When and how do we include our youth in the search for answers to our large-scale challenges? When and how do we begin an educational process that helps them address the varied, complex needs in our world? Adults often refer to children as the hope of the world, but if our youth are to make large-scale, needful changes, we need to assess our success in educating them to solve problems at this level in the real world. Logic will eventually turn us to the earliest developmental and foundational period of growth.
Our children are part of “the people.” Our children have suggested and created outstanding service models at home as well as abroad. They are the next generation and will create the future for those who follow. If we hesitate to include our children in collective problem solving, we should consider the high value that gangs—or the global equivalent, terrorists—find in collecting our youth for violent and destructive activity. These groups recognize and capitalize on the desire of youth to become part of a larger community and purpose. We can create a conversely focused structure for our youth based on constructive values of peace, productivity, and caring for others and the environment.
What would it be like if all our children regularly engaged in community service? How powerful would their contributions be if they communicated with their peers nationwide at the same grade levels and worked on replicable models of service in their communities? What would it be like for all communities to engage simultaneously in outstanding project models, helping those in need and restoring the environment? What would happen if we looked to our children for solutions and respected the support they bring to our world? What would we see if we consistently looked through the lens of our children’s vision? How would they feel about their education and their place in the world? How would project originators feel to see their work spun out nationwide and worldwide? How would a generation of adults interact, having grown together in making the world a better place, with quantifiable results and well-established working relationships? What would it be like if every school district had a sister-city relationship in a developing area of the world? What if all community members knew that schools managed a checklist of community projects with specific project information?
Is this possible? Absolutely!
What would our standing in the world be if we set the standard for working together to create lasting change, honoring future generations of adults in their formative stages of growth—if we became the central axis for information and collective work worldwide, with all our children at the helm?
Could we sustain this? Absolutely!
Americans are perfectly suited for this megachange. We have always been able to see the possibilities and create a future that embraces many from diverse backgrounds. Our schools are the perfect sustainable vehicle for staffing this change at home and abroad. We simply need to reorganize our problem-solving methods and transition into a new realm of history for the human race.
A K–12 service learning curriculum, implemented nationally, would add a critical developmental component to the Serve America Act (www.nationalservice.gov), addressing community needs while developing civic competencies—beginning in the youngest grade levels. The K–12 model also establishes participation in the global community through interaction with, and support of, sister cities.
Accumulated outcomes would create new and relevant validity for the time students spend in school every day, every year. Our children would have evidence that education is valuable and that they are valuable. They would be linked with adults and peers nationwide and globally, all working and achieving “on the same page” to make the world a better place. They would enter our communities as adults with problem-solving experience and know how to make a difference in ongoing ways, with action-based cooperative problem solving as a way of life.