Too often, educators focus on empowerment of our youth, without little consideration for the development of character and the need for thoughtful discourse on right and wrong. Our postmodern society says there is no truth. Don't believe it. It's true that people are dying of hunger. It's true that peace is fragile. It's true that human trafficking is evil. It's true that no child should be abused. It's true that every human life is valuable. We talk of global citizenship, but that phrase is laden with underlying values such as peace, stewardship, service, hope, and responsibility. Are we being explicit enough about these values as we empower our students in ways no generation has been empowered before?
Last week I read an article on sexting, the practice of too many teenagers who send nude or nearly-nude photos of themselves to other teens via Instagram. The police involved were shocked at how pervasive the practice was. The students were shocked that the police were shocked at their "normal" behavior. We have given power with no guidance. We have allowed our children to believe that their bodies are objects to be shared with no consequence to their self-esteem, purpose, or future relationships. We owe them a perspective strikingly different to the one they get on the internet and advertising where sex sells everything. It's a real-life scenario of empowerment with not enough thought to guidance and protection, and kids are getting hurt.
I believe it is time for educators to acknowledge that our education systems need to reunite knowledge and skill development with a code of conduct built on values that will sustain and build healthy relationships between people. One way to do this is to ensure every student has meaningful relationships with caring and conscientious adults. Another is to give every student deeply satisfying experiences with service learning. Who is with me?