“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
This quote from Frederick Douglass is so succinct and accurate that I hardly need to write more, though I’ll try.
I feel as though working with young people is something of a calling; it feels like my purpose in life to work as a learning advocate. As many people who have felt this calling can attest, there is a certain element of feeling like things are happening to you. I don’t feel like a victim, so much as a vessel.
As a vessel for learning advocacy, I’ve sometimes marveled at how I got where I am. Why education? Why young people?
-I care about the health of our air and our streams. Why not conservation?
-I am dismayed at the lack of funding of our mental health system. Why not focus on improving health care?
-I believe in equity and equality for everyone, regardless of gender.
-I believe in access to fresh food for everyone. Why not start my own organic farm?
Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
By giving young people the time and freedom to interact with nature, we can help foster a generation that looks at conservation as such an integral part of life that it won’t need to be defined.
By truly listening to young people and allowing them to express themselves in whatever way they see fit, we can help to alleviate so many anxieties that manifest themselves later as mental health problems. By fostering inclusion, we will welcome the “outcasts”.
By encouraging the innate sense of caring and curiosity that young people have, and by cultivating those critical thinking skills that come with mutual respect and understanding, we may set our sights on a generation not easily fooled by blemish free apples or american cheese product.
For me, education is where it all begins. It really is easier – for everyone involved – to build strong, self assured children. Does that mean that people won’t end up getting bruised and bent along the way? Of course not. That’s life. But let’s do the best we can now so that the repair that we do later on is little more than maintenance.