Most of you know I’ve been drawn to a global conversation in America and the Middle East. I continue watching the horror both people groups are initiating, and it seems as though nothing is really getting better. The news out of the Middle East continues to highlight the breakdown of social and government status quo, and in America, at least concerning teenagers, the conversation is really about College, Athletics, and Future Employment.
I started to engage with students from both sides of the issues to see if we could begin a conversation that would shape the future, instead of leaning on the old methodology that’s really producing the same old results. And I guess I’m curious, How many people out there are even thinking about a larger vision of Global Current Events? I think there are a few ways we can approach this idea, but I might be totally crazy. (and feel free to say that if you think it)
It seems to me that the days of isolation in the world are pretty much over. Our banking systems, commodity systems, even our logistical trade systems are so interwoven there’s hardly a place for someone to just hide from Globalization. When I read Thomas Friedman’s book The World Is Flat a lightbulb went off in my head and I started to unravel all the ways we are reliant on each other. From the food we eat to the cars we drive to the businesses we build, there’s really ‘no going it alone.’ I realize this is a MASSIVE idea, and it’s going to take a while to process, but even the Pumpkin Spice Latte you drink from Starbucks has some hidden reliance on other countries, other cultures, and certainly other faiths. It seems to me that if we’re ready to propel the world into a successful arena, we must begin helping our students understand some of the complexities that rule our every day living.
In a conversation recently with a parent in Nashville Tennessee, I heard, “ANDY, I’m just trying to make it through today. I don’t have time to focus that far out to help my kid see the world. And what about all the danger? My job is to protect my kids until he’s ready to go out in the world on his own. I’m not sure many other parents are thinking about ‘where my coffee comes from.’ They’re just enjoying the few moments in the day when they can enjoy it.”
That got me thinking.
Maybe there’s a way to help students see the value of developing friendships in the most unlikely places. And at KIVU we’ve started doing just that!
Another hinderance to American Teenagers looking beyond their own horizon is the full-time job of College Admissions. Today, getting into the University of your Choice is like a full-time job. One of our dear friends in New York told me, “I can’t believe how much time it takes to fill out the applications, visit the schools, talk to the admission counselors, and wade through the early admission versus general admission process. These kids don’t have a chance.” And he’s right.
They’re not building any more Harvards today and the competition is out of this world. More and more international kids are competing for the seats in the tier one schools, and unless you’ve got the grades, test scores, and all the other extra curricular events that stand out, you’re going to have a hard time. And that’s why we created the KIVU Gap Year.
With the idea that we can begin exposing students to the cultural and economic parts of the world, maybe we can set them up for the leadership roles of the future. We envision students entering into the University with friends from Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East, so when it’s their turn to lead, they’re already experts in understanding how to navigate the issues the rest of the world deals with. To date: 100% of our KIVU Gap Year kids have gone on to the University with a quantifiable cultural intelligence that surpasses students of their same age and grade level. This may be a way to address the need for unique University application, AND help set the stage for different global results 20 years into the future.
No matter where you sit on the faith spectrum, there’s a need to explore. I’ve found many of the youth groups I work with are working inside this ‘echo chamber’ of sorts without any dynamic tension. The tension a student needs is one that allows him or her to explore they ‘why’s’ of their own faith without being forced to adopt someone else’s view. The only way they will own their faith into adulthood is if they truly make it their own.
So to introduce Christian students to Muslim students and Jewish Students makes for a higher faith intelligence as they deal with a global culture filled with plurality. So many of our kids at our summer program leave with a different way of looking at another person that believes something totally different from they do. They stop making the narrative about Us. Vs. Them, and they begin searching for places they can form friendships.
Again, if this idea can take root, and as youth leaders we can develop honest, caring, loving conversations in the difference of faith, MAYBE we’ll stop seeing so much conflict in the world. I know there will be people who think ‘What a Pipe Dream!’ How in the world can conversations curb the human condition?
And to that point, I believe that Jesus held the answer for the world to spin in a different direction than it is currently. If we Love God, Love our Neighbors as ourselves, and think of others more highly than ourselves, we CAN change the news cycle. So if there are people who think it’s crazy (and sometimes I think I’m crazy) I can only offer another question…
What else are we doing to help the situation?
Today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders. WE MUST begin helping students live in a world that’s different from it was even a decade ago.
Interested in your thoughts.
Be as candid as you’d like.
Part of this post is just a fishing exercise for my own personal sanity. Is this idea viable?