The stories your kids may just need
"Have any of you heard of George Floyd?" I asked my class three weeks ago. A few hands went up on Zoom. I could hear a few kids typing furiously into their Google search bars. The ones that spoke up seemed to know bits of the story, overheard perhaps from family conversations, or news headlines playing in the background of their busy homes. "Not really, Ms Malavika, I have exams right now," said one young girl.
It struck me that I was their age when 9/11 happened and no one from school or home ever sat me down and explained the global implications of this visual that was being played repeatedly on television.
My memories of the Y2K bug, and the paranoia around it, were limited to rumours the boys in my school whispered about during lunch break. I was about 13 years old when the 'dotcom bubble burst' and for a while, I actually imagined it to be a real bubble. A giant white bubble in the middle of
America (my imagination inspired by James and the Giant Peach). I do wish that someone had explained what these words meant. After all, my generation, aka millennials, and our current social, economic and political reality, is a by-product of those news events.
Back to the 13-year-olds in my class: they were witnessing history in the making and yet knew so little about it. If our education system aims to prepare kids for the 'real world' or to be 'global citizens', then it is imperative that we talk to them about world news. After all, the outcome of these headlines will eventually be the world they inherit and the causes they will need to fight for.
So, how do we do this? Isn't news a little too complicated or messy for a young person's mind? I don't think so. The few times I have introduced my students to current affairs subjects in class, I have always been blown away by their instinctive ability to 'get it'. I try very hard to ensure that I not only introduce them to the vocabulary of that subject, but also stress the parts of the story that are facts and the parts that are my opinion. This, I believe, is one of the most important distinctions that young people must learn to make. And why not start these lessons young?
Another exercise that I find particularly useful when it comes to difficult debates and current affairs subjects, is to replace the 'for' and 'against' style of debating with a more multi-dimensional approach. When we raise an issue in class, we often try and see it from multiple points of view. This allows us to add various layers of ifs and buts, because and in spite ofs - this is a far better representation of the real world than a rather simplistic, and polarising 'for' and 'against'.
Watching world events play out, it has become clear to me now that in a world where information is freely available, and where borders cease to exist, there is no such thing as 'international' news and 'local' news. All news will impact me. All leaders must be observed carefully. All voices must be heard, so that we can understand the ways in which we are similar or different. All this, just so we can decide what we will stand for.