Following up on the perspective Sarah offered, Josh talks about how his work with children and young adults has allowed him to see the damaging impact media can have. His experiences reflect the part of the document that explains, “around the world, adolescent girls and boys are raised in an environment that is strongly influenced by media systems that propagate and exploit misconceptions about human nature.”
We started a recycling project in an apartment complex where we are holding spiritual education
classes for the children and their families that live there. We had built this wagon to be carted around
to each house so that the kids could drop off their recyclable materials. It was a fantastic idea, one of
our best. But in the conceptual phase of the design, my co-teacher and I neglected to work in a steering
mechanism. So, instead of pulling it, we have to load it up into his truck and drive it around. And so now,
everyone piling up into the truck has become the unofficial favorite part of the entire day.
There is one little 7 year old girl who, in the absence of a father, has really clung to me. She jumped into
the passenger seat, buckled up, flashed me a smile and then turned on the radio. “Promiscuous Girl”
came pumping out and my little friend started dancing and yelled with glee “Oh this is my favorite song!
I haven’t heard it forever!” I quickly changed it to National Public Radio, and looked down at her. I’m not
a father yet, but seeing this tender being that I love so deeply form such an attachment to a song, that
I’m sure she didn’t understand, panged my heart. And in that split section, I saw the progression and
development of something quite disturbing.
That day’s class was particularly hard, as two other children, best friends, screamed at each other in
anger, ultimately erupting in “F*** you’s” and “Your mom is a b****. They ran to opposite sides of the
yard where our classes are held, and burst into tears. It’s hard to see this actions form pieces of their
identity. These children are so susceptible, particularly when their home life is unstable, and as they are
being acted upon by such potent forces prominent today.
I also work with university students, collaborating with others to develop educational support services
that enhance a student’s sense of integrity and ownership of their learning experience. Most of the
time, these programs are designed around the methodology of peer education because it has been
learned, and this is no secret, that building relationships of support with those that are experiencing the
same as you is extremely powerful.
Though somewhat ironic, I’ve found that in even though we are attempting to create an environment
where students help students, the end goal is quite individualistic. We help others so they may be
more competitive. We educate others even to question their reality, to socially deconstruct their
environment, and then leave them to grope and search for something meaningful as they attempt to
be “successful”. The lamentable part about this is that once again, they are all alone; whereas before
maybe they had some (often fragmented) definition of self.
I see first-year students enter, and they are smart and quick. Consistently, though, they have not been
challenged. Many, too many, sit passive and tacit. They are unprepared to interact in what is now being
popularly called a “learning community”. Often they lack the inclination to participate or understand
how innovation actually occurs. We have to ask what has contributed to and patterned this isolationist
character, devoid of volition that extends beyond self-centeredness.
Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, warned against what he labeled the prostitution of the arts. Taking part in the education, working with children and then young adults, this concept becomes quite vivid and real; you see the progression. When the “arts” (I include media and technology) fall into this form, all participants
become debased and ultimately self-serving. And this notion, germinating in the mind of a 7 year old,
slowly but surely becomes patterned action and we come across a 19 year old incapable of asking for
assistance, or authentically offering it.