Friday, July 21, 2017

Day 5 - Our Rights and Responsibilities. Freedom of Speech, Media Literacy

Friday was another day of fun and learning, beginning with morning gymnastics outdoors when, after basic stretching, Tomas and Simas introduced us to the fish and net game.  We formed human nets that expanded as we caught the human “fish” and added them to the ever growing net.  We also had the play-off from yesterday’s three Ninja games.  

Laryssa and Ann introduced the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Human Rights of the Child, and then Ann explained the four terms that we will use throughout the rest of the camp when discussing human rights: victim, perpetrator, bystander, and upstander.  In small groups we discussed and sketched our Universe of Obligation. These depicted the groups of people to whom we feel a sense of responsibility, from ourselves to our families, friends, and others in the world. Our discussions included the concept that just a week ago, many of the people in the room would not have been within our Universes of Obligation, but that by meeting and making friends, we have brought them into our circles and would act to defend their human rights. We wondered if every life has equal value and if it does, should everyone, even strangers we will never meet, such as refugees, child laborers in faraway countries, and people often looked down upon by societies, deserve our care?  For whom and when will we be the upstanders to aid victims of oppression, whether they are in our classrooms, neighborhoods, or the larger world community?  We also talked about the idea that even cities and countries have their own Universe of Obligation and that we need to be vigilant about when someone, such as a government, organization, leader, or others try to convince us that some people do not deserve to be within our Universe of Obligation.  When people are excluded from the Universe of Obligation on a mass scale, the groundwork for genocide has been laid.

Next, Marcin provided groups of students with cards that illustrated the probable needs and wants of a teenager and asked students to divide them by importance, and then by which are Needs and which are Wants. After discussing their choices, students presented them to the rest of the group along with their reasoning.  Next, Marcin instructed them to remove a number of cards from the Needs pile and students had to decide which to give up and how their life would change if they were deprived of the ability to meet that Need such as for education, healthcare, decent shelter, or clean water. They discussed 12 questions related to this and talked about who, such as democratic governments, can help ensure that people’s needs are met, concluding that everyone can make a difference by volunteering time, money, and talent to non-profits and others that help communities meet basic human needs.

We took a break for Ultimate Frisbee, Mafia, and football and then welcomed Fulbright scholar and multimedia journalist Živile Raškauskaitė, who spoke about “Our Rights and Responsibilities: The Role of the Media.” She focused on media literacy with an emphasis on fake news.  She provided students with specific strategies for recognizing fake news and described the effects that it has on how we perceive our world.  Again, our speaker was accompanied by employees of the US Embassy, including Cultural Attaché Althea Cawley-Murphree.  Now, we better understand the vital role that a free and independent press plays in a healthy democracy.

After a break for sports, the students lined up by gender to return into the classroom for more activities. However, after the boys entered, they denied the girls access to the classroom, with their male teachers asserting that the girls distracted the boys, did not need an education, and lacked the abilities to be successful students.  Left outside, the girls went from confusion to shock and anger. Some said the boys were being sexist while others began loudly chanting “Let us in” or tried to find an alternate way into the building.  Meanwhile, inside the classroom, Marcin and Saulius tried to convince the boys of their stance, but were met with resistance from the boys, many of whom provided convincing arguments that the girls’ human rights were being violated.  When the girls pounded on the door, the boys insisted that the teachers open it for them and they were met by applause.  Laryssa led the confused and emotional students in a discussion about this exercise and how they felt about it, and then showed a video about Malala, the Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban simply for going to school. Then, students discussed Malala’s character traits and what needs must be met for children to have access to education. 

Alla extended the theme by providing students with six problem scenarios and asking each group to provide one solution.  This resulted in numerous ideas and helped students recognize the value of considering many alternatives to problems they might face such as bullying, cheating, vandalism and other issues. This reinforced the message that in a democracy each of us has the power to control our lives and the possibility and obligation to make a difference in the lives of our communities. 

It rained lightly tonight, so the usual campfire morphed into a grouping of candles lit in the activity room where students hung out, danced, and played pool.

Teachers noted that, despite the fact that students have access to their phones for only 30 minutes each evening, the campers have not complained and seem fully engaged in the activities and friendships of Democracy Camp. 

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