Today, I had a chance to meet Judge Robert Watt, an appointed Citizenship Judge for Vancouver, BC. Yes, you guessed it, I got the honor to sing “O Canada, our home and native land” together with him, my family and 77 other immigrants to Canada — who like us, have come to this country about 4-5 years ago, leaving their home land, extended families, even parents, brothers and sisters, seeking a better life!
As Judge Robert was using his charming baritone and inspiring words to warm our hearts giving us one of the best motivational speeches I have ever listened to and congratulating us on our wise choice to pick Canada as our new home, I started thinking — Why is it that we care so much which piece of land we are going to call home country? Is there an intrinsic value that one could claim when choosing to “belong” to this and not another part of the world?
“Albania, Argentina, Bangladesh, …, Macedonia, Myanmar, … United Stated of America, Vietnam” — Judge Robert’s voice still echoes in my head, as he was reading the 24 countries we, the 77 immigrants, called our home land before coming to Canada … 24 countries!! … What a diversity! … I still can’t grasp the grandeur of this number … it means that there were very few countries represented with more than one family in that room today … For real, the diversity is striking! … It made me appreciate the total number of countries in the world! ;-)
With all due respect to Davis Guggenheim I think he got it wrong in Waiting For Superman! Public schools have something to offer no other educational institution, be that charter schools, private schools, boarding schools, even the various forms of homeschooling can.
If you read my previous posts where I question the value of formalized education as we know it, you must be thinking I went crazy or got change of heart. Please be patient and let me walk you trough this post by telling you few stories first. We’ll talk again at the end of the post if you have any questions! ;-)
The first story is personal, involving my family and few friends with school age kids.
Ever since my older daughter reached school age (currently in grade 1) the question which school to choose loomed large on our lives. At the time my perspective on formalized education hasn’t shifted too much from the traditional view that you need to get educated and get good grades to be successful, even though I already had a chance to listen to Sir Ken Robinson by then.
In order to make anything a reality, you have to dream about it first!
The goal is not to turn kids into your kinds of adults, but rather better adults than you have been!
Today, I’ve got a license to organize a TEDx conference closely related to the mission of World4Children — TEDxKids@BC! Naturally, I am very excited about it — particularly humbled by the trust the TEDx team have extended to me and the efficiency with which they processed my application!
But this is not the reason I am writing this article — there will be plenty of opportunities to do so as the event starts to take shape. The reason has to do with the world’s children!
November 20 is Universal Children’s Day – an annual event that celebrates childhood, promotes mutual understanding among children, and motivates actions that benefit the welfare of the world’s children. This year, the event will be special because the TEDx communities around the world have come together to organize simultaneous TEDxYouthDay events on this particular day in over 60 locations around the world!
Growing up in former Yugoslavia, I was always looking forward to the celebration of the Youth Day, which was happening annually on May 25. I loved the symbolics of that event — it was exciting to watch as young kids were running a relay around the country, passing a baton through numerous young hands and visiting every major city along the way!
It’s midnight on a Holiday and everyone in the home is asleep! I’ve been going back and forth between the computer and the fridge 3, maybe 4 times now. Nothing inside seems satisfying to my disturbed mind. I finally reach out to the cupboard and grab the Nutella chocolate spread. The feeling is greater than me — I greedily shove 3 big spoonfuls into my mouth!
As the sensation moves down my throat and reaches my pleasure centre in the brain, I check my email, Twitter and Facebook for the hundredth time. I’ve been doing that for the past two hours, sitting helplessly in front of the screen in a wonder what happened to the world — why there’s no one out there sending a new message for me to read?
Maybe if I tuned into one of those chatty Twitter accounts that send a barrage of messages streaming down their channel I could find something useful?! No, I needed a person to send me something interesting, not some software scheduling a large queue of tweets that mean nothing to me. I needed to be able to reply back with a witty comment or enter into a discussion over a thought-provoking question.
This is when it struck me! A shiver ran through my spine and I felt I can’t move. I don’t know if the weight of the realization caused the shaking. Or maybe the high cocoa dose in my brain activated too many senses. Whatever it was, it certainly felt gravely cold in the room! I could think only about one thing — I am an addict!
Imagine your friends are doing research around the schools they consider for their kids and they ask for your advice. You decide to do a bit of digging yourself and soon you end up with this:
“It is nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry.” — Albert Einstein, one of the most influential and best known scientists and intellectuals of all time
“I suppose it is because nearly all children go to school nowadays, and have things arranged for them, that they seem so forlornly unable to produce their own ideas.” — Agatha Christie, British writer, famous for her detective novels
“Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mundane educational system. Forget about the Senior Prom, go to the library and educate yourself if you’ve got any guts.” — Frank Zappa, American composer, electric guitarist, record producer, and film director
What advice would you give to them?
Curious as you are, you start to grow interest in the history of education: How compulsory schooling started? Why — if these thinkers are right about it strangling curiosity — it got so widely accepted? …
I have been having prolonged brainstorming sessions with myself around the idea of World4Children lately! ;-) Some of the things that happened to me in the past month or so (Schooling the World, TEDxUBC) have largely influenced many of those thoughts. I have also been getting inspiration from some of the amazing kids and organizations supporting youth I started connecting with using social media.
It was not all happening during those one-to-one meetings with myself, though. I have engaged with various people both online and offline, and they gave me different perspectives on topics concerning kids, in particular education. I even got further inspiration through my favorite ideas sharing platform, TED — which is to be blamed for inspiring me originally to step out of my comfort zone and start acting on my dreams. ;-)
Importantly, I have faced many questions I have been struggling to answer ever since: “What is going on with World4Children? How do you plan to implement the vision? It is a great idea, but what kind of value can World4Children bring to kids? Or adults interacting with them? How is World4Children different from the many organizations, charities and similar groups already supporting kids?”
I now think I have answers — or at least first drafts. ;-) Let me start from the bottom up!
This essay was inspired by an article titled A soft key radio and the Melting pot, written recently by a dear friend and fellow blogger. I hope to develop it further and use it as a backdrop story for discussing a topic that has been on my mind for some time — the impact of technology on morality. Stay tuned! ;-)
“Welcome aboard”, said the tall girl as she greeted me in front of a funny-looking train — instead of tracks and wheels, this one seemed to be just sitting there idly as a dead metal shell on the floor of a fairly big room that looked nothing like a train station!
As I was trying to meet the eyes of my hostess, I was captivated by her long streaks of dazzling red hair falling down her shoulders. They were protruding from underneath what looked like one of those traditional conductor caps my grandfather — who worked for the old railroad long time ago — used to let me play with as a kid. Instead of the railroad logo, though, this one had Tranzt Wrld embroidered at the front with big golden letters.
Tranzt Wrld was one of a new breed of companies trying to add tactile interface to an aging platform — the ubiquitous Soccet — the global social network that long ago replaced the Internet. Soccet allowed virtually anyone on the planet to access any information in the public domain. More importantly, it let anyone connect and interact with anyone else in any other location on the planet — including the newly formed Moon base that by now hosted about 100 astronauts, scientists and other staff.
“We in Tranzt Wrld care a lot about providing realistic experience to our customers”, continued the girl as she was leading me inside what looked like an empty train car. As I started looking around I realized that despite the external appearance, inside it looked very similar to the train cars being used in the public transportation systems of the big cities like London — though now almost no trains were running as more and more people were tele-commuting in a bid to save the planet from energy overconsumption and greenhouse gas pollution.
Are you dreaming too?
I am curious about everything and this blog is my way to ponder the meaning of the hard questions of life, mind, culture, future...
I like to engage with my readers so please comment if anything catches your eye -- criticism is welcome too! ;-)
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