Expert Q&A | Craig Kielburger
Q: What is the key to fostering diversity and stopping bullying, discrimination, hate and intolerance in our diverse school communities?
A: The Dalai Lama has said that the greatest challenge of our time is that we're raising a generation of passive bystanders. At the root of accepting difference, celebrating diversity and prosocial action is compassion. We live in a time when schools are increasingly focused on reading, writing, arithmetic, and standardized tests. But we need to focus much more on complementing the three Rs with the three Cs–compassion, courage and community.
There's a lot of discussion focused around anti-bullying, but very few people have looked at what originally creates a bully. Studies show that nurturing prosocial behaviour in kids aged five to nine is so critical in preventing them from being a bully later on.
Educators are some of the most influential people in the world because they shape how a child looks at society.
Q: How do we bully-proof kids and ensure they develop compassion and prosocial behaviours?
A: I believe it comes down to volunteerism, service and the need to relate to others despite differences. It starts with something as simple as kids trick-or-treating for non-perishable food items at Halloween, doing a vow of silence for 24 hours to raise awareness for those who don't have a voice because of bullying or poverty, or having non-aboriginal youth come together to learn about aboriginal communities in Canada and the issues facing their peers.
Educators are some of the most influential people in the world because they shape how a child looks at society, and that shapes the future generation in how they vote, shop, consume and make lifestyle choices. Studies repeatedly show that one of the greatest things teachers can do is to teach youth to help others. Students engaged in service and volunteer actions are more likely to increase their marks, pursue post-secondary education and make positive life choices, and they are less likely to use drugs, according to research.
Q: How does diversity benefit students and society in general?
A: This world is a mosaic. We need each individual and his or her unique skills and talents to come together to complete the puzzle. Diversity is not only about skin colour or language but also the diversity of gifts that we can all offer to make this world a better place.
When we talk about diversity, I think that schools need to redefine what it means to be gifted and to recognize that every student has a gift. Schools need to nurture every child to develop what she or he is naturally good at. We always tell people to start with a simple math equation: Issue + Gift = Better World.
Your issue can be something that sparks your interest–something that you saw as wrong and decided you needed to do something about. The second part of the equation– your gift–is also critical. Everyone has a gift. For some, it's academics; others, it's sport; and for some, their gift is compassion–they have an innate ability to listen to others and offer empathy. Whatever your gift, when it is nurtured and applied to an issue, this equates to a better world.
It helps bully-proof kids when they have high self-esteem and know they are good at something. For instance, when you have students actively involved in sharing their gifts to help their local and global communities, it creates a shift in the entire school community. We've seen it lowering the rates of bullying, creating greater bonds and breaking down cliques to create more inclusive environments.