Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Engagement of True Learning

We've been studying the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

We started with the Abrahamic covenant: Father Abraham was promised a great nation would emerge in the land, the land of Canaan, the land that would eventually become Israel. Jewish people strongly believe it is their promised land, and Arabs, Bedouins, many Muslims-some Christians, believe the Abrahamic covenant comes through Ishmael, the son of Hagar and Abraham--hence it is their covenanted land too. We are trying to solve a thousand-plus-year-old problem, and the last 70 years have been a little rough.

Our culminating writing project, required students to pick a side of the recent UN Resolution 2334, a resolution created and passed in December 2016 that condemned Israeli settlement building and Palestinian terror. The US abstained from voting, and ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power presented a logical defense along with a condemnation of UN practices of bias against Israel. Yet, the US failure to veto the resolution, caused an uproar among Democrats, Republicans, Israelis and pro-Israel thinkers. Though the US officially abstained, it allowed the resolution to pass 14-0. The US has had a history of supporting Israel, come what may.

It was only after my students received an unbiased history of the region could they make a decision about the resolution, and even then, many could not. They are learning that many difficult political conundrums require a tough decision making process, and unfortunately have a glimpse now of why some problems are never solved.

The class period intended for writing essays became a laboratory. When students had to write, they realized they didn't have all the answers. Questions came forth, intense discussion and exchange of ideas, followed. I heard metaphors of comparison between the conflict and children fighting over a toy.

Two young men who pressed forward in understanding, kept asking all the right questions, and at certain points they would throw up their hands in exasperation.

"Now you're beginning to understand!" I said. The exasperating problem.

The room would quiet down for a short period, then I would hear a student bring up another point of concern to a neighboring student.

I wondered if I was asking too much of them.

They pressed on, and reached a most surface understanding of a seemingly unsolvable problem that costs the United States billions of dollars a year, that costs lives of innocent people, that has created a world-wide concern for peace, nuclear destruction, terrorism.

At the end of class, two students walked out together discussing the conflict.

This I realized at the end of the day, is true learning.