The Knowledge of Genocide and the Mass Genocide of Knowledge.

2 x 2 = 4

2 x 2 = 4

2 x 2 = 4

The Tutsi genocide of Rwanda, the Bosnian, Cambodian genocides and the Holocaust can be taught in the same manner and the way timetables may be taught.

Learn, rinse and repeat.

-Between 800’000 and one million people lost their lives in the Tutsi genocide of Rwanda.

-Between 800’000 and one million people lost their lives in the Tutsi genocide of Rwanda.

-Between 800’000 and one million people lost their lives in the Tutsi genocide of Rwanda.

This emphasis on knowledge existing in a vacuum may herald great exam results, but I ask, is that our aim? To raise our students to be able to pass examinations, is that it? Where is the ‘I’m here to make a difference’ war cry from our vocation? Learning the numbers, the location and times of these events may be enough for our students to wave around a piece of paper that grants them entry into academic and professional spaces, but what are they learning?

When the aim of teaching is solely to pass knowledge, the meaning gets lost in the mele√™, the teacher and student lose the ability to contextualise the whole, to learn what is there to consume, engage and enjoy. 

I’d argue that the rote transmission of written facts is more than bland if it dulls the voices in the survivors’ literature and silences the messages of never again. This part of our role trains our young people to accept, assimilate and replicate within a concrete structure. It’s high time we chip away at that structure. The cost is too great.

Let’s look at teaching as a process from the above example to:

If we as a profession do not foster thoughts and feelings around something as poignant as mass murder, we fail our young people. Yes, between 800’000 and one million people lost their lives in the Tutsi genocide of Rwanda. Yes, most of the dead were Tutsis, the Hutus committed the violence, and yes, this was sparked by their President’s death.

Is this the level we want students to consume, empathise and engage? What is the end goal?

When Belgian colonialists arrive in the early 20th century, they produced identity cards that demarcated Tutsis from Hutus. These people share the same culture, language and land, although there are claims that the minority Tutsi are generally taller, thinner and have fairer skin. Let me repeat fairer skinned. 

The white colonialists saw the Tutsis as superior and, as a result, built a two-tier society which, as a result, lead to the community subjugating the Hutu majority. Tensions rose until a boiling point of violence where 20000+ Tutsi were slaughtered, and many sought refuge in the neighbouring countries. The Europeans left three years later, in 1962, and the Hutus realised power as the majority.

In the 1990s, Tutsi rebels renewed attacked on the Hutu government, and the then Hutu presidents plane was shot down. What followed was a Hutu led extermination, a 30000 strong militia hacked their way through the Tutsi populace.

In the above, I may be teaching you some new facts. The superiority of lighter skin usually comes as a surprise, but this is still me taking the knowledge in my brain that I have a relationship with and conveying it to you as cold hard facts. How do I foster an environment for you to build your meaning around it? 

All knowledge is socially constructed. Even if teachers believe that they are passing on an objective fact to their students; They wrap their reality around your construct anyway.

School may create learning environments that promote empathy, but where is the consuming and engagement with content? 

What do we want students to take away from the content? That these are the facts and to connect with the horrors and ensure it never happens again?

The context here is everything. Knowing the Belgian state used the white supremacist construct is one thing and understanding why segregation is helpful to a colonising power is another. This understanding is what educators should seek. This is the world we all strive to inhabit.

This society is created by intertwining knowledge, skills, and feeling around a broad range of experiences (and the curricula) that build a defensive and offensive fortress and build bridges.

Disclaimer: The above based on a hugely simplified version of an incredibly complex situation. That further adds to the point too.


2 thoughts on “The Knowledge of Genocide and the Mass Genocide of Knowledge.

  1. How many indigenous people were killed/died when the Europeans invaded/settled in Australia, New Zealand, the Americas, the ‘West Indies’, the Americas, India?

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