Everybody Does Better
I work in a public inner city high school and I get to be with all kinds of high school aged students- richest and poorest, 1/2 black and 1/2 white, sort of like Cincinnati. We’ve worked hard to create a school as a safe container in which dissent and respect stand side by side, and where the child with learning quirks sits equal to and in the same class with the child who is the National Merit Scholar. To me, it’s the same thing as having diversity in the seed bank. We know that’s the insurance we need to survive a blight on the wheat crop, and equally so, valuing diversity in the human population is a requirement for survival. I think it’s possible that when we teachers cultivate critical thinking and human heartedness in the souls of our students, we are helping them understand the inherent beauty of the world. By doing that, we nurture the only seeds we have in this world for lasting peace.
Last year, after a two-week immersion course, Vonnie, a bright faced African American senior, came running into my poetry class. She had just returned from the Diversity in New York Intersession and couldn’t wait to tell me about her experience. The students had broken into 5 teams to research the history of each borough and planned an outing to each part of town. They arranged the transportation, lined up interviews, and prepared a student-led sightseeing tour. On the first outing day, the students and teachers were in the subway waiting for their train. A street musician was playing “Heard It Thru the Grapevine”. The students started to hum along and then, one at a time they began to sing along. Then they started to dance. There are moments in your life when you know something is true and real and good and I could tell from Vonnie’s story that this was one of those moments for her because during the singing and the dancing, she was touched to the point of tears. She looked over at her teacher who was also visibly moved and ran to her crying out loud, “Jo! Jo! We are going to change the world! Clark kids are going to change the world!”
I am often asked by parents, “What will happen to our children when they have to deal with the real world?” And I say to them “What kind of real world do you want?” One way to make a better world is to create institutions that elicit the best in human nature, organizations that challenge our assumptions and unconscious elitism. I believe that everybody does better, when everybody does better.
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