Mrs. C is a fifth-grade teacher at Awesome Elementary School in Charlotte and she’s bringing a great, African philosophy into the classroom to help her kids find a more harmonious path through life.
Just for the record, there is no Awesome Elementary School. I’m using a nom d’frenchwordforschool. Also? Mrs. C does have more letters to her last name, but we’ll keep it that way because I’m all about not using actual names here. Just ask my kids, Sarcasmo, Zippy the College Boy and Hyper Lad. Or my wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Kept In The Dark.
The philosophy, as I talked about yesterday, is Ubuntu. Which, according to Mrs. C, translates loosely into “I am what I am because of who we all are.” I love this philosophy because it says, basically, that no one can succeed if he or she doesn’t bring the rest of society with them to that success. We stand on the shoulders of giants, but we need to stand also in the company of giants.
Ubuntu is all about treating others with respect, with helping others who don’t have your knowledge or skills, receiving help from others who have different knowledge or skills than do you, and working for the good of the community as well as your own good.
“At the beginning of the year, I had my students read am article about Ubutnu,” Mrs. C told me. “It was a story about an experiment in South Africa and an anthropologist who was studying Ubuntu. To test it, he put a giant bag of candy under a tree and told a group of kids that the person who reaches the bag first can have all of the candy.
“The kids ran towards the candy, so excited, and, once they got to the tree, they started dividing it equally. My students were blown away, but really understood that Ubuntu is a way you live, a way to share, a way to care about others, a way to live in balance.”
If you’ve stuck around here long enough to have read at least one or two entries, you’ll understand I’m not some hippy-dippy treehugger. I’m not about to go raging on about how values from different societies, more traditional societies, are always better than our own because they’re closer to nature. That’s bunk. Culture is culture.
That said, however, you’ve got to love this sort of thing. If Ubuntu philosophy can get a group of kids to share candy equally without any kind of force, to have them do it spontaneously. . . There’s something pretty darn special about it. That was Africa, though. How would it work here in America?
That’s something I’d really like to know. Good thing, then, that I asked Mrs. C about it. I asked her how Ubuntu was going in her classroom, in which it is an integral part of the culture there.
“Does it work? Well, the kids have definitely internalized it,” she said. “They will say things to each other like ‘That’s not showing Ubuntu’ or ‘I’m putting this on my Ubuntu tracker.’ (They track the ways they show Ubuntu every day.) That being said, my students still do not treat each other the way the philosophy dictates. Not all the time. Sometimes they get frustrated, use words that are not so nice, or are nasty towards each other. Like I said, its a process.”
Still, I think we can agree that it’s a process that needs to continue. In a world where kids have to be worried about being bullied, and where we as a society have to worry about bullies deciding enough is enough and going back to school with a weapon and a bad attitude. . . Isn’t it about time we decided to try and nurture a little caring and community spirit?
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