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Islamic Republic's constitution is based on Islam and ideology, from its first statement to its "Supreme Leader" article. What is "Ideological Education" and what is teachers' role?

Ideological Education – Phantoms of a Term

The video showing a school official cutting male students’ hair in the school yard of a boys school (boys-girls school: ideology is more structural than “educational” here) brought the issue of “ideological education” to the forefront of debates. The question has arisen in public opinion as to what exactly ideological education means that teachers have been protesting against it at their rallies in recent months? What do cultural activists mean by this interpretation? What ideology are they talking about? Aren’t the “teachers” themselves, on the one hand, the result of this ideological education and, on the other hand, its instruments? Where does ideological education begin? What are its different types? How and by whom has it been applied so far? What is the scope of the behavioral and social effects and harms resulting from ideological education? Are teachers outside this range? Aren’t they themselves victims of this kind of education? And if so, does this not make their critique meaningless from within? The questions are endless.

Teachers’ protests, as activists in this field have repeatedly pointed out in recent years on social media and networks, are purely union protests and within their constitutional rights. The constitution of the Islamic Republic, however, is exactly the framework in which the ideology of political / revolutionary Islam is based on from its first statement: “The rule of Iran is an Islamic Republic in which the people of Iran, based on their long-held belief in the rule of truth and justice of the Qur’an, following their victorious Islamic Revolution led by the supreme authority of the Grand Ayatollah Imam Khomeini […] “, and since then in each of its 14 general articles, from: “All civil, criminal, financial, economic, administrative, cultural, military, political and other laws and regulations must be based on Islamic laws” to concretizing the cult of the “Führer” in its fifth article: “During the absence of Imam Zaman in the Islamic Republic of Iran, governing the people (ummah) is the responsibility of the just, devoted, knowledgeable of his time, brave and resourceful jurist.” Inevitably, every citizen who considers himself follower of this constitution, is subjected to its ruling and it will be dictated to the rest like a hammer. It is in the constitution of the Islamic Republic that ideology reaches its totality. Ideological education is just radiation of this constitution. Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi, a spokesman for the Teachers Union, in May 2015, said: “The teachers’ demand is exactly what it was 15 years ago. If the law on the harmonious salary system, which was passed during Mr. Hashemi’s administration, is implemented now, discrimination will be eliminated.” And six years later, Shokrallah Ahmadi, a member of the board of directors of the Fars Teachers Union, said: “Those who are members of the Fars Teachers Union have accepted the statute and know that our activity is only in pursuit of the demands of teachers union and other stakeholders in the education system, meaning students.” In line with this characteristic – the pure unionistic characteristic – the protest of teachers union activists against “ideological education” also gives it a purely union nature:

Mohammad Habibi: “This retired colleague, a teacher from the 80s, with this ‘formal clothing,’ carries the slogan of opposition to ideological education. This demand must become the main demand of educators, along with the demand for livelihood and free education.”

Teachers protest against the recruitment of mullahs as teachers in schools by the Ministry of Education of the Islamic Republic, calling it a “protest against ideological education.” The mullahs are serious and professional rivals of teachers in the social structure of Iran. They also teach alongside their other activities. In addition, this rival of the teachers union enjoys the full support of the regime. “Mullahs” is another name for the Islamic Republic. In the media and public opinion outside Iran, “regime of mullahs” is often used as a synonymous term and meaning for “Islamic Republic”. “Ideological education” has been reduced to “teaching mullahs in schools.” However, the “formal clothing” that Mr. Habibi talks about in his tweet is in fact nothing but a manifestation of ideological education: ideological clothing. There is nothing contradictory about protesting against the presence of a mullah as a teacher in schools with a chador and hijab; Contradiction arises when we call this protest “protest against ideological education.” But what can be expected?

Mohammad Reza Akbarloo, a teacher of social sciences, answers this question in a short article entitled “Do not expect more from us.” In response to the release of the students haircut video, Mr. Akbarloo writes that a teacher is also “a member of this collapsing society” and points out the very important fact that “teachers themselves have grown up in an authoritarian culture” and among them if some “have reached a better awareness and a breeze of democracy can be seen in their treatment of students,” this awareness and behavior is the result of their “personal effort.”

There is an oath called the Teachers Oath:

“I swear, as a Muslim teacher, to adorn myself with the rulings of the religion of Islam and to respect all the followers of the heavenly religions.
I swear, I will be a mere follower of the divine rules and the constitution of my Islamic country and I will adhere to the ideals of the late Imam Khomeini the Great and support the Velayat-e-Faqih and the supreme leader of the revolution and preserve the dignity of the blood of the martyrs.
I swear, I will be one of the true waiters of Hazrat Mahdi (Imam Zaman, 12th Shia Imam) and I will keep the spirit of waiting alive in the presence of my students. […] ”

This oath is sometimes taken by the student-teachers in a formal ceremony, such as the one held in May 2016 in the presence of Khamenei. In December 2020, the Minister of Education announced the special conditions for hiring 27,300 new teachers. The statement said: “The issuance of contracts and notification of the employment of new teachers upon entry into the system will be subject to the swearing in of the teacher and the signing of the teachers oath. The signed oath paperwork is kept in the teachers’ file.”

The Minister of Education had announced another condition in this announcement: “Potential teachers are required to present a certificate of recitation and reading of the Holy Quran and an ICDL certificate at the time of registration in the one-year training centers.”

Mastering the recitation of the Qur’an as a condition for hiring teachers in education system was first introduced during Haji Babaei’s term in this ministry. Haji Babaei, in June 2010, had said: “All hired teachers must know how to recite the Qur’an.” He had developed a program for “teaching the Qur’an to students of all grades”: “During the three days of Quran teaching classes that will be held in Quranic centers and Quran schools across the country, two hours of reading and two hours of reciting the Holy Quran will be taught.”

The Islamic Republic educates the teacher within the framework of its constitution to take the oath of allegiance to ideological education. An agent who is now in captivity of his/her trade union protests, and unable to recognize the political nature of the ideological education and thus not able to criticize it. Ideological education is a political issue. Protesting it is also a political protest. Criticism of ideological teaching by a teacher is inevitably a critique of the teacher himself; His job, his employer, his role, his performance and the content of his education. The teacher’s self-criticism, however, because of its intertwined dialectical relationship with ideology, will be a critique of the regime and its tools: ideology.

In “Education after Auschwitz,” Theodore Adorno, in his reference to “Civilization and Its Discontents,” calls “civilization itself produces anti-civilization” one of Sigmund Freud’s deepest insights, which extends to sociology and culture. To him, Auschwitz is barbarism which became augmented reality that was created by civilization, and points out that “for it not to happen again must be education’s top priority.” “The single genuine power standing against the principle of Auschwitz is autonomy, if I might use the Kantian expression: the power of reflection, of self-determination, of not cooperating.”

The real objection to the ideological education by a teacher, in order not to be deprived of meaning, in order to make a real change in situation, must start from the teacher himself and end in himself.

But this will be subversion.

Translation of this post by Sahar.

Cover: José Clemente Orozco, The Demagogue


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