Amartya Sen will receive the Peace Prize from the German Book Trade on Sunday. Born in India in 1933, the Harvard professor is known for his theses on justice. Sen has an inspiring and encouraging effect on hundreds of thousands. The ability to participate in political dialogue is the foundation of justice for Sen and is guaranteed only through education.
Sen also emphasizes that education helps improve health systems and fight epidemics. Equal opportunities is therefore a core theme for the prize winner. And opportunities around the world – whether in Africa, America, Asia, Australia or Europe – have the same first name: school.
In the United States, hundreds of thousands at demonstrations against racism shout, “No justice, no peace!” Without justice we cannot give peace. The quality of schools in the United States is linked to tax revenue. The poorer a region, the more miserable the schools. Such circumstances are cages of injustice.
Globally, however, according to UNESCO statistics, about 260 million of all children and young people, especially girls, do not attend school at all. That’s the fifth, most of them live south of the Sahara.
The laureate himself attended an extraordinary school
The alphabet and its social use are central to a fairer society. Everything stands or falls with educational opportunities: democracy, the rule of law, education. Amartya Sen herself had chances, even good ones. Like Indira Gandhi, he attended the cosmopolitan Patha Bhavana School in West Bengal. It was founded in 1901 by the poet Rabindranath Tagore in response to both colonial and traditional educational exercises.
[Wenn Sie alle aktuellen Entwicklungen zur Coronavirus-Pandemie live auf Ihr Handy haben wollen, empfehlen wir Ihnen unsere App, die Sie hier für Apple- und Android-Geräte herunterladen können ]
At Patha Bhavana School, what was good counted for each school. Self-management and autonomous thinking were important, as was the lively exchange between students and teachers. Debates were held outside under trees and the relationship with nature explored. Open communication, regardless of religion and origin, was seen as a “contribution to world peace”.
When Amartya Sen warns today of identity politics, for example where Indian Hindus and Muslims are hostile to each other rather than fighting poverty together, his warning also reflects the ethos of his early school days.
Albert Camus owes his career to a dedicated primary school teacher
Good education can transform. She can turn the son of a poor illiterate woman into a Nobel Prize in Literature, as shown in Albert Camus’ biography. His primary school teacher in Algiers was committed to helping the gifted boy, and without the teacher he would never have made it to high school.
The award-winning novel “Streulicht” by the working-class daughter Deniz Ohde has just been published in Germany. The protagonist quotes a metaphor from her teacher who described education as a house: “You need a good foundation, she said, otherwise the upper floors are not safe.”
The wider a state’s wealth gap, the deeper the gap between educational poverty and access to the alphabet of opportunities. In 2019, the Indian government decided to intensify its efforts to seek justice for the poorest lower castes. Ten percent of the places in public and private colleges should be reserved for them.
Such plans are usually implemented everywhere with great difficulty. Elites rarely just give up their privileges. Critics of the concepts of greater justice use the stubborn inertia of tradition. They feed resistance and like to refer to Darwin and “natural differences” as if a gradient in opportunity caused by classes and castes were natural. In fact, intelligence is distributed amazingly fairly. Their normal distribution curve looks the same in all environments, in villas and prefabricated buildings. The more clearly a society’s political will strives for justice, the clearer the purpose of its practice becomes: optimal education for all.