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The Responsibility of Students Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Nima Shirali, Canada Aug 26, 2004
Human Rights   Opinions
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My years as an undergraduate student were spent in a competitive environment where fierce rivalry characterized university life. In fact, this type of environment is the typical North American learning environment in which every student is taught to achieve results or be crushed by fellow students. As far back as elementary school, I can remember teachers encouraging competition amongst students, both on the playground and in the class room. When I entered university, I realized little had changed.

Being a “responsible student” simply meant being responsible towards one’s self. As a child I wondered why there were always more sports than trips to the museum. I wondered why the word “cooperation” was only used in the context of defeating the “other” team, class, or school. Combined with perpetual aggression and instilling of fear, both from students and teachers, my high school education taught me to be a forceful, assertive, hard-hitting individual who had been introduced to the basic skills of survival. The indoctrinators were confident of my readiness for the real world, of which school was a microcosmic version.

The sense of pride that resulted from my admittance to university was only meaningful because of the shame felt by those who had gotten rejected, mostly for reasons relating to social problems, not intelligence or competence. I felt proud because I had beaten “them”. The shame associated with their rejection gave meaning to the pride associated with my admittance. I had fulfilled my responsibility as a student.

I had succeeded in graduating as a proud victim of indoctrination. Why was I indoctrinated? For reasons of dominance, I had been taught to correlate success with the misery of others, with egotism, and selfishness. As I walked past a homeless man, I remember thinking that I was not responsible for his misery, but rather he was responsible for my success. I did not even stop to thank him, for that was not part of my responsibility.

Having left the independent-minded kids who had gotten rejected behind, I started my university studies with the expectation of elevating my level of academic understanding. I was of the notion that I would be entering a “sanctuary for free thought”. Yet, the notion of this “sanctuary” was violently broken when I witnessed students being expelled for expressing their views, saw police arresting students for protesting racism, etc. I had wondered why students had constantly been effectively suppressed. I had wondered why agents safeguarding the power structure always overwhelmed a large aggregate of individuals that outnumbered the agents.

The answer I came up with was that it was because most students are fulfilling what they think is their responsibility. They are being “responsible” because they are obedient, dissociated, and disunited. As a result, a few mindless agents overwhelm many mindful students. Perhaps this was the plan all along. Perhaps I was taught to obey authority and compete against my fellow students so that if I reach the level of university, my skills and thinking would be used to serve, rather than to challenge, the system. The kids who were rejected were made into servants of the system. I had not realized I was being made into a more influential servant of the same system. In a system based on suppression, the more influence the power structure has on an individual, the more subjugated that individual is. Never had I thought entering a sanctuary of free thought meant becoming more subjected.

The true responsibility of students is to freely unite with one another to challenge the injustices that characterize human existence. The directors of the system know the powerful effects of unity. In every aspect of life, individuals are forced to be adversaries of one another. Workers are forced to compete for their wages and any attempt by the workers to unite is viciously suppressed. In similarity, children are taught to fiercely compete with one another in an attempt to ensure their disunity when they become students.

It is now the responsibility of students to come together. Being together helped stop the Vietnam War and helped many countries win their independence from colonizers. This is a time when student solidarity is needed and indispensable. The unjust and unlawful invasion of Iraq, the immorality of trading blood for oil, and the priority given to profit over human life are all reasons why student solidarity is especially important today.

When solidarity has been achieved, it is the responsibility of students to expose lies and defend the weak. As those who are clearly privileged, students must help those who are not. Having learned to write, persuade, and convince, students must join together in a collective endeavour that should be aimed to ameliorate poverty and the lives of the less fortunate.

Students must break the chains that have enslaved the world. They must organize, unite,

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