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The role of educational reform in COVID-19 normalization


In the discussion between Rob Johnson, the director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET, July 2020), and Professor Michael Sandel, Harvard Political Philosopher, we heard about the following deepening concern from Sandel:

Since this pandemic began, we’ve heard a slogan. We’re all in this together. That’s a slogan of solidarity. We hear it from politicians, from advertisers, from celebrities. And that slogan to me doesn’t so much describe a fact or a condition. It poses a question. Are we really all in this together? Or does the pandemic reveal the effect that decades of widening inequality have had on our common life?

Furthermore, Sandel expressed his concern on the much-needed extensive democratization of universal participation by all echelons of global and national society at large. His words are (edited):

So I think if there’s to be a source of hope, not to say salvation, but at least of democratic hope, it lies less with markets and with government; and more with revitalizing civil society, and renewing democratic public discourse, and broadening its reach. So that we can engage with neighbors, with the fellow workers. But also, with the national community. And ideally engage with those across national boundaries. So, the institutions of civil society, the forms of civic engagement that can take place there. Together with a broadened, more morally engaged kind of public discourse. These I see as a source of hope. For democratic renewal, more than trying to design institutions of a global governance on the one hand or casting our fate to markets on the other. That seems to me that only the best source of hope, Rob. I don’t know whether, do you see it that way? Or how do you view it?

(Sandel, The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good? September 2020).1

The backbone of change that existed before the COVID-19 episode and deepened thereafter, and yet cannot be seen to embrace a subtle wind of change is the existing unacceptable continuity in the elitist nature of educational program as a critical aftermath to discuss following COVID-19 pandemic times. This accumulating problem of scientific, economic, and social differentiation is neither felt nor pronounced at all levels of educational programs with the air of conscious reformation and future concern. The concerns lie on all of the underlying predicaments of the ultimate causes of generalized pandemic episodes. The resulting causes of such pandemic are many. Among these are Covid-19, human poverty, social inequality in wealth and opportunities, and resource distribution for participatory ownership widely across the social and economic order (Shakespeare, 1999).2 These are issues that existed since time immemorial and received continued affirmation over time. They assumed unbroken garb under different forms of global authoritarianism. Among these excruciating human experiences are those imposed by feudalism (Holton, op. cit.); capitalism (Pickety, op. cit.); and liberalism and socialism (Науек, 1967).3

On the eve of a Global Forum on Socio-Scientific Issues of COVID- 19 Episode organized by me with our learned group, Professor Robert D. Crane, Professor Emeritus of Islamic Studies, Qatar University, wrote on the historical and the present much-needed reversion to Jus Divinum. In Islam this is qur’anic monotheism as divine law of oneness expressed in terms of unity of knowledge of the human race in a unified world-system of wellbeing and purpose. He wrote:

The current moment in modem civilization, triggered in part by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, opens opportunities for self- examination. This may be particularly true for the diverse peoples in the United States of America, who have begun to fear even for their personal existence and increasingly distrust and even fear the status quo based on elitist leadership through economic oligarchy and a growing wealth gap at home and through inevitable failures in both economic and military dominance abroad.

The opportunities are opening for the pursuit of “compassionate justice” as the essence of leadership in a leaderless world.

This, in turn, creates opportunities for leaders in all of the world religions, including the indigenous, to defure the essence, principles, and application of compassionate justice. This is the task, respectively, of ontology, epistemology, and axiology though peaceful engagement from the bottom up in a pluralist world.

The ontological principles in Islamic thought can be reduced to the following four principles of guidance:

  • 1) Haqq al din : freedom of religion based on respect for the common identity in the essence of all world religions.
  • 2) Haqq al nafs: Respect for the sacredness of the individual person deriving from God.
  • 3) Haqq al nasi: Respect for human community, including organic nations based on common heritage, common values in the present, and common hopes for the future.
  • 4) Haqq al mahid (from wahid, one, wahda, oneness): Respect for the physical environment, including the understanding that land does not belong to us, but we belong to the land.

These four epistemological requirements for compassionate justice are all interdependent. No single one can be adequately respected without the others, just as all of these epistemological requirements are dependent on all of the ontological principles.

The requirements for compassionate justice are the courses of action necessary to respect the transcendent ontological guidelines and the related principles for action in an environment of different and changing contexts.

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