not only are individual and community lives improved by education, but democracy only functions if people are well educated. A democratic society depends on citizens having the capacity to make well-reasoned decisions, to know their civic rights and responsibilities, and to contribute to addressing local and global challenges. Public educational systems are responsible for developing informed citizens who know how to assess information for reliability, question hearsay, and be empowered by knowledge. A healthy democracy depends on the debate and contributions of many well-informed and logical minds.


For these reasons and more, an equitable, non-biased educational system is one of the most valuable resources that a government and civic society can provide. This is a system in which all citizens receive excellent education, honing their critical thinking skills and enabling them to be creative contributors to society. With equal access to education, each citizen has a seat at the table — regardless of their occupation, individual skills or challenges, skin color or gender or sexuality, or economic background.


Given the vital role that education plays in shaping people, politics, and societies, the following should not come as a surprise: some people do not want all citizens to have equal access to an education, and some do not want certain truths to be known. Equitable access to truths, education, and a seat at the table is interpreted as a threat by those who fear losing their own status and power.


This special issue of Shuddhashar takes a serious look at debates and controversies around education. We consider attacks against teaching subjects like slavery, racism, and LGBT+, and the omission of histories about underrepresented groups, such as aboriginal peoples, Dalits, religious minorities, and women, and the precarious place of environmentalism in curricula. We examine debates around teaching Critical Race Theory in US schools and workplaces. We look at examples of how history has been rewritten in various contexts, including in Israeli school textbooks. We analyze religious-political movements, such as Hindutva, and authoritarian regimes, such as China, that censor what can be taught, read, published, or shown. We shed light on the obstacles religious creationists put up to thwart teaching scientific theories — the theory of evolution, for example — in the science classes. We discuss multiple threats against academic freedom, and against people who attempt to speak truth to power, and we describe ways to decolonize the academy by integrating social justice into society and the classroom.


How and what we teach will have long-lasting effects on our world. Given that educational systems are under threat in multiple and varied ways, how do we ensure principled civic responsibility? How do we foster a healthy and inclusive society where individuals’ voices matters precisely because they are well-informed and consider the greater good? How do we prepare teachers to prepare students for this world we live in – for their future? Shuddhashar invites you to read and engage with the articles in this issue.

Environmental Education and the Problem of Privilege

As a white, North American environmental educator, I frequently find myself sheltering a dirty little secret. It’s this: environmentalism, especially in the U.S., suffers from a host of privilege problems. Teaching environmentalism without anti-racism is a little like teaching social justice without hope: you’ll get nowhere if you skirt questions of legacy and responsibility. Instead, …

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Education: Sometimes We Should Feel Uncomfortable

People A social studies teacher is fired for stating that white privilege is an established fact in his “Contemporary Issues” class and for showing a poetry performance by a Black woman. An English high school teacher is fired after parents complained about her reading and writing assignments on an award-winning young adult novel in her …

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Teaching and Learning in a Pandemic: Reflections on the Digital in University Education in India

Introduction (Chaise LaDousa): Global media reported on the COVID-19 pandemic in India, focusing on infrastructural dynamics in the health care system, patterns of migrant labor, and inequities in society more generally. The plight of teachers and students was less visible. One of the most common responses to the pandemic worldwide was to switch to online …

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Banking Style Education and the Issue of Hierarchy in Decolonising British Higher Education

From the colonial roots of the rise of higher educational institutes to the banking style teaching methods that defer authority to a highly gate-kept few and the propaganda laden curriculums, universities have long been one branch of a multi-institutional oppressive system. However, movements such as Black Lives Matter have been raising public awareness of institutional …

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Debrahminizing Education and Critical Caste Studies

Education is vital for the betterment of humanity. Societies with oral or/and written traditions have relied on individual self-education and collective inter-generational education to preserve themselves and enrich the lives of their members over time and space. However, we need to be aware that many societies have perpetuated privileged and un-privileged forms of education, more …

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Removing Truth from the Classroom: Student Response to the South Carolina Anti-Truth Bill

As someone who has been a student in South Carolina for the past eighteen or so years, the future of the K-12 education within the state is something I care deeply about. More specifically, I am concerned about the education of the next generation, what lessons they are being taught, and how this will impact …

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