Teaching Speak Truth To Power: A Guest Post By Pam O'Brien
One of the things that bind us as human beings and distinguishes us from animals is the drive we, as human beings, have in the search for the meaning of our existence, and the ability and choice to speak the truth or not. Over time, this journey for meaning involves the realization that without the respect for universal human rights and dignity of all mankind, and the acknowledgement of others’ perspectives, there is no meaning, there is only existence.
The defenders in the STTP curriculum have the traits that exemplify the meaning of our existence as human beings. The unique methodologies of the STTP curriculum apply the building blocks of emotional intelligence within the framework of the cognitive assimilation of various perspectives that are scaffolded through levels of thinking and acting on various hands-on activities and community service through the pathway of empathy and insight, therefore empowering students with the necessary tools to follow in the footsteps of the courageous that speak the truth for others, and to seek to agitate the hidden sources of oppression.
The meaning of our existence, individually and as part of a global community, comes with a keen awareness, genuine respect, and acceptance of others—our differences although apparent, are usurped by our similarities of simply being human, and by our need for the validation of the truth, even when standing alone. This reality is clearly exemplified within the pages of these universal lessons.
One of the things we all want is to be heard, as in the lyrics from the album “Tommy” by the Who: “Tommy, can you hear me? See me, touch me, heal me.” By only seeing the existence of the self, and not seeing, hearing, or helping others, time and time again we have seen throughout history and today, inevitably, conflict arises.
Throughout the reflective inquiry of the STTP curriculum, students are exposed to living, modern examples of what they have read on the pages in their history books and literature throughout time. Through these inspirational stories, they can observe and relate to their own lives (and their existing curriculum) the tormented and the tormentor as observed and exemplified by a character, country, person, or group trying to impose their dominion over others—or in the hallways of their school in a bullying encounter—when they are faced with the choice to speak out or not.
Unremittingly lost, without the stories of these individuals in STTP, is the realization that the respect and integration of all perspectives facilitates a groundbreaking reality of our combined meaning for existence as human beings. This is one of the important ideas that the STTP curriculum brings to students.
The life-changing struggles experienced by the defenders in Speak Truth to Power illustrate the reoccurring lessons, as a race, we have not yet fully learned. The innate “savageness of man” observed by Bobby Kennedy shows us this time and time again on the nightly news. Our mistakes of the past, documented in some history books and literature, have always been available to become the wisdom to help change our future. It has not been enough.
However, the courage, perseverance, and compassion for others shown by the STTP defenders connect to young people today to motivate and inspire? the inner potential of that feeling we all possess to do what is just and right, to overcome the savageness of man, and develop meaning to our existence by speaking the truth and acting on this truth through their own community service and activism—led by the example of the STTP defenders.
The development of empathy and insight through the reflective inquiry of emotional intelligence create a sense of civic responsibility and empowerment within students, and builds an essential part of their identity as a citizen of the world. Without this crucial piece of self-involvement, indifference prevails. We need to teach students to see beyond their own reflections to see the world as shown through the stories in STTP.
Throughout the world, there are teachers and students reading, writing, listening, and speaking in classrooms everyday. The concepts and themes enmeshed within all literature and historical events transcend any specific culture, region, religion, or ethnicity. Courage, perseverance, dignity, honor, and compassion or the lack thereof exemplified either within the pages of text or the experiences of past historical events are universal.
But within the classrooms lie not only individuals absorbing information, but also individuals building an identity. They are building an identity not only as a member of their community, but also as global member of the world. It is important for students to realize that their actions and voice make a difference. The STTP curriculum highlighting the human rights defenders of today—whether alone or integrated within concepts and themes of existing curriculum—bring self-reflective practice through inter-textual connections (text to text, text to world, text to self) that become the foundational pathways towards meaning and self-actualization.
Through a combination of didactic and dialectic methods, the STTP curriculum facilitates a sense of realism for students to know their place in the world through the pursuit of the truth and mutual contemplation of ideas, therefore enabling them to have realistic perceptions of others and the world around them, and empowering them with the knowledge of their own ability to solve problems outside of themselves as modeled by the defenders in STTP.
This takes learning to another level by scaffolding the original connection to the fictitious characters in literature or individuals in their history books to the real stories of these defenders today.
The STTP curriculum illustrates to students the monumental changes that one person can achieve. The STTP curriculum connects students to their place in the world, and asks them to make the choice to take responsibility for their local community thereby connecting them to their global identity, simultaneously developing a meaningful existence of a strong, compassionate individual necessary for the future of our world.