The news of the terrible attacks in Paris, coming as the capital is still finding its equilibrium after the Charlie Hebdo assault, have highlighted the complexity of addressing these issues in schools. Undoubtedly every school community has a responsibility to be a tackle the topic in a way that is appropriate to the ages of their young people and to their contexts. Levels of awareness and subtleties of understanding will vary widely.


Since the September 11th attacks the issues of fundamentalism, the use of violence for political and religious ends, and the nature of legitimate means of self-defence have grown prominence. Strategies such as Prevent and initiatives such as the promotion of British values definitely have a place in equipping young people to appreciate the reasons why fundamentalism must be combatted. Beyond that though is the essential need for schools, colleges and universities to represent a compelling vision of what democratic society can be.


Any adult in an education community has a responsibility to represent democratic values in their everyday life. Children are highly adept at sensing hypocrisy. Giving lessons about tolerance and respect has little or no value if those attributes are not evident on the playground, in the corridor and through the staff room door. When young people witness and participate in a learning community that they feel a valued part of it gives them a yardstick to assess the motivations and actions of others. And in that way, one hopes that the violent ideologies that support mass murder are shown to be the repugnant, warped evils that they are.

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