Thursday, October 4, 2018

Finding Our Shared Humanity

We are living through a time of unprecedented change. Change is inevitable, but the pace in which our society is changing the way we live, work, communicate, consume information, and relate to each other is moving faster than at any time in human history.

This is being driven by technological advancement. Social media, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, mobile devices, and all of the other advances of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are forcing our environment to change faster than we can often adapt.

Global Teacher Prize finalists from around the world put their differences
aside at the Global Education and Skills Forum to discuss how
to ensure every student around the globe has access to a quality education

One of the effects of this rapid transformation has been the polarization of viewpoints. Here in the United States like many other places in the world, our political discourse has never been more divisive. Relationships are breaking and family members are disconnecting with each other because of ideological beliefs.

Throughout history, we have seen that people who are afraid or unsure about the future find solace and emotional protection in their limited tribal identities. We've also seen that such tribalism leads to conflict.

We must fight to find a shared humanity rather than retreating to the divisiveness of identifying with our political parties, religions, races, or even nationalities. We can be all of those things - Democrats, Republicans, Christians, Muslims, Jews, of African descent, of Caucasian descent, of Oriental descent, mixed-race, indigenous, Americans, Iraqis, Russians, etc. - as long as we see ourselves and each other as human first.

Conflict is caused when we put our limited identities before our shared humanity.

Education must be a tool for bridging the gap between differences rather than driving a wedge. Students must be given the opportunity to learn and build relationships with others who are different than they are. Free video conferencing tools make this easier than ever before.

Empatico is a free tool that was developed for the purpose of making it easy for 7-11 year olds find their shared humanity and to build empathy. It takes 3 minutes to sign up. Then, your students can learn with another class and travel the world. It's the easiest way I've found to get started.

Other tools like Skype in the Classroom provide additional opportunities for connection and virtual field trips. No longer are the experiences in school limited to the walls of the classroom.

Global connection alone will not change minds. We must also closely examine our curricula to ensure that shared humanity is being promoted above tribal identities. When children learn that their country is "better" than others, they learn prejudice and othering. Patriotism and love of country are important, but not at the expense of humanity.

If one's nationality makes them better, why wouldn't other traits like race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation make some people better than others as well? It is a slippery slope that we must stop going down. All people have worth, and it is our obligation as educators and adult members of the human race to ensure our children understand this.

We must teach children that they are part of a collective humanity first. We must help them to see value in all people and appreciate differences as learning opportunities rather than reasons for fear and division.

Only when we do this will we be able to truly say that education is the key to a more peaceful and prosperous society.

Disclosure - In addition to using Empatico in my own classroom, I have done paid consulting work for them.