Education and war

Dear presidents Putin, Biden, Xi Jinping and all other world leaders,

There’s not a very big chance that one of you will read this. But who knows, perhaps you might get to see this message by means of some digital method.

The weather is too nice
Last week I received a message from friends in Ukraine who manage a children’s home. It was the birthday of one of the children and she wondered if she would ever eat birthday cake again. Another child drew a picture with two tanks. They are facing each other, one of them is Russian, the other Ukrainian. Beside the picture he wrote: I do like camouflage clothes, but on a nice day like this you don’t fight each other, right?

'The Russians'
And in the town where I live, young boys were taking a break during their game on the soccer field. Instead of talking about school, girls or other boys’ stuff, they were talking about the Russians: ‘Unbelievable that Putin is just ruining an entire country! And all those people who are trying to escape. Can you imagine living there? It’s only a couple of hours away from here by plane!’

Suddenly I had a flashback, for when I was about as old as these boys are, we always talked about the Russians. The tension of the Cold War and nuclear weapons was always there. The band Doemaar even wrote a song about it: ‘When the bomb falls’. And if you would go on holidays and drive through Germany, it would be quite a sight to see the infinite long columns of American and English army trucks. They were there to protect us against, guess who? The Russians.

While I am writing this, the situation in our home has also changed. We unexpectedly welcomed Ukrainian refugees in our home, a mother and her seven year old son. Her husband and her two older sons were left behind in Ukraine.

Thanks to Mr. Putin, who will probably be known as the president who overplayed his hand. For that, my dear presidents and world leaders, is what I would like to discuss.

Education as a window
As you know, education is the key to let a new generation become familiar with the world in which we live. This is all about subjects like history, geography, science and technology.

So what kind of image of your country do you want us, who develop education materials, to pass on to the children? What should we tell our children about your beautiful country, Mr. Putin? Do you really want us to tell them that the Cold War is back? That no ordinary citizen of your country really wants to go to war or that you rush young soldiers headlong into a disastrous war? That you are ruining Ukraine, a nation of people which are your brothers? Do you really want your lovely country and the Russian soul to be covered with a grimy, dull shroud? You, as the leader of your country, surely don’t want to do that, do you?

I’m afraid history can’t be turned back. Undoubtedly you will be mentioned in the history books as the president that caused all this misery. And for years on end, perhaps until a long time after your death, the generations which are now growing up will remember you like that. I don’t think that would be a very nice idea, do you?

However, we shouldn’t only talk about you, even though the situation in Ukraine is hot news in the current affairs. This also affects America. For what is the truth about the war in Iraq and the enormous chaos which arose afterwards in the Middle East, in the many shocking things which occurred and the people that had to flee for their lives? What is the truth about Hong Kong, the Uyghurs, and repression of religion and ethnic minorities and state control in China? And what must we think of school books in the Arabic countries which spread the information that Israel doesn’t exist? I can go on like this for quite some time. The list is quite long and everyone can give an own illustration of this.

Do your realize how important the conduct of you leaders is for the new generation? Do you realize what the consequences of your decisions are and what children will learn about you and your country? For good education is also that we do not walk or turn away from uncomfortable truths, but that we honestly face them and make them a topic which evokes discussion. Meanwhile we hope that the new generation will not make the same mistakes.

Moral compass
It doesn’t matter whether they have been voted in a democratic way or not, but good leaders make up the moral compass of a population. And that is exactly the question that I want to present to you on behalf of all of the young people. Please be a leader of whom they will later on read in the school books that he was a person who always wanted the best for his people and for the world in which we live. Which also counts for the surrounding countries, by the way.

Of course everyone understands that it is a complicated task to govern people well. But war and wilful destruction are unforgivable. It will take many generations to learn to cope with it and get over it.

Perhaps you know that we live in a country which traditionally has a Christian culture. Many people have forgotten this nowadays, but it is certainly worthwhile to take notice of this. The Bible mentions the ten commandments, which are excellent. It isn’t difficult to remember them by heart. But it is an enormous task to keep them. In ancient Israel, the kings had to read these commandments daily. That isn’t such a bad idea, also for the current world leaders, is it?

The Bible contains much more wisdom, but I only want to pass on to you some part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. There he says that the people who are meek will inherit the earth, or that those who are peacemakers are blessed. He even calls them children of God.

Perhaps you think that I’m carrying on. But believe me, we can really bring about a change when we listen to someone who is above us. Someone who is wiser than we are. That is why, after all is said and done, I would like to ask you on behalf of thousands of children: Would you please reconsider this and stop this insane war?

We would really like to give the new generation a future full of hope and would like to tell nice things about your country. And … as long as we live, it is never too late to retrace our footsteps.

Kind regards,

Bert Kalkman and his colleagues of Edu-Sign | Edu-World