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Education must become the bridge to leadership, civil discourse, and community engagement.
The Three R’s: Respect, Relationship, Responsibility
M. Starita Boyce Ansari, Ph.D.
The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election has made so many people angry, anxious, or divisive. Our nation, particularly its children, cannot afford the hate and separation our educators are seeing in the classrooms. Bigotry and bullying are on the rise, intensified by the tragedy of what many educators and the Southern Poverty Law Center are calling the Trump effect. My own fifth-grade son fears that our nation has returned to the “Ruby Bridges Days”.
I believe that from under all the campaign negativity, hope shines in the form of a generation of 83.1 million millennials who have been primed not merely to make America better, but the world. That means more than one quarter of the nation's population is willing to contribute to change. If we become distracted by politics as usual, we risk ignoring their potential impact.
We must all come together so they can realize the power of their voices. Otherwise, the media myth of a generational divide will succeed in just reinforcing the status quo. Nothing will change. The only thing that will grow in our society is apathy. Once again, it is time for us to be engaged, enlightened and empowered!
The Millennials and Baby Boomers are America’s first and second largest generations, respectively. I, along with countless other Americans, have benefited from the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights Movements. We might call the movements different names today (Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, etc.), but the boomer and millennial movements share many goals, from environmental justice to trans rights to equal pay to corporate social responsibility. I call on us all to combine our philanthropic forces to make the world a better place now and for future generations! We have the time, talent and treasures to make America better for the next generation.
To get there we must be empathetic and open our hearts. We must break down the silos within us in order to help each of us! And then from there, we must commit to making sure that compassion has a real impact. In other words, we need to create responsive intergenerational engagement within our communities. However, we must be honest about the collective challenges that face us. Millennials feel that the system ignores their voices. This creates a wall of suspicion between the generations. We don't want walls in times like these. The time for listening, learning, sharing, caring and mentoring is now.
Our challenge is that the focus of our educational system is “racing to the top” and not the “whole child”. Pre-k to higher education has not done its duty of creating empathetic citizens who understand how to be responsive in their philanthropy and considerate of others’ cultures, mores, identities, personalities, and more. Those who are empathic and inclusive, witnessed acts of kindness at home (
Here's what I believe. Education can become the bridge to leadership, civil discourse, community engagement, and commitment to change. Actually, not only can it do so. It must! Many have shrugged off millennial activism as "students will be students." But through responsive philanthropy, millennial activism can actually open the door to our investment in a new generation of civic leaders. Education can become a place where active philanthropists and advocates from older generations find good ways to engage younger generations and make America better.
Educators must go beyond test scores and career readiness. They must integrate empathy, community, and citizenship into the curriculum. In too many places, the misplaced priorities of the Common Core inhibit student participation in the community. Test-centered teaching leaves no room for philanthropists to communicate their past successes and share their tools that have led to sustainable outcomes. There may be many ways to accomplish this, but in my experience, giving circles have shown the highest potential.
A giving circle is a way for students to appreciate and understand the needs of others and come together to create a fund that supports one or more causes for a set period of time. Students then select specific charitable organizations or community initiatives to receive the funds.
A key aspect of giving circles is that their members become more aware of and engaged in the causes they fund and learn how to make our world better, not just for them, but for all! It's a powerful model that melds responsiveness and altruism with community participation. It is not driven by the tax deduction focus of their parents and grandparents. It is a replication of the model used by Civil Rights, Women’s Rights and LGBT Rights Activists, when Jews and Gentiles, Blacks and Whites, and men and women pulled their time, talents and treasures together to make the United States a better place. It is transparent, responsive, empowering and collaborative.
Creating space for giving circles means bringing philanthropy and engagement out of the extracurricular shadows. They must be complemented by dedicated instruction as part of the curriculum on citizenship and participating in the community. It's a programmatic, holistic effort.
While the end result is a big culture change for education, it can be achieved if it's approached pragmatically. Institutions can start by piloting giving circles that integrate administration, student government organizations, students themselves, philanthropists, parents and active members of the community. In so doing, educators expand their role beyond vocational training and job placement and into supporting the potential and the very heart of this generation.
Most important, we must break down the silos within us in order to help each of us. We cannot return to the “Ruby Bridges Days” of fear and selfishness. A movement of philanthropy, in the sense of loving one’s fellow human being, is the movement we need. With so much ahead of us to do, we cannot afford the hate and separation our educators are seeing in the classrooms. I have a higher goal in mind. We all do. We have to take protect our children from these misanthropic forces. We have to honor the value of millennial voices and those of coming generations, because you and I cannot squander our country's largest generation and its future.
Join me in creating a movement of philanthropy, in the sense of loving one’s fellow human being, is the movement we need. With so much ahead of us to do, the time is today and not tomorrow!ild”. Pre-k to higher education has not done its duty of creating empathetic citizens who understand how to be responsive in their philanthropy and considerate of others’ cultures, mores, identities, personalities, and more. Those who are empathic and inclusive, witnessed acts of kindness at home (
Educators must go beyond test scores and career readiness. They must integrate empathy, community, and citizenship into the curriculum. In too many places, the misplaced priorities of the Common Core inhibit student participation in the community. Test-centered teaching leaves no room for philanthropists to communicate their past successes and share their tools that have led to sustainable outcomes. There may be many ways to accomplish t