A framework for building resiliency education in the public school system.
In the story A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, the protagonist Sheherazade faces death at the hand of a King unless she can tell a string of stories that prevent him from taking her life once dawn breaks. The side of the story less known is why the King has gotten to his current state: grief stricken from an unfaithful Queen, the King decides to take his vengeance on the kingdom by wedding and then sacrificing a new Queen every night. Sheherazade willingly decides to become the next Queen to prevent the unnecessary killings, as she knows she holds the power of storytelling that can slowly unravel the grief the King holds in his heart, thereby saving the kingdom.
Stories, or myths, such as these were told to provide valuable lessons to society. In the case of A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, we learn that unconsciously acting out on grief can create harm to others, and by utilizing inherent and powerful gifts we can help others. Myths were told as ways to remind people the importance of knowing ones place as an individual in a larger collective society; to create meaning as to how individual actions help and contribute to the larger world. Today, our myths have been diluted and in many ways subdued by technology and science: in a world where facts and logic are at our fingertips, where is room for the personal meaning-making that myth provides?
At R2B, we believe the trend of myth and making meaning is necessary to create individuals who can identify their gifts and use them for greater good. A way to do this is to create service learning projects that bring the individual out into the world, where societal talents can be honed and put to the test. As students in schools and individuals from corporations engage in service learning projects, they begin to act upon latent and hidden skills thus identifying personal meaning in a shared environment. In other words, service learning helps individuals establish roles to create a personal myth that is then shared with a collective audience. This process, once repeated and implemented in all spheres of society, can create a wave of actions that lead to nothing short of “saving the kingdom”…we’d like to start with the educational system.
In working with youth, we often have the discussion of what role technology plays in their lives- How much do you use your phone? What games do you play?? Are you on the internet a lot???
Invariably, these questions lead to many “yes” answers and vocal exclamations of the awesome-ness of new technology. The problem with this discussion is that the above questions are not the correct questions to ask youth. Why? Because the fact of the matter is, youth will be using technology much more than any predecessors did, and at what some may claim an alarmingly high rate.
The correct question we need to ask youth is this: How are you using technology? and perhaps most importantly, For what purpose? This frames the issue in a much more personal way- instead of a simple “yes” and “no” format, youth can begin querying with themselves what actual role technology is playing in their lives. If its gaming, then the answer to the above questions could be “for fun”, “to hang out with friends online”, yet a deeper issue could emerge such as “I use my computer to feel connected to the world”. Once the discussion becomes about how we feel, it automatically becomes personal.
A simple way to talk about technology is to discuss it as a “tool” or “lens” – we use technology as a way to understand the world, feel connected, stay in touch, etc., but we acknowledge that technology is not the only way to do these things. When Roots to Branches works with youth during service learning projects or rites of passage groups, we have this discussion early on to discern something we feel is VERY important: technology is not the goal, but a means to achieving the goal. It is the lens we can view the world through, but in itself is NOT the world. As adults we might take this distinction for granted, yet we need to create the understanding in youth today that technology will not solve the worlds problems- it is the people that use technology as a lens; that know how to understand the limits to its use; who can successfully navigate the world with understanding of who they are and how to use the tools around them, without getting lost in the process.