Many of us fall prey to the belief that real and lasting change comes like a sprint; single and fast. But in reality, the journey to a better world is more like a relay race where we have to painstakingly try, fail, and succeed numerous times with the help of others to reach the finish line.
My journey towards that better world begins at the start of each week when I write my “Monday Notes” to my staff. I like to set up our weekly staff meetings by developing a DEBATE mindset. In the past I have played a game called “If I Ruled the World,” which asks them to evaluate the state of the world and suggest something that they would change. When I was teaching school I did the same thing. The first time we played this game I stood up and said, “If I ruled the world, I would ban all homework.” When it was my sixth graders’ turn, their answers absolutely astounded me:
“If I ruled the world, I would make sure that everyone had enough money to support their family.”
“If I ruled the world, I would make sure that immigrants were treated the same as Americans.”
“If I ruled the world, I would make sure that everyone had access to a good education.”
Anyone who has worked with children knows that their favorite word is “why?” Why is there injustice? Why is there suffering? Why are we indifferent to suffering? And how do we fight injustice? My students would touch upon these core questions of human existence every time they debate.
Many of us are indifferent to suffering and systemic injustice because it appears to be much bigger than we are; that we feel insignificant and powerless to stand up against the big guy. Debate teaches us that so long as you have an intelligent argument that you can defend, you have every right, and even an obligation, to stand up for what you believe in. That regardless of your age and size, you can tackle these issues and strive for a better world. If we believe that we can take on the world, we’ll run the extra mile.
Debate encourages the next generation to answer the questions that we were never able to do. Debate asks them if they will be deaf to a plea for peace? Or will they passionately stand for a better world? Will they reject pluralism and equality? Or accept diversity and inclusiveness? Will they be passive to the injustices perpetuating around them? Or will they actively fight for the cause of justice?
An adult who is indifferent to suffering and passive in existence was a child who never believed in his or her ability to change the world. The world is what we dream it to be, and it is through debate that a child is encouraged to evaluate their surroundings and ask the hard question,
“What kind of world do I want to live in?”
Any child who knows the answer to this question will become an adult who strives for a better world.
WHAT KIND OF WORLD DO YOU WANT TO LIVE IN?