Friday, October 16, 2009

No Easy Answers

My Religion 101 students yesterday seemed unengaged and depleted of energy. Maybe it was the depressing weather outside (cold and rainy) or maybe it was that "time of the semester" (midterm). Whatever it was, I wasn't going to ignore it.

So, I stirred things up by having the class divide into groups of 3 or 4 and come up with three answers to the question: "How can the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be resolved?" Boy, did the energy (and noise) level increase! Suddenly, these unengaged students became involved in the activities of thinking and talking.

Nearly all of their answers to this question had already been attempted: get leaders from the two sides to negotiate, get the world community to bring pressure on both groups, use economic sanctions to bring about change. Both the "one state" and "two state" solutions were mentioned.

However, one group's answer was different. They said that all Israeli and Palestinian children should be required to take a Religion 101 type course to help each side understand and develop respect for the other's religion.

While using education to resolve this long-standing Middle East conflict might seem naive and idealistic, I think it's an idea worth trying. Educating children to have an appreciation and respect for the religion and culture of their "enemies" might work in the long run. At least it could prepare the way for negotiations.

If anyone has a better idea, I'd like to hear it.

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