Conscience Telling You to Stay or Go?

When unforeseen events collide with your core beliefs, then what?

Every country in the world is in some way, shape or form, abusing human rights. Some to a greater extent, some lesser, some hardly at all. At what point does your conscience dictate that being part of your host country is simply wrong for you?

On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. At the time of this writing, innocent citizens are being displaced and murdered. Entire cities are being destroyed. Russian citizens protesting this atrocity are jailed, even tortured. Putin’s current invasion of Ukraine is an extreme example of Human Rights violations.

If you’re currently in a Russian-based International School and conflicted about aiding a regime that violates your core beliefs, Do you pack up and leave? After all, we are educating the children of the privileged class, i.e. kids whose parents are potentially profiting from and supporting the invasion. Alternatively, however, you may be motivated to stay. Why?

Think of it this way: Each of us has the attention of the children of the elite class for hours each day. Herein lies the opportunity to instill seeds of humanity and compassionate thinking, which, when nurtured through years of a Western-style education, may blossom forth and positively influence decision making in the future, for the better of their community and the broader world in general.

Leaving may be what’s best best for you. Staying could mean potentially changing the course of history in a positive way. ISR asks: How do YOU personally feel about staying or going when your host country’s actions collide with your core beliefs?

8 thoughts on “Conscience Telling You to Stay or Go?

  1. After teaching in an international school for two years, various human rights violations against others and myself have prompted me to ask the question: Is money going to be the driving force in my life for as long as I live? Is the money I’m earning enough reason to turn a blind eye when you are faced with situations that scream ‘THIS IS NOT RIGHT!’
    And so, I am leaving. Going home to recover before tackling the next journey.

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  2. After working in international schools for over a decade I will say that some schools overlook ethics to please parents. Teachers are always put in difficult positions and in some ways you learn where your own perso al line is. Mine is inflation of grades more than teaching children of the rich in a country that is at war with the west. However, I also left Russia as most westerns will if they are able to.

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  3. Life is indeed complicated. It is wrong to punish sons & daughters of people who may – or may not – support a murderous regime. If you are in a position to help others, in whatever small or large way, then stay and try to make a difference, even if it can only be a small difference. Helping others learn English and get a good education helps ensure they are exposed to a wider range of ideas and information, if not now, then later.

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  4. I don’t know, this whole post strikes me as very Colonial: The beneficent Westerner instilling our superior ideals to save the world from itself. Any experienced international educator knows whatever the IB says about a global education, the curriculum gets scrubbed to fit within the country’s ideology. In Turkey we had to remove textbooks that mentioned Armenians, and don’t get me started on the vagaries of teaching in China, where we regularly had to remove books from shelves before the yearly investigators came and submit curriculum documents for approval by the education committee. You do what you can that lets you sleep at night, without thinking you’re going to change the world. I know the holier-than-thou virtue signalers will soon be weighing in vowing they could “never” allow themselves to work in a country that conflicted with their sacred values. I, on the other hand, have no such deep seated confidence in my own virtuous superiority.

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    1. If you do not feel the Western ideal of rule of law and freedom of speech is “superior” to the situation in murderous regimes such as Putin’s, or corrupt dictatorships such as that found in China, then that is your business. But do not mock those of us who do indeed have a “deep-seated confidence” that our Western ideals are superior, and who hope these ideals spread. Why do you think Russians and Chinese emigrate to the West? For the food?

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  5. In the end, you make a decision that you can live with and what you are willing to put up with. At one point I worked at a school in Texas and it was the most incredibly racist and awful school to be at (without going into other details). I served out my contract and left. It was totally inconvenient and expensive, but that’s what I did. Others I knew who were victims of the racism stayed and said that they could put up with it for other benefits (i.e. living near family, cheap housing, etc.) In the end, I couldn’t deal with it so I left, but if someone wants to stay behind – that’s ok too. The person that stayed behind used it as an opportunity to daily work against the negative things and try to make the place better, while enjoying the reason she chose to stay.

    In my opinion, it’s ok to do what you feel is best. It’s not for others to judge. Like this question, life is too complicated.

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  6. We had the same discussion this week about reserving seats for the sons and daughters of oil executives. Should we provide a privileged education to individuals who are knowingly destroying our planet?

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  7. Years ago when I was in graduate school our linguistics department was asked to complete a term project creating teaching materials for ESL teachers in North Korea. Fully aware of the DPRK’s horrendous treatment of their own citizens, some of us were unsettled by this assignment. After careful reflection, I realized this was an invaluable opportunity to provide the teachers who would use our curriculum with the very language skills they would require should they seek knowledge of the world beyond their own limited experience.
    Two years later I was offered a job as an elementary teacher in an IB school in Beirut. With its long history of civil unrest and its close proximity to both Syria and Israel, Lebanon is often caught up in political disputes. Despite our IB mandate to encourage open-mindedness and global citizenry, every word of our curriculum was custom-created and reviewed by our PYP coordinator before it reached the eyes and ears of our students. I was regularly shocked by the racist beliefs we were expected to uphold, both in what was taught and what was allowed to occur because of our silence.
    If I was to assess the current private school situation within Russia, I believe it would align more closely with my Lebanese scenario. Teachers hoping to “make a difference” in Putin’s realm will, at least, find their speech highly sanitized and their actions heavily policed. At most you might even be putting yourselves in physical danger as potential messengers of anti-governmental rhetoric.

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