As I was preparing to give my keynote address at the Educating for a Just, Peaceful & Sustainable Future conference on Sept. 21, I looked for some recent examples of young solutionaries who are addressing and solving challenges in the world. Google searches on “kids who make a difference,” “kids solving problems” and “kid heroes” led me to hundreds of pages and many news stories about such children.
The vast majority of the stories and examples were about kids raising money for charities. As the president of our nonprofit Institute for Humane Education (IHE), I very much appreciate youth raising money to make a difference, and we at IHE are always tremendously grateful for the donations people — young and old — make to advance what we believe is the most effective approach to creating viable solutions to global problems. However, I was struck by how many more stories were about kids who made a difference by raising money to help individuals than by working to challenge and change unjust and unhealthy systems that perpetuate suffering and destruction.
It’s critical that we help those in need, and that we work to put out the fires of cruelty and destruction when and where we can. It’s also critical that we address root causes and transform unjust and destructive systems into ones that are good for all. It’s so important that we cultivate in youth not simply an attitude of “giving back through charity” (important though this is), but also a commitment to make a difference by using their critical and creative thinking capacities and collaborative efforts to solve problems at their core. Such solutionaries hold the greatest hope for a better future for all. They will bring that solutionary focus into whatever work they do in the world and whatever careers and professions they pursue.
Toward that end, IHE trains people to be, and provides free resources for, humane educators who are able to provide students with the knowledge, tools and motivation to be such solutionaries.
If you are considering a career in humane education, or know teachers who would benefit from tools and training, please let them know about our resources and opportunities. The deadline for the spring semester enrollment in our M.Ed. program is Nov. 1. Spread the word. Let’s educate a generation of solutionaries.