Throwing Stones from My Glass House

Is their a point at which human rights violations dictate that I won’t let myself live and teach in a particular country? China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Myanmar, Israel, Russia, Venezuela top the list of human rights violators, and each hosts International Schools. As an Educator, how do I feel about teaching the children of the host country monied elite, and in some cases, the children of those oppressing the masses?

I ask myself:  Does the opportunity to influence and possibly plant the seeds of change in children of the rich and powerful outweigh the fact that in some way I may be actually supporting the wrong people by educating their children? I choose to believe I’ve been given the opportunity to change history by influencing future leaders of industry and government. It’s a tremendous responsibility and one I’ve chosen to accept. And in exchange I’m willing to accept certain realities.

As an American you might ask if I have the right to throw stones from my ‘glass house.’ To call out other countries on human rights violations could be considered hypocritical while America holds thousands of immigrant children in cages,  peaceful protesters are scattered by force as an ex-President’s security personnel facilitates a photo opt, and more than 2,000,000 Americans (mostly minorities) are being held in for-profit prisons, while communities in some states/areas are also losing their free speech, voting rights and even their lives on a all-too frequent basis.

I’m aware I live in a ‘glass house.’ My country is not above reproach for past and present actions. Does this mean I can’t, as an educator, strive to not only make my country a better place but also other countries of the world? In the words of the Dalai Lama: “Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways.”

What about you? What are your feelings about teaching in countries with Human Rights violations?

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17 thoughts on “Throwing Stones from My Glass House

  1. Nobody should be working in China. Those that do are simply building capacity in a geopolitical foe that wants to eradicate liberal democracy, freedom and human rights. International schools are used to ensure critical thinking, problem solving and creativity exist in China as their model of education/indoctrination all but snuffs it out. I left as I could no longer justify my part in that. Anyone working there now is actively assisting an enemy of freedom and a state that is committing genocide in plain sight.


  2. Some of the angry negative reactions to the article supported it!
    OK have the opinions but be patient with those who question them.
    Re. Aesops Fable The Sun and The Wind.
    I have given up trying to belong to 1 identity group because in reality each human can belong to several.


  3. Parents are paying tuition for their children to attend schools to gain knowledge, understanding and experience that is not available at the free schools. Most parents are not paying tuition for some woke ideolog to indoctrinate their children, or some fundamentalist to do the same. Teachers are out of their lane if they are promoting their personal ideology over and above the curricular content.


    1. The first sentence is only represented in an ideal world. 80% of the private schools are thinly veiled shakedowns of the rich parents in a shameless money grab, meanwhile using excellence(inflating grades) and flashiness as a smokescreen to deceive. Spain is notorious for this but I assume other chaotic and disorganised nations would be on par with this.

      The second part of your comment is 100% spot on. A teacher is to teach the kids how to think rather than what to think. If parents would require propaganda services, I am sure they would request it through the school.


    2. Absolutely!
      Most teachers do the job because they like working with kids. Developing trusting relationships with them, teaching them responsibility and respect, and being a positive role model. That’s what the kids will learn.
      Stay out of politics teachers. Find a job in a great place where they pay well.
      Kids are kids, no matter where they live.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I worry that the clients in these countries cherry pick from our education systems. They take the learning skills without the “tiresome ethics stuff”.
    So far our edge has been education and thinking skills, but that has been sold, especially in China. Now we have challengers who are educated our way and one advantage gone.
    Children may be Liberal and ethical at school but as adults, they often become more Conservative, especially if they don’t want to rock the family boat.


  5. I have struggled with such a debate. I have met amazing kids everywhere. Wonderful adults and locals. And I have tremendous blessing that many don’t. Having worked in China, Burma, Turkey,Thailand and now Vietnam not sure what to think. Started my career in the US and worked in Alaska in the Bush.Nowhere is ideal for sure.


  6. You can make all the excuses you want about ‘influencing’ the children of dictators in countries like Myanmar but YOU will not facilitate change. Living as a privileged expat and pouring money into companies owned by the elite is not helping the masses who never share in the distribution of wealth. You also have to deal with the parents and kowtow to them at parent meetings and often give their offspring special privileges. No thanks. Look closely at the ownership of some of these schools in countries under dictatorships and their appalling treatment of local staff. Why would anyone with an ounce of self-respect want to work there!


  7. I am a socialist living in a globalized capitalist free market. I would rather teach the children from the town income from (I did for a few years) however the difference in pay and conditions is too great. I have my own children to educate (pay through university) and I plan to retire on small holding and the teacher salary and pension in UK not going to pay for that! In a global free market you get the going rate. The UK being one of the worlds richest countries can afford to pay much closer to the going rate than they do. So have made the case for me to leave.


  8. When I was working as an international school educator during the last decade I had several offers to work as an administrator in China, but wouldn’t consider any of them for a couple of reasons, first because of the ethical reason of passively supporting a corrupt system, and also because of the environmental degradation of the land and air. I did work as an administrator in Saudi Arabia, and it was an invaluable experience, but I would never again work for a proprietary school in the Middle East because of the political, social and economic value systems underlying such schools. At the time I went to Saudi Arabia it looked like real social reform was beginning to happen, and I wanted to contribute to that. I believe some worthwhile reform has happened, but it appears that the basic system has not changed. I disagree with a previous comment about educators not being authorized to judge such things. The conscience of every adult is the universal authorization for making the decision of what things one will and won’t support with one’s purchasing power and the things one gives one’s attention and energy to, especially one’s creative energy as a professional educator.


  9. I’m about to teach internationally and have been teaching in US public schools the past several years. One thing that is so clear to me is even in this very democratic institution that supposedly welcomes all to what we may think of as the noble task of learning, there are so many systems and features that preserve the status quo and inequities (and were designed to.) As we have seen so clearly this pandemic year, schools and educational systems never exist in isolation.

    I appreciate this conversation.


  10. I’m African American and worked in Myanmar from 2013-2017 and saw first hand the cruelty of the nation. I have to laugh at the false equivalency of comparing The United States of America to the Burmese regime. If you seriously believe that the U.S. is commuting human rights violations in the same caliber of China, Saudi, or Myanmar then you need to leave your social media echo chamber. As a black man there were cab drivers who would not pick me up in Yangon Myanmar, restaurants in Phuket Thailand who sat me in the kitchen, and immigration officers in Beijing who treated me like an animal. I have experienced the occasional racist in the States but not to the degree that I did in S.E. Asia.
    China is interning millions of Uighur Muslims simply for not being culturally desirable while in 2017 the Burmese forced at least 750,000 Rohingya to flee rape, murder, and oppression into Bangladesh. So please, spare me the argument that Biden’s kids in cages or Trump using nonlethal (but highly unethical and possible illegal) force to stage a photo opportunity is anything near ethnic cleansings or genocide are even remotely similar.
    The world is a cruel place, sometimes, but there is also great beauty and compassion among individuals. I was treated with such compassion and love when I did a home stay in Hpa An, Myanmar. I was invited into a currency sellers home for dinner in Chiang Mai, Thailand. There are problems everywhere but it is max cringe when I read essays written why misanthropic millennials who believe that America is a place of great evil right next to authoritarian nations. That being said, I appreciate the post, just like all posts on this site as it always gives me pause and something new to think about. It also brought back some fond memories of being passed over by a cab driver only to be picked up by the next guy at Suvarnabhumi and exposed to the night markets! There is goodness all around and if all you choose to see is evil, that is all you will ever find.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Try working in India where students openly mock you as a black person. Certainly one of the most racist countries. Even their own people with darker skin tones get bullied and despised.!


  11. There is some point at which I will neither seek nor accept a job at an ignoble institution, though of course we all have our price. I paid off my home mortgage with a post in Saudi — rationalized that it was not directly supporting the regime, but rather educating an international group of children of workers who were extracting (money) from the regime. Qatar is less odious, so I could readily accept work at a school for (mostly) local elites, again hoping to educate them on the benefits of pluralism and worldliness. I am now refusing offers for China, as my last visit there frightened me personally and the latest news confirms that fear. When my (family’s) personal safety is threatened by a government, I will not go.


  12. Educators are not authorized to judge the merits of their students or whether the long-term consequences of educating the children of undesirable potentates is justified. These children need an education regardless, and perhaps we, as educators, can prepare them to change their world in the future. Regardless, they are like fish in an ocean and must live in that ocean whether we want that or not. If the ocen is totalitarianism or repressive then every bit of kindness and compassion we can show them and possibly align them to, is a small victory or a drop in that ocean. The dictator in North korea was educated in a Western school but he is still a dictator so we cannot hope to permanently change anyone unless we start at their beginning. If the principal of living in glass houses is thought through, it is fallacious and incoherent. If we must be perfect befrore we agitate for change or get involved in progress, then the world would still be living under the shadow of ignorance and fear. It is precicely because imperfect people attempted and succeeded in change that we are better off than our ancestors. A very imperfect man, Abraham Lincoln, still managed to emancipate the slaves despite a strong desire for the status quo among his own supporters and his earlier reticence.

    Liked by 1 person

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