Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Be the Change" Takes to the Classroom

Today was an exciting day as AFSC begins an experimental curriculum with local high school Horizons. Each Wednesday morning for the next 8-10 weeks, AFSC will be leading the entire Horizons student body (about 50 students) in a pilot program that will take the "Be the Change" concept used at the May youth convergence and put it in an interactive classroom format.

Just like the convergence, we will use Dr. King's April 4th, 1967 "Beyond Vietnam" speech as a grounding text to frame our discussion as we connect the dots between the "giant triplets" of racism, militarism, and poverty. And just like the convergence, we hope to spend part of the time educating students and doing skill building and the rest of the time allowing students to begin planning for themselves how to be the change in their communities.

UNLIKE the convergence, we aren't working with a group of youth (mostly college students) already engaged in their campuses and communities coming together on purpose for a weekend convergence. Instead, we are working with 8th-12th graders with varying levels of awareness about these issues. So, we began the first session with a discussion about where "Be the Change" comes from, and why the quote is relevant. Who was Gandhi? What did he have to do with Dr. King? Tim asked the students for examples of other leaders who chose to "be the change they wanted to see in the world." Answers ranged from Abraham Lincoln to Michael Jackson.

Next, Tim asked for volunteers who could read our grounding text, the April 1967 "Beyond Vietnam" speech, with a little bit of King's confidence. Our volunteers stepped up to the plate, and together we read the entire speech. Students did a great job engaging with the text as we discussed some of the background of the time period, including the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement.

Finally, we moved to the gym for an exercise linking the issues we had just discussed. Tim laid out 20 bowls on the table, each labeled with a national department, and told the students that these labels represented different areas in which the national government spends its trillions each year. Since the way a group spends its money represents its priorities, we wanted to test Horizons students' priorities. Each student was given two paperclips, each clip representing one percent of the budget, to "spend" in their chosen areas. The following breakdown shows Horizons high school students' values and priorities:

Out of 51 students (102%):
1. The Arts: 20%
2. The Environmental Protection Agency: 15%
3. The Dept. of Peace: 13%
4. Education: 11%
5. Missing areas???: 9% (depts. not otherwise represented)
6. Health and Human Services: 6%
7. Military Spending: 6%
8. NASA: 4%
9. Energy: 4%
10. Agriculture: 4%
11. Dept. of Justice: 3%
12. Housing: 2%
13. Labor: 2%
14. Transportation: 1%
15. Homeland Security: 1%
16. Treasury: 1%
17. State and International: 0%
18. Other Agencies (CIA, etc): 0%
19. Dept. of the Interior: 0%
20. Commerce: 0%

After the exercise, students who put their paperclip money in the "Missing areas" bowl shared what they were thinking of, like water and technology. Then, Tim confessed that two of the areas were made up: The Arts (which is really a small fraction of the "Other Agencies" category) and the Dept. of Peace (which doesn't exist). Next we passed out AFSC's "One Minute for Peace" pamphlets revealing the national government's ACTUAL budget, which was met with cries of disbelief and a few expletives as the students realized their dinky 6 paperclip percentage points of military spending did not come close to the 57% of the actual budget. We hope this eye-opening exercise will lead to a lot of discussion as students continue working with Dr. King's speech for their homework assignment.

Next week we'll keep digging into Dr. King's real issue-linking legacy with a field trip to the King Center! Stay tuned!

Erica Schoon
American Friends Service Committee

No comments:

Post a Comment