Thursday, April 7, 2011

Encourage the exuberance of youth don’t poison it...

I know that I keep quoting "Professor Jonathan Jansen" but it is because he is so relevent to our situation today. He is not a simple politician with ulterior motives nor is he biast to any creed religion or political view he is simply an objective teacher who calls it as he sees it

Encourage uncommon valour ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Instead of embittering the youth with memories, older folk should support their idealism

Jonathan Jansen: Immediately after the first reports of the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan came through, students started to trickle to our offices at the university with a simple request: what can we do to help? Some wanted to send money, blankets and food.

So we started by setting up a Skype discussion with our Ambassador to Japan, Gert Grobler, in his offices in Tokyo. I watched the students around the room: their determination to lend support to ordinary people in Japan came in the form of firm promises to the ambassador. An alumnus of the university, Grobler was clearly moved by the sentiment of the University of Free State student leaders from Bloemfontein.

Whenever I witness the idealism of young people, I remember why I chose to become a teacher. It is not simply what we might offer young people in the form of knowledge and skills; it is what they teach us in return about humanity, healing and hope.

I admit to sometimes getting frustrated with older people. We carry bitter memories into old age, burying the idealism of youth under many layers of scar tissue of hurt and disappointment.

But young minds and hearts do not begin with these negative memories and bitter experiences. That is why young people, as I witness every single day, are much more ready to make friends across the barriers of race, ethnicity, language, culture or national origins. They approach others, even as far away as Japan, with trust and accept other humans at face value.

Which raises the question: how do young people, starting with such idealism, become bitter and negative like us? Why do younger children, who make friends so easily across the colour line as children, learn to become suspicious of black or white as they reach the teenage years? It's quite simple, actually.

We are to blame as parents, as teachers, as religious leaders, as sports coaches. We embitter them; we talk away their idealism; we teach them our suspicions, our (over) sensitivities and our stereotypes. We discourage openness towards other people, especially those whom we think are different from us. Slowly, slowly, they become like us, with all the emotional and political baggage of the older people.

Nothing destroys the idealism and spontaneity of young people more than to hear a parent or teacher or coach say "no" when they dare to make friends from other cultures, or to serve in areas which are dangerous, or to take a public stand over injustice.

Of course, our natural instincts as parents are to protect and defend our children against uncertainty. But how will children learn uncommon valour if they do not learn courage and compassion in the challenges of daily life? Will they grow up to be spineless and selfish like our political leaders? Will they inherit the tribal behaviour of South Africans caring only for people who look like them and talk their language?

More than ever before, South Africa needs a new generation of leaders who look beyond ethnic borders or geographical boundaries or inherited memories - and break through these constraints to build a more compassionate country and a less dangerous world. This is how countries find their Nelson Mandelas, their Bram Fischers, their Mother Teresas, and their Barack Obamas.

Rather than dampen the idealism of youth, we need to nurture it. As teachers, parents and community leaders, we need to create opportunities for youth to stand up against wrong and to serve where there is need. When they come with ideas, and they will, we should encourage and direct such idealism in ways that make a difference.

Every school and university in the country should have an office for student ideas that encourages bold proposals and out-of-the-box thinking.

Uncommon valour means doing things differently. It means being prepared to take stinging criticism. It often means risking alienation from your in-group. It could even mean losing your life.

This is what we should teach our young people, for this is what it will take to transform a country fast sliding downwards because of a crisis of moral leadership among older people.

Our future lies with this post-apartheid generation of younger people. Our first duty is not to embitter them with our memories. Our second task is not to dampen their idealism.

We should rather encourage uncommon valour in the next generation of South African leaders.

Original source