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Malala: Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons

October 20, 2014

Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. Malala

127_what_it_takesIn an LA Times article by Ellen Olivier on 10/19/14 titled “The Power To Help Others,”

Jane Fonda says, “I grew up believing that service is the rent you pay for life.”

Like Jane Fonda who learned from her father Henry, I am grateful to my mother and my father who taught me the importance of community service and civic engagement which contributes to my commitment to teaching and using service learning in my college classrooms which in turn is transformative for my students and the world we live in.

Today my students will begin drafting a proposal for what they want to do their research project on, a research project that is due during the last week of classes in mid-December. In my classes, they don’t just do a typical research paper where the student researches some question or controversial issue. Personally, if I read another paper about abortion or gun control, I’m going to puke.

But it’s more than that. Over the years I’ve found that students who write about problems only get overwhelmed and depressed. And those who find solutions that require action by the government or others “out there” are disempowered and depressed.

By taking on a PROBLEM SOLUTION ACTION research project, by choosing a problem that they can solve or contribute to the solution of through their actions, my students become empowered and ALIVE. By following Paulo Freire’s ideas of problem posing education where they name a problem, reflect on a solution, and take action, students and their worlds are transformed for the better:

Whereas the banking method directly or indirectly reinforces men’s fatalistic perception of their situation, the problem-posing method presents this very situation to them as a problem. As the situation becomes the object of their cognition, the naive or magical perception which produced their fatalism gives way to perception which is able to perceive itself even as it perceives reality, and can thus be critically objective about that reality.

Read chapter two of Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

Often during their research project,  students discover or refine their passions, their life work, and more: to paraphrase Albert Einstein, they find a cause to which they desire to devote themselves with their whole strength and soul, to become a master.

I will never forget the advice of conservationist Ray Dasmann, one of my professors at UC Santa Cruz, and which for whom I served as a teaching assistant for an upper division class in Environmental Studies.  He said we can’t solve all of the world’s problems at once; we have to choose the one that is most important to us at the time.

On the first day of class, we discuss a line from poem “Summer Day” where poet Mary Oliver asks us what we plan to do with our one wild and precious life. 

This year’s election is asking us #TURNOUTFORWHAT.

What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life? What are you turning out for? What problem are you solving through your action?

PS IF you’re not registered to vote yet, and you live in California, today’s the last day! DO it!






One Comment leave one →
  1. January 11, 2015 11:38 pm

    Reblogged this on whisper down the write alley and commented:

    It’s time to start a new semester of college! “Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons.” Malala

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