From the Editor's Desk
Children are miraculous, truly. Whether tumbling over themselves in the effort to conform to social expectations, or busting out and yowling their own brand new, unique song into the universe, the light of their youth and determination shines through and makes working with them incredibly rewarding -- if you ate a really good breakfast this morning and have the stamina to withstand the onslaught of their energy. Teaching is not for everyone, and it doesn't have to be. For those of us whose calling is in a different -- maybe a quieter -- area, there is no need to force the fit.
What is required from all of us who are committed to making our world more just and more loving, though, is respect. Respect for those youths among us who are organizers and have their own priorities and strategies. Respect for young people who are not activists and whom we may be tempted to write off as too uncritical of popular culture and consumerism. And respect for the educators, activists, and advocates who -- whatever their politics -- walk into rooms or schoolyards full of kids, not cowering or scowling, but with love in their faces and their arms open wide.
Childhood is the one disempowered status that every one of us has experienced. As in all oppressed groups, the members of this one are played off against one another constantly: Boys are valued more than girls, a few kinds of learners are lauded while others' gifts are ignored, bullying and various prejudices are rampant, and resources are siphoned out of some neighborhoods to enrich others. But it is worth remembering that as a general rule all children are mistrusted and belittled; only, some of them are simultaneously being groomed for later dominance, while others are discouraged from imagining that they will ever have a wider scope for their talents and dreams.
Respect is due to children, and their mentors and teachers, especially from progressives and peacemakers because there is nothing more revolutionary than to value all of our children. Any vision of social change that leaves out their needs, or glazes those needs in sentimentality without addressing the peril and stress in which so many young people live right now, will fail to live up to its potential. And it will not be young people -- or popular culture -- that are to blame.
The activists in this issue of Peacework range from young children (the girls on the cover were photographed at a peace march this spring) to seasoned professionals. Some are students, some are educators, some are policy experts. (I personally find a room full of important adults much more daunting than a room full of teenagers -- so I am very grateful to those advocates among us who face them down with data and well-reasoned arguments, winning vital though sometimes little-noticed victories). Many are themselves parents. All have direct experience of the convoluted, disheartening bureaucracies in which most formal education takes place, and they have each found creative ways in which to make real, positive changes for young people.
Children are the people most directly affected by the war, poverty, and injustice we are trying to end -- and they know it. Both inside and outside of organized social justice movements, young people are making vital contributions to peace, and there is no work more important than that of the adults who help them to survive, learn, and grow. If you haven't yet worked out how to involve youth, and youth advocacy, in your activism, I hope the voices in this issue inspire you to try. You may find just the miracle you were missing.
Sara Burke, Co-Editor