Reflections On Helping Children To Make A Better World© ♥

Posted on January 2, 2013 by David Blumenkrantz

2012 offered many opportunities to stop and pay attention. Whether it was a major weather event like Super Storm Sandy or the random acts of violence culminating in the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. What’s going on? How are events related.

Helping children to make a better world is just a restatement of Margaret Mead’s famous words:

The solution of adult problems tomorrow depends upon
the way we raise our children today.

There is no greater insight into the future than recognizing
when we save our children, we save ourselves.

Margaret Mead

We need to focus our full attention on the way we are raising children today. If we don’t raise our children well the consequences are obvious: young men, disconnected from a sense of community and society’s values committing random acts of violence. What about the inability of our government legislators to rise above partisan politics for the greater good? Remember, all of our leaders were children once. Did they learn the central values necessary to get along well with others, quell their own needs in order to be of service to the greater good?

I began last year with reflections from E. F. Schumacher’s seminal work “Small is Beautiful,” published in 1972. Even 31 years ago he claimed that “western civilization is in a permanent crisis,” which he said was the result of inadequate education. He boiled it down to one word: ethics. The sole purpose of education, he claimed, should be the transmission of values essential for the survival of our species and the planet. If education is our greatest resource to transmit values, as Schumacher believed, how are we doing with that?

In the growing discussions on violence and guns one area that has gotten relatively little attention is positive youth development. Margaret Mead gave voice long ago to the current cliché: our children are our future and all children are our children. The assumption underlying these phrases is that adults will pass the values on to the next generation that sustains our culture and our species. The other cliché: it takes a village to raise a child is also central. Many of the problems that young people have, including violence, reflect the failure of our larger society (the village) to instill nurturing behaviors that foster civility that enhance healthy community life. Our public policy for youth development is intensely oriented on raising test scores rather than raising children.

Historically, the transition to adulthood was marked by rites of passage created by the community. Rites of passage are part of our DNA. How else can we explain these ritual events that mark key transitions in our lives, such as births, weddings, and funerals, which have existed in all cultures for thousands of years? The importance of the transition to adulthood is one such ritual that has, unfortunately, diminished in contemporary community life. Evolutionary biologists say that the existence of rites of passage, documented for 40,000 years is among the strongest scientific evidence for their central value to human’s survival.

If the community does not provide a sanctioned rites of passage young people will create their own rituals to mark adult status, - drug and alcohol consumption, tattooing and piercing, gang initiations, sexual promiscuity, etc.

If we do not initiate the young, they will burn down the village to feel the heat.
African proverb

In 2013 we need to focus on creating effective rite of passage experiences for youth that transmit essential values for our survival and help them make the transition to healthy, engaged, and compassionate adulthood. An effective rite of passage is not achieved in one moment with meaning or a weekend in some program called a rite of passage.

Community-based rites of passage occur over a period of time, supported by caring and initiated “Elders” who transmit essential values and provide meaningful ways for youth to engage in service to others. Meaningful community rites of passage promote a culture of caring and compassion. In the absence of these time honored ways of helping children come of age we continue to foster a culture of incivility, disrespect and violence.

Rite of passage experiences are not the solution. There are community development models using rites of passage that foster essential building blocks for youth development, and support all other contemporary youth development approaches, such as, social emotional learning, resiliency and character education. Academic performance increases when a comprehensive rite of passage exists in the community.

All contemporary youth development programs contain elements of traditional rites of passage. There is no single quick fix solution. Community-based rites of passage, done in service to positive youth development, can play an integral part in developing future generations that promote a culture of civility, compassion and peace.

Posted in ROPE

Read more about Youth & Community Development through Rites of Passage in the new and highly acclaimed book by Dr. David Blumenkranz.

David Blumenkrantz, Ph.D., Ed.M., Founder & Executive Director, the Center for Youth & Community

What I’m Writing About

Recent Posts


Why This Blog Now?

It’t time for a Paradigm Shift – a fundamental change in beliefs, theory and approach – in developing community-centered responses to the challenges faced by today’s Youth & Community. More here>>