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Why it’s more important to teach young people about Aung San Su Kyi than Joseph Kony

April 20, 2012

Today’s the day that Invisible Children have promised to plaster cities all over the world in posters to ‘make Joseph Kony famous’, and in doing so build pressure for his arrest and trial in the International Criminal Court. If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about about, just Google Joseph Kony, watch the film, Kony 2012 here, or follow the Guardian debate here.

I’ve shown the film to some of my students, and we’ve discussed the rights and wrongs of the campaign. I’m not planning to go into this debate here, except to make one point. Over the spring holidays I was in Burma, making a series of films on the gradual, but significant political changes taking place there. I had the privilege to meet some truly heroic individuals; pro-democracy activists who were imprisoned for years and years by the Burmese regime. People like Ko Ko Gyi, who spent almost two decades behind bars, for leading protests against the military junta.

So here’s my point. While we as Citizenship teachers should engage our students in campaigns to bring men like Joseph Kony to justice, there’s a real danger that in doing so, we simply reinforce stereotypes about foreigners as evil and/or helpless. What’s much more powerful I think, is to celebrate and support the courage and heroism of people like Ko Ko Gyi and Aung San Su Kyi who represent the very best of humanity, and epitomise what Citizenship is all about.

Here’s a short rough clip of an interview I had with Ko Ko Gyi. He ends by saying, “Life is very short. Will you use it for your own benefit, or for the benefit of your community?”

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