Throughts From Geneva: Asking the World to Care

Swiss bank building in downtown GenevaI’m currently sitting in the lobby of the John Knox Center having thoroughly enjoyed my continental breakfast of strawberry toast and juice. The discussion I had last night with my colleagues is still swirling around inside my head, and made it difficult to sleep. I tried to escape the questions by searching through my camera roll of pictures I’ve taken since arriving in Geneva last Saturday, and while the image of this beautifully old Swiss bank building doesn’t help frame my thoughts any, it’s pretty darn cool…so I wanted to share.

Going back to the problem at hand, the question that kept me up last night is one with a very direct simplicity, but one that very quickly begs many more questions. This last year my graduate project partner and I have successfully designed, implemented, and reflected on a project that we hoped would lead K-12 students to not just a greater understanding of global issues, but more importantly, to a sense of greater duty or obligation to rectifying the inequities in our world; fighting poverty, preserving the environment, promoting gender equality, etc. The U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals were our template for what an active global citizen should be striving for; the goals that not only they should be informing themselves and others about, but also working towards with both offline and online action.

Over the next three weeks we’ve been asked to “dream big”. To determine, based on our findings, how we could take our pilot projects and transform them into full-blown proposals for serious funding. The question at hand then, is not just “what the world cares about” but also “why”, and “how” should that empathy be manifested.

I’m getting a bit long winded here, but the question that is forming is how do we effectively leap from a successful model of service-learning, and peer education (which my partner and I feel we have achieved through our project), and make the jump to youth leadership development, and full blown civic activism? Questions are a great place to start, and an excellent way to collect data, provided that you ask the right questions in the right way. But we’re “dreaming big” about the steps after those questions. We’re trying to connect those questions to youth development programs, to large U.N. databases for information acquisition, and ultimately, trying to push people towards a reality in which they don’t just ask questions about how to care about humanity, but what they can do to ensure humanity is bettered by their actions.

Technology is not the answer…it’s merely a tool. It can be a wonderfully effective tool, but like so much else in teaching, it is limited by the questions we ask, and how we ask them. It is limited by the examples we set, and the behaviors we model as educators. We have to find a way to connect individuals to individuals, without the technology clouding, masking, or watering down the feelings, emotions, and experiences that connection brings between two human beings.

We need to connect facts to daily realities, personal experiences, and elicit emotion before we can seriously ask the world to care.


  1. What you are asking of today’s youth seems like it should be simple. Unfortunately there is a great sense of entitlement. Not just youth, but people in general feel they they should have an education and that it is for personal advancement. It would be wonderful if we could make people understand that the world would be a better place if everyone contributed.

  2. What you are asking is not all that complicated to understand, however, in reality very difficult to implement. While we become comfortable in our homes, with modern conveniences (including technology) we often forget that there are still many in the world who do not have these conveniences. Although they may be striving to advance their lives through education, they do not have technology on their side yet, and therefore we cannot communicate with them.

    1. Or the more difficult reality to convey is that there are many populations which do possess a fair amount of technology (the explosion of mobile phones in South Africa), but still live in conditions that would be considered dirty, dangerous, and detrimental.

      Communicating with a lot of them is easier than we might think, but communicating the vast differences between their daily existence and our own is very difficult.

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