Social Justice and Youth

Recently a woman who was a student in the 1970s told me about her memories of female teachers who wore their hair long, sported long flowing skirts and ran across the playground bra-less.

Aah the ’70s.

The young teachers in the 1970s were university students during the turbulent late ’60s and have either retired in recent years or have not yet retired.  They are either senior teachers or district administrators,  or work as superintendents or professors in education departments in universities and colleges. During the course of their careers many of the teachers from this era encouraged their students to take up causes and make a difference in the world.

While I attended grade school in Ireland in the 1970s, one of these teachers used to like to play the song  One Tin Soldier in class. I was attracted to the story and could see the village people scrambling up the hill to fight the mountain people and claim the treasure. I  imagined gentle, rolling, Irish mountains – not the high peaks you find in British Columbia.  As I understood the story at the time, the lyrics of One Tin Soldier contain a simple message about peace and people getting along.

A few years later my classmates and I were taught to sing the song “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”. I recall liking the concept that everyone in the world could join hands in peace and sing about apple trees and honey bees.  Recently I saw the Coca Cola ad, featuring people holding bottles of coke, and couldn’t relate to the brand association worked into the presentation of the song.

Let us respect childhood; let us honor the soul of that small creature of God who can already make choices of the best if we take the time to awaken her reason and make her use her judgment. St. Madeleine Sophie Barat

Courage and confidence! I cannot repeat this war-cry too often. We should make it our support in our life of conflict. St. Madeleine Sophie Barat

A few years later I graduated from a Sacred Heart school run by Sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart.  The international Network of Sacred Heart Schools are guided by the global vision of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat and advance the mission of the Society. The schools promote and stimulate creative education and leadership and are committed to the Goals and Criteria for Sacred Heart Schools.

The five Sacred Heart School goals are:

*  personal and active faith in God;

*  deep respect for intellectual values;

*  social awareness which impels to action;

*  building of  community as a Christian value;  and,

*  personal growth in an atmosphere of  wise freedom.

Every year the school I attended develops a theme which is based on one of the goals.   These themes are then used in individual departments.  As an example, the annual theme became Myself, an Artist in my Environment, in my IB Art class.

The third Sacred Heart School goal has a focus on social justice:

Goal 3:  A Social Awareness Which Impels to Action:

The school educates to a critical consciousness that leads its total community to analyze and reflect on the values of society and to act for justice.

  • The school offers all its members opportunities for direct service and advocacy and instills a life-long commitment to service.

  • The school is linked in a reciprocal manner with ministries among people who are poor, marginalized and suffering from injustice.

  • In our multicultural world, the school prepares and inspires students to be active, informed, and responsible citizens locally, nationally, and globally.

  • The school teaches respect for creation and prepares students to be stewards of the earth’s resources.

As a child growing up in a foreign service family, many ideas from different cultures influenced my world view and I developed a fierce sense of justice.  It was a natural fit for me to graduate from a school where the teachers, administrators and students shared my interests.  Much of my attitude was influenced by my parents’ outlook and their ability to respect my independent outlook.  My parents, other adults in my life and my teachers supported the social justice projects that I undertook alone or with other friends. During my adult years – either as a teacher, friend or aunt – I try to respect the ideas and concerns of children.

Nowadays my young children come up with ideas and perspectives that are different than my own.  While I can introduce ideas about social justice to them, it is also my time to learn from a much younger generation.  My children have decided their social justice song of choice is Wave Your Flag (Haiti Version) by K’Naan. A day doesn’t go by when one of them isn’t singing:

When I get older, I will be stronger.  They’ll call me freedom just like a waving flag. So wave your flag. Oh-oooh-oh.

Love is the answer.  Love is the way.  That’s what they say.

Multi-School Art exhibition project to raise funds for Live Aid.  Two fellow students and I started the project.
We were supported by, and worked with, teachers, other students in the community, local artists, friends, parents and community members.

What are your thoughts about the topic of social justice, educational opportunities and youth?  Were you inspired by music, art or other sources when you were young?  You can comment about this posting using the comment function below or by visiting the BC Family Facebook page. Your opinion matters so don’t be shy!


Wave Your Flag

Children’s singer Raffi shares a wealth of information related to the rights of the child and social justice issues on his Twitter account.

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