Treat the students fairly
Halt the harassment. Stop the intimidation. Put on hold any attempt to punish school students who display the three-finger salute or white ribbons ostensibly to show solidarity with the pro-democracy rallies.
Start meaningful discussions. Engage the students, whether they are in league with the rallies or not. Encourage the fair exchange of opinions and show them how to listen to and respect all points of view.
A time of social disruption is a time to learn. This is applicable to youngsters, teachers, other education personnel and everyone else.
News reports that some students were intimidated, reprimanded or threatened over their grades after joining the campaign -- that called for the government to stop harassing protesters, to dissolve the House, pave the way for a new election and to redraft the constitution -- are distressing, even sad.
It's sad because such authoritarian reactions were expected.
Instead of being sites for academia to flourish, many schools around the country serve as hotbeds serving a dictatorial power culture.
Instead of teaching students to be able to think for themselves, many teachers are stuck in past methods of rote-learning where teachers hold supreme positions of authority.
Instead of encouraging the youth to be curious and engage in intellectual pursuits, many administrators of schools and learning institutions simply dictate "lessons" to students who are expected to be obedient and never question those who hold authority.
The heavily lopsided teacher-student relationship, a legacy of Thai society's hierarchical culture, often leads to violations of student rights, even abuses. These are evident in the news when we hear about physical punishment, forced haircuts and other forms of bullying by school administrators against young students, stories which pop up now and then. Every time, there are calls for the flagrant abuses to stop. But they never do.
That is one reason why we should not be surprised that young school students have stepped up to the forefront of the political conflict and showed solidarity with protesters.
Some of them may agree with the demands. Others may identify with the campaign because they are experiencing a lack of freedom firsthand at school.
The youth-led anti-government rallies are certainly testing the limits of society on many levels. Coupled with the Covid-19 crisis and economic challenges, the situation calls for inclusiveness and tolerance as we learn how to move forward together despite differing views.
Students expressing their political standpoint in schools may be an unprecedented phenomenon, but it's nothing to be feared.
As the world becomes increasingly connected and diversified, qualities such as self-questioning, critical thinking and abilities not just to embrace new ideas but also to unlearn what has been handed down that may no longer be applicable to modern times are must-haves for our future. Suppression and uniformity are no longer the preferred path to knowledge. Political conflicts, complex ideologies and real-life debates about the constitution could offer learning opportunities, so long as they are used constructively.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child which Thailand has ratified guarantees freedom of expression. Young students must be protected from all forms of violence and intimidation as they exercise their right to freedom of expression through peaceful means.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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