Letters to the editor: November 24 to 30

Systemic racism exists

One has to take issue, albeit gently, with my compatriot and your correspondent Eric Shikobela (“We need to stop the ticking of the racism time bomb”).

If one may, he is correct in that the poor, the disadvantaged, women and children are at the forefront of harm from the toxic system we live in and that our various cultures are indeed precious, even if they are being whitewashed from history as we are not yet seeing the foregrounding of our own stories.

Suggesting that we people of colour “play victim” is to deny the fact that we are indeed victims of systemic racism.

It must be clearly understood that relying on the oppressor’s definition of racism (à la the Oxford Dictionary) is part of the problem. The construct of systemic racism is the conflation of power plus prejudice plus multi-generational privilege, not simply prejudice of one group against another. While we may well be prejudiced against others, it is not racism.

Some of the designed outcomes of that system are inequality, poverty, and modern forms of slavery.

Pushing this long-overdue national conversation into the realm of spirituality and religion is not helpful either. Religion was and is used to embed anti-black (“sons of Ham” is one of many justifications for apartheid) patriarchal and homophobic narratives into our consciousness.

And even modern forms of spirituality tend to manifest as harmful adages such as “work on yourself and the world will come right” (to paraphrase) and “thinking positively”. This is harmful because they form a convenient rationale to continue living in denial of our problematic reality and avoiding the necessary personal restitution and contribution to mitigate the inherited privilege of the few.

It is not necessary for our paler compatriots to feel guilty, but to begin by accepting this truth and actively work towards undoing the systemic issues at hand. If not, then they shall forever remain part of the problem. It is not the task of the oppressed to heal the oppressor, though we are always forgiving. Best the privileged take advantage of this, sooner rather than too late? — Muna Lakhani, Cape Town

■ Eric Shikobela’s letter on racism and our need to stop the ticking time bomb, together with his prospect of civil war, is indeed disturbing.

A few things rankle, however. The letter is vague, generalised and ultimately innocuous. What precisely has spiked the writer’s concerns, given his cataclysmic imagery? I’m not sure what to make of the letter, to the point of wondering at its publication. Or is it just that reference to “racism” is its own legitimation?

Certainly the subject of racism is a sure-fire sell, of the “universal applause” variety. But what feasible antidotes are suggested by the writer, presumably to stamp out racism once and for all?

Doubtless we all need to “sit down and talk” is in some ways a fantastical notion. Do we have a table for 11 nations, or is it a smaller table, just for the usual suspects? Shall we engage with each other head-to-head, as football teams do, with all-encompassing seasonal fixtures?

More likely, we are caught forever between “racism” and the mythical table of resolution. If so, we’ll be treated to the canticle of “racism” until the Second Coming.

It is incongruous that our devotion to the facility of “racism” has not at least been matched by a poll-booth concern at the evisceration of South Africa by Jacob Zuma and his infernal team — enemies of the poor, most of whom are black. Thus it is that “racism”, both real and imagined, is a diversion of sheer genius.

Knowingly or not, the writer presses all the correct buttons.

But he needs to do better. Given the context of massive pillage and the savaging of the country under Zuma and his well-placed sycophants, the letter induces no applause in me. — Trevor Ruthenberg, Sunningdale

Prepare the youth for a digital era

We are almost 20 years into the 21st century, but most classrooms still rely purely on physical textbooks and teaching methods that have been in use since the beginning of the first Industrial Revolution.

Some schools have taken steps towards implementing technologies such as interactive whiteboards and multimedia — in most cases, traditional teaching tools are replaced by technology — but transformation is not taking place as one would hope.

Teachers still rely on end-of-term tests or general assessments to determine whether pupils understand the concepts that they are being taught.

Marks are given and the assumption is made that pupils performing better than the class average studied. The analysis is therefore purely based on one set of outcomes, typically at the end of a learning unit.

Yet cognitive science teaches us that people can only be creative and critical thinkers in a specific field if they have mastered sufficient domain knowledge.

In a true blended learning environment, the use of data and analytics can play a big part in preparing pupils for the challenges of a digital 21st century. But how do you take traditional education and truly transform it into digital teaching to benefit pupils? Further, how do you offer learning and personalised teaching to suit individual pupils?

Only by analysing the amount of data generated by pupils and by looking at their learning habits —how they study, for how long and so on — can a new learning solution be offered if old solutions seem to be failing.

Only by analysing the big data can a true and effective 21st-century approach be achieved to prepare our youth for the fourth Industrial Revolution. — Lieb Liebenberg, chief executive, IT School Innovation

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