As the world reacts to the death of Nelson Mandela, I keep harkening back to the days when it seemed there were very few teachers who made the struggle for human rights in South Africa part of their curriculum. One of my former students reminded me the other day that I also had a poster in my classroom that raised the question Terrorist or Freedom Fighter?
In recalling the history of Mandela's journey from prisoner to President, some of the news media (but far too few) are reminding those who weren't alive or who have conveniently forgotten how as President, Ronald Reagan was on the wrong side of history with his policy of engagement toward South Africa. Briefly, this policy was far too little too late and never really took a moral stance on Apartheid. It wasn't until strong economic sanctions (not supported by Reagan) were enacted taht the tide began to turn. But that's another story, but definitely one we can learn a good deal from in dealing with future ethical issues on the international scene.