Canadian High School Students Learn ‘ABCD’ Principles

Did you know that British Columbia’s new kindergarten – grade 12 curriculum includes a course on Social Justice?  Oh how I wish we had courses like that when I was a teenager. In fact, research shows that this next generation has a resounding focus on empathy, especially on marginalized people groups.

Each course in this new curriculum has “Big Ideas” that the course is centred around.  In the case of Social Justice, this includes:

  1. Social justice issues are interconnected
  2. Individual worldviews shape and inform our understanding of social justice issues.
  3. The causes of social injustice are complex and have lasting impacts on society.
  4. Social justice initiatives can transform individuals and systems.

I used “Big Idea” #4 in our unit on globalization and went through principles of Asset-Based Community-Driven (ABCD) development.  We talked about how communities are invited into a process of realizing their skills, resources and vision to reach their own development objectives.  We walked through basic principles of ABCD, and ended off with case studies highlighting stories of transformation. Beautiful conversation on topics such as dependency, aid and culture brewed out of these lessons that I am certain will stay with these students as they go on into the world.  

For their final exam, students were asked to pick a Social Justice initiative they felt best demonstrated how individuals and systems can be transformed from any of the units we discussed as a class over the course of this semester.  Here are a few excerpts from their reflections-

“Not every country is perfect and therefore requires the people to 1. find the qualities of their community 2. brainstorm ideas that utilize those qualities to benefit a certain problem, 3. Carrying out that action plan to the end, and 4. evaluating what worked and what needs to change with the plan in order for the problem to be solved.  These community-based movements can inspire individuals to contribute to the cause and convince their governments that the issue is worth fighting for.”

“In developing countries, sometimes community is all they have, with lack of government involvement, or corruption, coming all together is all they have left as a choice.  We can all benefit from communities coming to work together, we are all in this together and should be demonstrating support and initiatives within our community.”

“The best way to transform a community for the better is to help support, and listen to members of that community.  Whether the community is big or small, they can make a big difference.”

“(ABCD) involves evaluating the current situation and finding qualities of the community that can be used in developing change within the community.  These influence factors such as sense of community, security, health, economy or even government. As soon as these communities confront their own issues, they begin to take pride in their home.  They are working towards breaking a system of reliance and dependency on other people and taking action for themselves.”

Sure these high school students’ reflections may seem idealistic and eutopic; but, isn’t that what fuels innovation for change? Isn’t that how we shift the power?  Personally, I can’t wait to see what is possible when people work together, giving what assets they have to offer to make transformation across the globe.