Friday, 26 November 2010

Weekword

This week, Carmen picked the word LACUNA.

It is a good word for this week, meaning (at a very basic level) a gap, since this week has been a gap in my usual teaching schedule. There has been a Sally-shaped lacuna at school this week, and I have been in Malaysia, working hard with a bunch of bright and keen students to understand the culture and lifestyle of a population on the other side of the world.

For some of these students it's the first time they've ever been out of the UK, and so they find they also have a lacuna: in their understanding of other people's way of life, and particularly their religious beliefs. They might be the brightest and best of the school district I work in, but that district is still predominantly white European and most of them have no Muslim friends, let alone any understanding of what it is to live in a world where this religion is valued and respected by the majority. One, a student at a Catholic college, expressed her sadness that she felt unable to discuss religion with the Malaysian students because, if she were to discuss her own religious beliefs with other teenagers in the UK, she risked being teased and taunted for them. It is a sad state of affairs when we forget that people are entitled to choose their own beliefs, and to be proud of them.

On Tuesday, we were late back to college and one of the Malaysian students requested that we make a stop for the students to pray, even though we had only 15 minutes left of the journey. We duly pulled over at a motorway rest stop, which had a prayer room for both men and women, and the associated washing facilities, alongside the cafes and the swag shops we are used to seeing in the UK. My students were interested and fascinated by the ritual attached to prayer time, but nervous and keen not to be rude by asking too many questions or breaking protocol. In the end, they hovered outside the prayer room and peeked inside at what was going on before leaving to ensure they weren't getting in the way or being disrespectful.

I was pleased on many levels by this entire episode. Firstly, that there are places in the world where you can speak openly about your faith and make a request for others to honour your right to honour it without feeling that this is going to cause problems. Secondly, that my students were so keen to get a good understanding of what was going on. And finally, that, being the sort of clever and confident leaders we are trying so hard to foster, they will take their knowledge back and perhaps start to tackle the lacunae that exists in British understanding of other faiths, especially where they live. Islam is not best represented by what is reported in the news, in spite of this being the only representation many people will have of it, and I hope that none of these students will ever forget that.

If you want to play Weekword next week, head on over to Cathy's blog on Monday and leave a comment.

7 comments:

cath c said...

excellent response to the week word! keep up the good work!

junebug said...

That is great. I love how looking into the gaps in our life especially with the knowledge we don't have and how it shows how much more we still have to learn. Sounds like a great trip for everyone.

Domestic Scribbles said...

What a wonderful trip and excellent example of cultural lacuna.

Carola Bartz said...

Excellent post! You hit the nail on the head! I hadn't thought of the cultural lacuna before, but now I do. This word is really interesting!

Biomouse said...

Your trip sounds like it was amazing! I have been totally fascinated with how everyone has come to explore lacuna this week, and I'm so glad it worked in a figurative and literal sense for you. Can't wait to hear more about your travels!

Joye Schwartz said...

Beautiful response to the week word! Sounds like it was an amazing trip!

Burhan Ali said...

Where's the Like button for these excellent students of yours ...

I love the fact that after being thrown into a completely alien environment, they exercised their innate inquisitiveness rather than recoiling at how different it is.