Want World Peace? Harness an Untapped Resource: Kids

Filed under: In The News, Media, Opinions, Teen Culture

united nations

Imagine a United Nations made up of today's young people? They'd be tweeting the love. Credit: Osamu Honda, AP

One need only turn on the evening news to get a firsthand look at the power of young people today. Across the globe, they are taking matters into their own hands and attempting to import equity and democracy into their homelands.

As a global advocate for children, I am awed by their bravery, but as an American mom, I am left wondering about what skills I need to insure that my own children have the opportunity to assume the reigns of leadership here in the United States. What can I do to help them become knowledgeable about people who look, live and believe differently than they do? Will my kids possess the ability to reach out across these differences and find ways to work together? And, am I even correct in believing that these are critical components of a complete education?

Today, that question was answered. I had the privilege to attend a joint conference between the United Nations and the students of the United Nations International School (UNIS). This two-day event, held in the actual UN General Assembly Room, reinforced my decision to make sure that my children acquire what I lovingly call "global skills."

With students coming from more than 125 countries, and faculty from some 70, each and every day my children are exposed to the total world they've been born into -- not just to their immediate surroundings. And, the fact that UNIS then challenges them to investigate that bigger world -- to debate and discuss varied opinions -- to take responsibility for their actions and beliefs, speaks right to my desire for a global skill set.

Take today's program. UNIS's UN Conference is an entirely student-run event. The kids do it all -- the ethos is hands-off for the adults -- from planning the event, writing the working paper, doing the publicity, making a video, handling the arrangements for the student visitors from other countries, including arranging for host families to house them. This is truly learning beyond the classroom and giving them, at a very early age, experiences and skills that have day-to-day value in the real world.

And the speakers, they're top notch. In particular, this morning I listened to Clay Shirky expound on the role the Internet is playing in events around the globe, and how it's a tool that's propelling youth to organize and act.

Phenomenal! I would've paid for the privilege of hearing him speak elsewhere, while my children were hearing him as part of their normal education.

What followed was equally exciting. Students debated Net neutrality: should the Internet be regulated? A variety of perspectives were presented, showing off different sets of values. Yet, each side heard the other -- each respected the diversity of opinions -- and all sought to delineate points of commonality as well as points of difference.

What did I walk away with? I walked away charged up by the reminder that we are the grown-ups who are reading the newspapers and watching the news, setting the topics of conversation for our dinner tables, encouraging our American children to take action, and, as such, we can help to create a generation that just might find the solutions to problems that our generation failed to find.

Click here for more from UNICEF.

Caryl Stern is the President of the United States Fund for UNICEF and a member of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations International School.


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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.