Monthly Archives: December 2011

An Unlikely Hero Rescues Slaves in Nepal

When I discovered this  interview of the 15 year old abolitionist Zach Hunter by Robin Roberts on  Good Morning America, I was STAGGERED by Zach’s claim  that there are 27 million slaves in the world today.  In order to come to grips with this astounding  figure, I immersed myself in learning more by continuing to watch the extensive ABC video archive reports about modern slavery.  Although my research was spurred by a 17 year old student’s question in the American literature class I was teaching (see my previous post); this was something I needed to do for myself.  I was diving deep. Deeper than I could take my students. I was trying to assimilate the incomprehensible.  So, I watched the horrifying news reports of children being sold, abused, and exploited.

According to my rather conservative, prudish standards, most of the videos I watched were not suitable for use in school–even for 11th graders.  To deal with my student’s question, I finally decided to show my class the GMA interview with Zach Hunter; but I considered showing another video as well.  It tells the story of an 82 year old American woman who has found a fairly simple way to rescue child slaves in Nepal. In fact, she is eradicating slavery in entire villages.  Although time constraints prevented me from showing this news report to my class, I find that it continues to inspire me in my personal attempt to make a difference.

Please ignore the irritating commercial at the beginning, and watch the video on the following link. The report is only 3 minutes and 11 seconds, and it  is well worth your time. It will also help you understand why the picture of a goat heads this post.

http://cdnapi.kaltura.com/index.php/kwidget/wid/0_ag64o5yp/uiconf_id/6501241

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Filed under Abolition, Education, Public Schools

Teens Stand Up as Abolitionists

Two years ago, when I was teaching 11th grade English, my students were discussing The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano , a slave narrative. The excerpt we were discussing described the terrible voyage of Equiano to America on a slave ship as a young African captive in the 18th century.  One of my 17 year old  students blurted out a comment, saying,

“I don’t understand slavery. I mean, how could people be so cruel to one another?”

I spontaneously replied,

“Oh, there has always been slavery. It has existed throughout history. It existed in ancient times. We read about it in the Bible during the time of Moses. We read about it in the New Testament in the writings of St. Paul, and we even see it in the world today. It has never been totally abolished.”

I was rather startled at my own response, and I think I startled my students as well. So that evening, when I got home, I began to investigate modern  slavery more thoroughly. I discovered a wealth of information.  There are numerous books on the topic. http://www.amazon.com/Crime-Monstrous-Face—Face-Modern-Day/dp/0743290089/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1325079106&sr=1-2 But for a quick understanding of the reality, I turned to  ABC News online. They  had recently spent a week reporting on How to  Buy a Child and there were numerous videos posted showing how disturbingly easy it was for one of their reporters to purchase a Haitian girl for less than the cost of a television! (Unfortunately these no longer seem to be available at their website.)

The real prize, however was this video of Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts interviewing a 15 year old teenager named Zach Hunter who has taken up the cause of modern slavery.

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/fifteen-year-tackles-slavery-2953597

Zach said that according to Amnesty International, there are more than 27 million slaves in the world today—more than at any other time in human history! (I have since heard other figures ranging from 27-32 million.) I  modified my lesson plans for the next day and decided to show my students this interview with Zach instead.  A few days later, I was delighted to learn that our school not only had an Amnesty International Club, but we also  had a chapter of Zach’s non-profit organization, Loose Change to Loosen Chains. I encouraged my students to check out these extra-curricular activities, and several chose to do so.

Later in the year, I was able to incorporate this real life issue into our curriculum as we studied the writings of another abolitionist, Henry David Thoreau. For that unit, I asked my students to keep a journal (as Thoreau did); and one of the options they had for a journal reflection was to attend a meeting of the Loose Change to Loosen Chains chapter at our school and write about what they learned from attending.

As a teacher of American literature, I find that students often question the relevance of the literature they are required to study.  Sadly, the topic  of slavery is not an irrelevant issue in today’s English classroom.   But if teachers and students begin to recognize that slavery is a contemporary reality, perhaps it WILL become a blessedly irrelevant topic.  I long for that day.

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Filed under Abolition, Education, United Methodist

Cross-pollination

I am finally blogging! I have been an avid tweeter for about two years now, and I find Twitter to be an amazing tool for professional development, amusement, staying current with the latest news, and even a bit of social networking. I tweet primarily with Christians (mostly United Methodists, but a few strays too), educators, and techies; and I try to tweet or retweet information that I hope will be interesting across these disciplines.  I am sure that my religious tweets are sometimes a bit distracting to the educators, and my education focused tweets seem irrelevant to my Christian tweeps; but I hope they are sometimes useful as well. Despite the separation of church and state, I think we should be learning from one another and listening to words of wisdom from each other. Cross-pollination may lead to the creation of new ideas.

Twitter has, and will continue to be a great tool for me. But I have repeatedly found that there are occasions when 140 characters are inadequate to express my views.  So I am taking up blogging to fill that gap.  There are some topics that I am very passionate about, such as the United Methodist Council of Bishop’s Call To Action, my petition to the 2012 General Conference entitled “A More Equitable Salary”, education reform, on-line learning, the seeming taboo of the Bible in public schools, the elimination of extreme poverty, literacy and reading, racism, sexism, and the modern abolition movement. I would like to use this blog to speak in more depth on these topics. But in addition to just speaking, or writing about my own view, I hope that this blog will become a forum for discussion. So I invite you to comment, and join the conversation as well.

I look forward to this new adventure, and I welcome you to this journey.

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Filed under Blogging