Director weekly highlights 4 Mar
The events of the Russian invasion of Ukraine over the last week — murderous and dangerous for the world’s future beyond anything I have known in my own lifetime — are too ominous and too horrendous to ignore in this Update.
Many of the crucial responses to this conflict are military, financial, political, and, even more fundamentally, at that neglected crossroads where moral values meet astute strategy. But there are also vital parts of this terrible story where language plays a role.
Nelson Mandela famously said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy understands this profoundly. The reaction, in Russia, to his address to the people of Russia, in Russian, is epitomised by the response of Ilya Krasilshchik, former media editor and publisher, who (according to The Guardian) “hadn’t listened to Putin’s announcement of a “special operation” because it was too “revolting”. “I listened to [Volodymyr] Zelenskiy instead,” he said. “As someone said: ‘It’s been a long time since anyone spoke to the Russian people with that kind of love’”.”
This is a war where a key stone in David’s sling against Goliath is the compassion and courage of ordinary Russians to resist this insanity. это безумие должно быть остановлено! — ‘this madness must be stopped!’ — appeared in more than one courageous Russian newspaper (e.g., Pro Severoural’sk). Yelena Osipova, survivor of the siege of Leningrad, was arrested in St Petersburg for protesting, as were young Russian children carrying placards нет войне ‘no to war’. And Svetlana Tolstaya, octagenarian Russian linguist, Slavist and her two daughters (great-great grandaughters of Leo Tolstoy), made this protest video (in Russian). She could be arrested at any moment for having done so.
Even as sanctions kick in — and now, in many places, the cessation of institutional ties to Russia — we should do all we can to support the resistance, from within, of brave individuals like these. The ingenuity of groups in getting the truth out to the Russian population through propaganda mouthpieces also shows how ‘digital world citizenship’ can play a crucial role.
A lot of the reporting on this tragedy is much shallower or more uncritical than it needs to be. Two reports I have found particularly helpful are this interview by Walter Isaacson with chess great Garry Kasparov on ‘Putin’s End Game’ and this hard-hitting analysis by Palki Sharma Upadhyay on Gravitas Live which cuts to the quick of what needs to be done.
This conflict won’t end soon; we can expect to have our minds and hearts wrenched towards the latest news of the Ukraine war again and again over the coming weeks, possibly months, possibly years. Gaining the concentration and focus to think about research against this background will be hard. I hope each of you manages to find some balance between life as a citizen of the world — and some way of keeping yourself human — in the same way that parents in bomb shelters in Kyiv and elsewhere are finding games to maintain some normality for their children through the horrors outside.
CoEDL spotlight: Carly Steele
Introducing Carly (Jill Wigglesworth):
Carly Steele worked for many years as a teacher in remote schools in Australia in both Western Australia and Queensland teaching Indigenous students. She began her PhD at the University of Melbourne in 2016, and before she completed her thesis she was offered a position at James Cook University in Townsville. Carly also had two children during her enrolment as a PhD student and still managed to finish her PhD. Just prior to COVID’s arrival in 2020, she and her family moved to Western Australia, where she grew up, having accepted a permanent position at Curtin University of Technology in Perth.
I hope the new(ish) year is off to a good start! I am currently employed as a Lecturer in the School of Education at Curtin University. I teach the professional experience units where pre-service teachers go into the classroom for varying lengths of time. Although it seems somewhat lateral to the themes explored through CoEDL, I enjoy bringing the knowledge that I developed through my CoEDL experience to pre-service teachers to build their awareness about the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of the students they will be teaching, particularly First Nations children. A highlight of my current role is working with AIEOs (Aboriginal and Islander Education Officers) located all over Western Australia who are training to become teachers in our On Country Teacher Education program.
Like many other CoEDL alumni, it has been a busy couple of years since finishing my PhD at the University of Melbourne toward the end of 2020. Beginning my academic career during the pandemic (and in the hermit state!) has provided some significant challenges and caused me to reflect on the great opportunities that being part of CoEDL provided. Summer schools, CoEDLFest and so on seem like a very distant memory, but the ability of CoEDL to connect people from all over Australia and internationally has been quite remarkable and I am grateful to have been part of this community.
Now that we are finally allowed out of WA, I hope I will cross paths with many of you again in the future.
All the best for the year ahead, Carly