Revised, August 1, 2001
Something I think young people--and old people, too, and, really, everyone–need to hear repeatedly is the phrase, "the world needs you." And, indeed, we do, in the sense of drawing forward the best–the talent, creativity, political engagement, work, towards helping to build a better world.
I envision every middle school and secondary school hosting a school assembly once a month, with someone from the community invited to speak about how this phrase applies from his or her viewpoint. People in business, farming, science, the humanities, cooking schools, day care centers– all endeavors need active, concerned, imaginative people.
The talks would be a third about the work being done, a third about its philosophy and ideals, and a third about its implications for the greater evolution of humanity and how young people are needed who will carry forward that work.
Other talks might be more general, discussing a wide range of adolescent concerns, but always within the context of a broader viewpoint. Career choice, the place of study, learning boy-girl relations, family relations, etc. Ideally, it would be great if the kids could follow up on the talk by meeting in small groups of not more than six with volunteers, teachers (not their own), teacher's aides, etc. acting as group facilitators.
What is the meaning of life? This question can be broken away from general platitudes about the great questions and brought to bear on more specific questions: Given the inheritance of my family, my culture, my historical era, given my own unique blend of talents, interests, strengths and weaknesses, temperament, the imagery that I prefer, how can I discover where I belong in our multi-cultural society? And what should I do that would help me express my individuality in the most constructive fashion?
These questions can be woven into the value systems and religious beliefs of each student, and act as a mixture of psychology and philosophy. That theme of individuality, how each person needs to work out the more specific details of beliefs so that they are most helpful to him or her, given the aforementioned variables, makes the more general questions relevant.
For responses, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org