What is Terrorism?
There is no universal definition of ‘terrorism’ because the word is politically charged. Despite this, it can be thought of as an act of threat or violence with an agenda to propagate or disrupt ideologies or actions.
The Complex Relationship Between Education & Terrorism
Education and terrorism have a complicated relationship. The lack of education has not been proven to create terrorists nor has access to resources for educating oneself been able to stop a person from becoming a terrorist. To better understand this, other contributing factors need to be taken into account.
Firstly, there are different levels of education. However, the primary level education has the potential to teach people to read, write, speak and decipher things. This stage is also important because young minds are more susceptible to indoctrination. A child is impressionable at that age and it is important to get him/her acquainted to unfamiliar concepts like morality, honour, responsibility, pride, prejudice and polarising ideals, to name a few. When the ideals are efficiently taught, they form strong, positive roots in children.
If education is simply restricted to knowledge accumulation and dissemination, then its use as a tool to fight terrorism diminishes further. The most common argument is that education fights terrorism by instigating the notion of rational thinking in students. While this is true, more often than not, rational thinking is a personal endeavor. The conviction to commit a particular crime lies within the community which holds the cause to heart.
That being said, it is also important to note that teaching individuals to think rationally plays a vital role in curbing mindless obedience to authority. It is also found that when ideologies are ingrained in a person, his or her education becomes a dangerous weapon that can be wielded with informed control. Newspaper reports suggest that a chunk of the members of a terrorist organization are engineers. This fact bolsters the point that education has no bias. One can possibly teach rational thinking but personal ideologies cannot be policed.
What Research Says
When the other factors influencing a person are taken into account, a different pattern is seen. One of the major contributing factors researched upon along with education is the income condition of these people who opt for violence. Renowned professors Alan B. Krueger and Jitka Malečková discuss that low income coupled with the lack of education are perfect breeding grounds for terrorist ideologies. A simple man who wants to support his family financially is open to taking up terrorism in the hope of relieving his families from hardships.
In the book Root Causes of Terrorism: Myths, Reality and Ways Forward, the contributing authors discuss the various existing causalities, their truths and fallibilities. This debate cannot isolate and blame education. Several factors, from mental health to sacrificing oneself for family to blind ideological devotion, contribute to becoming a terrorist. Education is a tool that can be used for both good and bad. Education has the potential to make a terrorist look at things from a different perspective. It is left to the individual to either use it positively or give into terrorist ideologies.
Terrorism is an organization like any other, whether it is ideologically, politically or religiously motivated. It is made up of individuals, groups, leaders and followers. The commitment to their cause makes these people dangerous. To accept an ideology, one must relate to it. It is certainly not a trivial task to be a suicide bomber. According to research, people from the low-income groups become suicide terrorists for the better future of their families. These politically or financially-driven organizations are hard to break. But education has the potential to create an open mind.
Our study system nurtures skills, which can be used for good or bad deeds. Inevitably, the conclusion is the same as the introduction: education and terrorism have a complex relationship. One cannot guarantee that educating the populace can eradicate terrorism because of a myriad of other factors.