“Controversial” is the least I can say about the article my colleague Mr. Omar Bihmidine published on the website of Levant TV two days ago. The article in question claims that the teaching profession in Morocco is reserved for low achievers only, while higher achievers choose different paths such as medicine and engineering.
While some of the observations Mr. Bihmidine makes hold true, his analysis of why people choose to become teachers remains fallacious and very superficial. I think that the problem with the article is that Mr. Bihmidine is confused between what makes some university graduates opt for the teaching profession, and the shocking deplorable situation of the profession in Morocco. As a matter of fact, the article talks about many instances of injustice that teachers face in Morocco. However, linking that to academic achievement remains a vague claim that needs to be supported by real and empirical evidence. For instance, it is untrue to say that high achievers are aware that “their achievements, diligence, distinguishing grades, excellence, mastery of languages and production will never be credited, recognized, acclaimed and admitted inside the four walls of the classroom,” for the reasons discussed below.
I disagree with Mr. Bihmidine’s article for five reasons. First, most university students who opt for teaching do not realize how demanding the profession is before they actually start teaching. Second, most of these students come from underprivileged poor families, so they need to get a job as soon as possible to loosen the financial grip suffocating their families, and in many cases, to be able to financially support their families. Third, not everybody can afford to go to medical school or to study engineering in Morocco. Even if they are high achievers, they also need to be well-off to attend medical school. Fourth, the worrying lack of guidance and orientation in our schools contributes to the status quo. For example, in my own case, I never knew I had other options after I got my Baccalaureate, but to go to college. I didn’t know there were other institutes where one could study media or tourism, etc. Fifth, only students with the best marks (high achievers) can become teachers in Morocco. The selection process is very rigorous and meticulous. In fact, there are countless exams and teaching practicums that one has to undertake before he or she can become a teacher.
Another issue that seems to have escaped Mr. Bihmidine’s analysis is that of the different streams available at our universities. Mr. Bihmidine seems to make no distinction between literary and scientific streams. How is a student with a major in history supposed to become a doctor? And how is a student with a degree in Arabic supposed to become an engineer? Teaching is probably the only available path to employment in Morocco for certain degrees such as Arabic, history, Islamic Studies, etc.
In addition, Mr. Bihmidine seems to have disregarded the fact that there actually are people who go for teaching because they LOVE it, and because they feel that they make a difference in the lives of our offspring. The reasons are not always related to money, prestige, or grades!
Of course, other people can come up with other reasons, but the crux of the matter is that the erroneous view provided in Mr. Bihmidine’s article doesn’t reflect the reality of things. To put it simply, teachers have always been the elite of our universities, and they continue to be so.
If there is anything I appreciate about the Internet it’s its power to eliminate distances. Fortunately, I could make use of this powerful treat offered by the Internet in one of my most valuable experiences. This unique experience is nothing but my amazing ongoing discussion of Edward Said‘s “Orientalism” with my American friend.
Even though we live in totally different places, my friend and I communicate on a daily basis and we always manage to discuss different stimulating topics. So we thought of taking our discussions to the next level and read a book together. Thus, I chose Edward Said’s “Orientalism.” This choice was partly because I’ve always heard of it and wanted to read it, and partly because I knew it contained very interesting and debatable topics that both my friend and I would enjoy.
Ok let’s face it, the writing style is obtuse. Also, It takes some knowledge in different fields to be able to fully understand Said’s words. He can hover over a variety of topics such as history, politics, culture, media, anthropology, literature, epistemology, etc. in one or two pages. Furthermore, sometimes, I feel as if Said takes it for granted that the reader is acquainted with some references and allusions, which can be an additional burden on the shoulder of the non-specialized reader.
On the other hand, what my friend and I are enjoying about this book is the fruits of our discussions. You can think of Orientalism as a “discussion stimulator,” and a thought-provoking starting point to our in-depth talks. Therefore, we always end up with very interesting discussions that help us better our understanding of the American as well as the Arab mindsets.
Our talks make us view issues from different perspectives. Therefore, many of our lingering questions have finally been answered. Many assumptions have been altered, and many fallacies corrected. Thus, I’m now starting to see how Americans REALLY view us, and vice versa. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that I have learnt more about America and Americans since I started reading and discussing this book than I had done in my entire life. My friend, too, made it clear that she has come see things from a different angle and from a fresh perspective, and that she has learnt a lot as well.
I think that what we appreciate about this ongoing discussion is that we both accept each other’s opinions and points of view no matter how distant our stands are. No one is claiming that their way of looking at things is the best, and no one is ridiculing the other’s views or opinions. It’s a friendly discussion with a special interest in mutual understanding.
I wish we all opted for dialog instead of surrendering to preconceived ideas and stereotypical views of the other. I think a lot of the world’s tragedies would have been avoided had those in power resorted to dialog. However, I believe that hope will still be glowing at the end of the tunnel as long as there are people willing to talk, discuss and open their minds.