Frequently asked questions about The Cypriot School
Wouldn't it be social engineering?
Yes, but only made possible with each community, especially parents and their respective ministry of education. No parents will be forced to send their child to this school. Wouldn’t this school be exploiting the children for political ends?
Yes, this is an arguable point, but the school would be designed with presumably the children’s long-term interests in mind: healthy experiences with those from the other community on a daily basis. The children are already being exploited for political ends through the use of nationalistic history curricula that glorify their perspective. Would you rather push the children towards their ethnicity or towards their shared Cypriotness? That is the essence of this issue. Would the school legitimate partition?
In my opinion, no. Not having a school there can just as easily prolong partition. It has nothing to do with politically legitimatising the line. Instead, it creates a corridor to unify the friendship circles of future Cypriots. Ideally, the alumni, having studied together throughout their childhood, might feel too much stress from the divide between their homes and bring the temporary partition to an end. The longer it is that children of Greek and Turkish Cypriot politicians attend separate schools, particularly the children of the more conservative politicians on each side, the deeper the divide will become, regardless of how many visits they make to the other side. Doesn’t a political settlement have to come first?
Politicians don’t stop having children just because there hasn’t been a political settlement, but these children have to go to school somewhere. Not too much attention is being paid to how these children will be schooled and what their resulting attitudes will be of the other community in their adulthood. The school does not hinge on the island's political outcome of the three possibilities: status quo, permanent partition, or reunification. The beauty of this school is that it can work under all three options. Would the school weaken one side’s bargaining position in the top-level negotiations?
I don’t think so. If there is any weakening, it would theoretically weaken each side’s stance equally, assuming that the school enrolls an equal amount of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. The goal is not to soften up either administration’s political demands but to deepen the personal relationships that the politicians might have with counterparts on the other side. This goal would hopefully produce future politicians who are even more determined to resolve the Cyprus problem than the current ones. Also, the voters in each community would have to pass any agreement, as it was with the Annan Plan referendum. Is it worth investing in such a strategy that might not have any benefits for the next forty years?
It is a wise insurance policy to invest in a special school for future Nicosia children while hammering away at the specifics for a political settlement. The worst thing that could happen is the exchange of nasty rhetoric between the leaders 85 years from now, without any progress having been made since 2014. It would be harder to suddenly close the gates with a school over the line, especially one with a lot of international investment in it. What might the results of this school be in 2014 if it had started in 1975? Would “Cypriotism” usurp my Greek or Turkish identity?
‘Cypriotism’ can be seen as an identity that does not cancel out the ethnic identity of either community but rather brings the two together by focusing on characteristics common to both communities. People can be both Cypriot and either Greek or Turkish. Aren't you asking for trouble by exposing the students to both perspectives of some of the most sensitive issues in the history of Cyprus?
No, students at this school, compared to others their age, will have a more realistic perception of the conflict. It is essential, however, to first use the Structured Academic Controversy teaching method with subject content that is far less sensitive, and to also use a supplemental "social-emotionl learning" curriculum for about an hour a week beginning in the early childhood years so that the students will have strong emotional-intelligence skills when it's time for these history discussions. Have you thought about proposing the school for Pyla?
The idea is to create a school of such quality that even the most hardened politicians in Nicosia would want to send their children or grandchildren to it. Nicosia is viewed by the outside world as “the world’s last divided capital,” and an attempt to build a trans-Green Line school here would have an easier time drawing international funding than a bi-communal school in Pyla would. With all due respect to the Pyla residents, I imagine there to be more future Nicosia children becoming national politicians in the coming decades than the future Pyla children. Thus, to optimize the chances that these future national politicians (30-80 years from now) will have graduated from this school, it is best to build it in Nicosia. Maybe the square-kilometer property won’t exist in the middle of the old city, but it can be close enough (a couple of kilometers to either the east or the west) that children living in the old city can still attend. The closed airport is a great possibile location. Could this school improve the viewpoint, political stance, and antagonistic feelings of each side’s extreme nationalists?
I think it could, but it would do so gradually and would take 25 -35 years, probably closer to the latter. I would be suspicious of anyone who claimed that their idea could change others’ political stances faster than this without directly interacting with them.
There are several factors involved here. The first one is time itself. With all else equal, the more hardened the person’s political stance, the more years it will take after the school’s opening for this person’s viewpoint to adjust. The second variable is the person’s proximity to a political position. If he (or she) is a politician or has one in his family, his youngest family members would be that much more eligible for this school. I don’t know how we would calculate the formula if the adult is a politician but not in the government, but if his group holds considerable sway over people’s attitudes, it probably makes sense to allot a couple of school spaces each year to his political party and to a corresponding extremist party on the other side. Closely associated with this is whether the extremist knows of anyone who is attending this school. By observing over the years a younger person attending this school and hearing of this individual’s positive experiences, the extremist might think that the public would be less and less inclined to support his movement for enosis or taksim. The third variable is the amount of time that he spends following the mainstream media, which would probably be negligible if he is an extremist. The school would probably receive a fair amount of press coverage, and the more the extremist follows the news, the more it might convince him that integrated schools along the Green Line are an eventuality.
Would you still be interested in building such a school if the two sides found a political solution?
Yes.A school such as this could still do a lot of good for Nicosia, but it might be harder to get funding from the international community.The school would no longer be a prototype for schools that could catalyze solutions for their respective conflicts.
What about The English School and The Junior School that exist already in Nicosia? Aren't they good enough?
I don't believe they are in the way they are currently being used. This question will be answered in depth eventually. For the time being, I direct you to my working list of citations, which has a section of sources that I will use to answer this question.