How We Can Reweave Community: Living With Ubuntu
Better World Ed exists to help you(th) love learning about self, others, and our world. To help us all learn to love self, others, and our world. To untangle the knots within and between us. To reweave the fabric of our local and global communities.
This post is about an aspect of this important mission: living with ubuntu. Click the “article” tab to dive in.
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How We Can Reweave Community: Living With Ubuntu
The concept of “helping others” — of wanting to make an impact in the lives of others. The deep concept and intention is important, though I’m concerned we often get it twisted and tangled a bit. We cannot let the deep power of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) get twisted and tangled, too.
These people have, these people don’t. These people are, these people aren’t. Those people have less, so I should be grateful for what I have. Those people have more, so I should strive to be like them. These people are from this other place, so they must need help. I want to help.
Many of us have been taught to frame much of our lives as an “us and them” thing. A “more and less” thing. This is especially dangerous because the conversation is so often about material resources, and also so often becomes rather divisive, dehumanizing, and objectifying. Deeply limiting and wildly inaccurate.
It becomes easy to slip into seeing humans as numbers or objects. As people who do and don’t need “saving” or “helping”.
It becomes easy to slip into seeing the impact of SEL as how much “more” one is able to acquire in life. More money. More job. More status.
It becomes easy to let this story of “more = better” become the way we begin to think of the purpose of education. The way we think of Social Emotional Learning (SEL).
If we use SEL as a tool to help young people get more money, get “better jobs”, and “move up the ladder”, we may find decades later that not much real change happened at any kind of systemic level.
If SEL is thought of as a tool to increase earning potential or employability, we are missing the deeper purpose and meaning that comes from Social Emotional Learning.
The real power of meaningful, inclusive, global SEL is in helping you(th) transform what “employable” even means.
To transform how we employ, what we employ people to do, what employers do with resources and profits, and why we employ who we employ. To transform the purpose of our systems, moving from a focus on individual success while exploiting people and our environment to a focus on collective wellbeing and thriving.
If we truly want to create a better world together, SEL cannot primarily — even secondarily — be thought of as a tool for enabling success in the way our world currently sees success.
The purpose and potential of SEL is to help us understand one another to purely understand.
To listen to one another to deeply listen. Not to fix. Not to respond.
To empathize with one another to truly empathize.
To be curious about each other because we really are curious.
To teach how to wonder, not what to think.
To strive to be compassionate because we feel the joy and love that brings us all.
To recognize our bias and suspend our judgment because we see the way that positively impacts our minds, hearts, and collective wellbeing.
SEL is a lifelong practice that can make all of our lives better at the individual and collective level. No more, no less.
If we try to prescribe a purpose or a “goal” for the learning that happens, we may miss the point.
If we strive to be curious to sound like we care, we miss the point.
If we strive to listen to try and “fix” someone’s situation, we miss the point.
If we strive to empathize so we can sell a product, we miss the point.
If we strive to recognize bias or suspend our judgment so we don’t sound or act racist, we miss the point.
If we strive to teach SEL with math or literacy to simply check off a box, we miss the point.
It’s more dangerous than simply missing the point — we close our eyes, rather than opening our minds and hearts.
Both the practices and the outcomes of really powerful Social Emotional Learning are rather simple: more aware, curious, compassionate, empathetic people deeply eager and committed to create a peaceful, equitable, just world together.
To change what is to enable what can be.
To recognize inequities and privilege and to reimagine our lives and our systems to make things more equitable and just alongside one another.
A generation of humans growing up like this will be able to reimagine the way our societies function in ways we simply cannot comprehend yet.
So much transformation is possible if we raise a society of young people with open hearts and open minds.
We cannot fall into the trap of letting SEL be just another line item on a budget. Just another vertical in a school day. Just another period to add into a student’s schedule a couple times a week. Just another cute thing to try to fit in to our academic lessons.
SEL must be a valued practice early in life, every day, and everywhere.
We cannot fall into the trap of quantifying SEL outcomes by measuring how much more students earn in our current system, or how much more employable one becomes.
These things do matter, especially in a system with so much inequity and injustice. Though these cannot be the main reasons we bring SEL into our lives, if we seek to truly reimagine our world to be more peaceful, equitable, and just.
We cannot fall into the trap of trying to quantify the impacts of inclusive, global SEL with the measures given by a system so obsessed with quantifying everything and anything that suggests one “has more, relative to others”.
It is a risky path for us to go down, and it becomes extra risky if we as a society start relating these numbers to our perception of one’s happiness and fulfillment — counting how many people have X amount of Y — rather than remembering that we are all living, breathing, complex, interconnected beings who have perspectives and feelings. Who have unique ideas of purpose and meaning that we can be curious about rather than judge.
The reason Better World Ed exists, possibly above all the many other interwoven reasons, is to help us unravel all of this confusion and come back together as humans through curiosity before judgment. To reweave.
To see that we are all SO deeply interconnected, and all of this us and them stuff is really rather misleading to our youth. All of this “more” and “less” stuff is rather misleading to our youth, too.
This is not to say there isn’t injustice and inequity in our world. There absolutely is.
It’s to say that it’s shocking that this kind of injustice and inequity can even exist at all when we’re so deeply interconnected with the capacities for empathy, curiosity, understanding, and compassion.
As a species, it means we aren’t consistently practicing and prioritizing empathy, curiosity, and deep understanding early in life, every day, and everywhere.
This could very well be the root of all of the challenges we face in our world.
The point of realizing this deep interconnection — and our potential to live with ubuntu — is for us to remember the change we seek is not about saving one another or helping one another with our spare cash or a few hours. It’s not about making more money or achieving more power as individuals.
We can innovate to re-distribute all of our food and all of our funds, but how long will this last and what peace will it bring if we still hold on to bias, judgment, prejudice, or hate deep in our hearts and minds?
These are short-lived actions and outcomes that live at the surface, and what we badly need to work on together is the whole iceberg.
The deep purpose of the Better World Ed curriculum is about recognizing, understanding, appreciating, and loving each of our whole icebergs.
Learning to see one another (and ourselves) as full, complex, unique, and beautiful humans. Not objects. Not numbers. Not statistics to save or change or help. To see one another as humans, with all of the complexity and magic that brings.
The purpose of this curriculum is to help us introspect and collectively understand our biases and judgments. To work alongside one another to address the inequities of the past and present. To untangle the knots within and between us. To reweave the beautiful fabric of our humanity.
A fabric we can reweave so strong that the change we make actually lasts for humans and all living things on this beautiful planet — because we see each other as full icebergs… I mean, humans.
As we strive to reweave:
Let’s strive to be consistently aware of our bias, our systems we live within, and our current wiring (our own, especially) when engaging with stories about the lives of other complex, incredible humans and in stories about our world and cultures.
That kind of awareness is a constant, daily, hourly thing that we’ve got to practice, and it’s something I’m striving to practice every day. It’s hard, it’s beautiful, and there are no shortcuts. This curriculum is about engaging in that hard and beautiful work together.
Better World Ed doesn’t exist to help learners “help people” or “fix problems” or “make more money” or “empathize for business outcomes” — this curriculum is here to help us all understand ourselves, each other, and our world in a deeper way.
To see that those three concepts are so deeply interconnected (ourselves, each other, and our world). To see that we can learn to love ourselves, each other, and our world with all of our hearts and minds.
To see that this quest for understanding and empathy and purpose and meaning is a lifelong journey — and that we can come together to make that journey more meaningful and beautiful every step of the way.
To see that we can Be WE.
Let’s reweave community. Let’s live with ubuntu.
(Scroll up now, and click the resources tab. Let’s get this learning journey going!)
How We Can Reweave Community: Living With Ubuntu
Additional resources as we reweave community:
- A Lesson Plan on Bridging The Empathy Gap to reweave community and to encourage curiosity before judgment
- Teaching Unit (Resources for teaching with empathy, curiosity, and compassion)
- Humanity & Belonging Unit (Resources about various topics and themes related to reweave community and living with ubuntu)