I have the privilege of teaching a course in inequality and social change at a local university. What strikes me is how conformist today’s students are. Is this related to the extent to which education has become focussed on passing exams rather than thinking critically? Students want to answer the question right. I want them to ask better questions. This upsets me. It upsets me when after teaching a series of lectures on racism one student asked, ‘Do I need to do this for the exam?’ ‘No,’ I replied, ‘You need to do this for life’. I don’t think they understood. So I put a question about racism in the exam. Increasingly my role is to coax original, critical thinking out of people who had been taught that all answers can be googled.
What about you? When is last time you took Angela Davis’ advice that some things shouldn’t be accepted, but changed? Did this sentiment run out in the 70s?
Not a bit of it. I know lots of young activists who don’t only get angry by injustice but get engaged fighting it. One former Britannia Village youth worker, Jonny Adams, came to East London from a rather sleepy and affluent part of Cambridgeshire. He was struck by the amount of street homelessness in the Capital and began to volunteer with a project in Tower Hamlets to address it. Driven by a faith that told him that injustice need not be accepted, he proceeded to set up a similar project in Newham. Read his story in the local Newham Recorder http://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/home/east_ham_charity_boss_to_shelter_homeless_in_churches_1_4260599
This November the charity he founded, ‘NewWay’, begins its 3rd year of provision, harnessing the buildings of 13 Newham churches and 100s of volunteers to offer secure, safe hostel accommodation to referred guests over the 4 coldest months. Jonny retrained as an advocate – leaving behind a prestigious job in Formula 1 – because he could not accept street homelessness. If you have time visit the project online http://www.newwayproject.org/. It might be something you feel passionate about too? There are opportunities to volunteer or donate to this cause on the website. Of course there are many other ways not to ‘cross the road’ and ignore inequality and suffering.
Are you accepting the unacceptable?