Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The future wants to be bright...

Today I spent 3 hours working with an amazing group of young women (and one young man) at an Auckland Senior High School.

The event was sponsored by our (Protect’s) Community Support Program and was arranged and co-ordinated by three year 12 students as part of an assessed project.

It always amazes me when I have the chance to work with people at this age just how keen they are for the information that we provide. The group I had the privilege to work with today were positive, open and receptive, asked relevant, well structured, and direct questions and clearly wanted to help themselves and others with the information from the course.

So often I hear people talking about how the world is such a violent place and only getting worse and how – basically - we are all damned to a future of fear and violence. But I don’t see it that way at all - it is the mission of our organisation to help ensure that is not the case – but where I have hope is in the younger generation that is coming through right now. People like those I worked with today. These are genuinely good and caring people, who are really passionate about making a difference and they are armed with knowledge and technology advances that older generations never were, these people really will make a positive difference in the future, I truly believe that.

Our responsibility (the generations currently running the place) though is to make sure they get that chance. It is to protect them by giving them the relevant life skills – self defence and empowerment skills in our case – to ensure they get through their youth empowered, confident and free from unnecessary worry and fear which they are constantly bombarded with. We need to do everything we can to get them through un-scathed so that they will be in a position to make the required changes.

From what I see at every school and learning institution that I work with is that these young people do want to “be the change that they want to see in the world”. The most common response I get after a course (today included) is students asking how they can help by spreading the information. They want to help. They want to make the world better. Our job is to make sure they have that chance. It is to protect them from the damaging effects caused by bullying, intimidation, sexual assault, general violence and self destructive behaviour often borne from damage to their self-esteem and confidence from experiencing these things. If we can do that, the future is looking a lot brighter.

The alternative is to buy into the myth of powerlessness. To keep avoiding the problem, passing it over and not standing up and taking responsibility and accepting that we CAN change things right now. We have the information. We have the resources to do this. All that is needed is the will and the understanding of the true benefits of this information.

Apathy and denial are the enemy of improvement and positive evolution of thought and results, yet they are prevalent attitudes around this subject. We as a society have a problem called violence. It takes on many forms. And it will never fully go away. But we have the information right now that we can deliver to our kids and young adults which can help them tremendously – skills to protect themselves physically where needed, to diffuse and de-escalate violent situations, resolve conflict at its earliest point, increase confidence, build empowerment, deal with their strong emotions and ego related behaviours - and it is mostly being kept out of their hands. This needs to change. These people should not only have access to this information when a few pro-active and responsible students or teachers organise a class, it should be available to them all.

Now before I receive emails telling me that I have a utopian view on this and that I should visit a school in “my hard area” and see what "they are like there", I have worked with schools in every type of area, of every decile rating including schools for the behaviourally challenged. I know there are some bad apples out there. Of course there are. The vast majority of our young people are really, really good people. The few who are not can be very, very bad. I have met many of these people and there is no point glossing over it or tiptoeing around it, some of them are real bad news. But they are the vast minority, not the majority as we are often led to believe. Part of what we do is give young people – the ‘good ones’ who want to be helped – the skills to keep themselves empowered and safe from harm. There will always be violence is our society. There always has been and there always will be, it is inherent in our species, but it is important to keep it in perspective, it is still the minority and we have to keep focusing on reducing it wherever possible and giving our next generations the skills to deal with it so they can move ahead in life.

As I mentioned to the team I worked with today, I truly believe that if our education was compulsory in every high school and college in the country violence in future generations would be massively reduced and some forms of it almost eliminated. This needs to happen and it is something that we will continue to work towards.

I am grateful to the students I worked with today. Every time I teach I learn something and meeting these people today strengthened my belief that our society’s future is going to be in good shape. We just need to help get them there...

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