As a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher for the 2011-2012 school year, I traveled to South Africa to study, research, and carry out professional development. My focus was on the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa’s history, and I focused on the various tactics, strategies, and ways that individual people, groups, organizations, both within and outside of South Africa, resisted and dissented the apartheid regime. The anti-apartheid movement was multifaceted, involving boycotts, marches, hunger strikes, music, sabotage, guerrilla warfare, international sanctions, divestment, prayer groups, labor strikes, and student protests. It involved both violent and non-violent methods, was active not only in South Africa, but also throughout the continents of Africa, Europe, and North America. It involved a diverse array of participants which included both black and white South Africans, Afrikaners and English-speaking whites, Xhosa and Zulu black Africans, Indian and “coloured” South Africans, Hindus and Muslims, Catholics and Protestants, students and the elderly, the free and imprisoned, the exiled and the banned, communists and capitalists, mine workers and newspaper editors, and so many more. I studied and researched how the anti-apartheid movement was being taught in schools throughout South Africa, including its coverage in the curriculum, how teachers taught this era, and how students are trying to make sense of it.
While in South Africa I visited schools, spoke with teachers and students, sat in on classes, and took part in graduate courses to get a better understanding of the anti-apartheid movement. I conducted thorough research-based reading, analyzed the era through film and music, and visited historical sites of the movement throughout the country. My hope was that this would give me a better understanding of South African history and the apartheid era, and especially how people resisted and fought against the apartheid regime. But what I really focused on are the numerous ways that people resisted and tried to create change. I have been interested in this in many historical eras, including resistance and dissent to Hitler and the Nazi regime, the Soviet Union and the satellite states of eastern and central Europe, the Chinese Communist Party over the last 30 years, and in numerous other areas of the world. I am interested in resistance and dissent because I see that many students tend to think that violence is the only way to create change, and that is what they resort to as the only solution to any problem. In my experience, when students think of non-violence, they tend to regard the likes of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. as anomalies that wouldn’t be successful in our modern world. There are endless examples of ordinary people standing up for what they believe in, and risking their lives in doing so, and these courageous stories need to be told more frequently because it can provide students with alternatives to violence and numerous ways that change can be brought about.
I will be regularly updating this blog, even now since I am back in the USA, so check back regularly. I will be posting on how my research is continuing, my conversations with South African and American teachers and students, my thoughts and reflections on my experiences, as well as plenty of pictures, stories, and insights.