Let’s begin Topic 1 by sharing some of the questions that motivated the EDURAD project. We hope this module offers some practical ways of addressing them, as well as theories and insights from research. Our module is designed for educational practitioners and policymakers as both a source of information and sharing, prompt to reflection, and educational resource. These questions provide the context for our approach:
We’ll talk through this in more detail, but for now here is a quick overview of some of the elements what might make for an ‘extremist’ position or way of looking at or being in the world. A different way of thinking of this is that one is “too full” to let anything else in, to listen, or to hear other perspectives. Drawing on Freire’s work, Nourredine Erradi has described how when someone is in an extremist mindset, they are ‘full’, like a bottle full of air, and for a time, nothing else can get in so this can’t be forced. Creative attention and the art of listening can slowly create a little space for new ideas.
Quassim Cassam talks about ‘mindset-extremism’. It’s not that someone would have all of the characteristics listed below, but it can help to listen out for when people are too “full” to listen to others, especially if their identity is based on denigrating and excluding others.
Our participants also wanted to understand how ‘extremism of the middle’ works, the practice of dividing societies into those who are categorised as the ’same’ and those categorised as ‘different’. Extremism can be/become mainstream. In this way, we can also understand how ‘othering’ operates.
Sometimes young people are exploring and trying out positions but..
Our journey begins with ideas and ends with practice and new ideas. It has lots of stages and involved many different perspectives from different people.
In Ireland, many educators and young people felt uncomfortable with words like ‘extremism’ and ‘radicalisation’. We have called this module Sharing the World: Educational Responses to Extremism, and we explain what we mean by extremism shortly.
One of the challenges that education faces is in navigating resistance to living in a pluralistic world. There are many ways in which sharing the world is resisted, for example, investments in ‘extremist’ or ‘identitarian’ identity positions. These are intolerant of pluralism and difference and desire purity. So too, we can think of discourses of assimilation and integration that permit inclusion only by losing oneself in a ‘superior’ or dominant model.
This is why alongside (philosophical) enquiry we work with aesthetic (feelings and senses) and existential (who am I?) strategies, exploring ‘how ideas feel’. This helps to understand why people invest feelings and identities in certain positions and helps to explore issues like fear of loss of identity or even desire for power that can drive such closed positions.
What you have in this module is a translation of these dialogues into both food for thought and reflection as we introduce some key ideas, as well as practical educational resources.
Let’s start with what mattered to everyone.
We have described what really matters for practitioners, policymakers, and young people and given a brief overview of how we are thinking about ’extremism’. Out of our European dialogues six key themes arose. They map the different dimensions of ‘sharing the world’ and ‘unpacking extremism’ as well as creating ‘time to think’.