March 22 – Education and Sharing Day

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Ok, this seems to be a purely U.S. holiday, but I’m going to talk about it anyway. The holiday was created as a day to honour Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who put tremendous emphasis of the importance of education and good character through the creation of many educational institutions throughout the world.  U.S. President Obama declared “On Education and Sharing Day, U.S.A., we celebrate hard work, service, and commitment to learning as cornerstones of a bright future for our youth.’ (Obama, 2013). He also says “We also know that learning does not stop when students leave the classroom. Whether at the dinner table or on the field, it is our task as parents, teachers, and mentors to make sure our children grow up practicing the values we preach. We have an obligation to instill in them the virtues that define our national character — honesty and independence, drive and discipline, courage and compassion.” I believe this second part holds especially true.

I truly believe there are just some things that cannot be learned inside the classroom.
Without this becoming a plug for the Duke of Edinburgh program, I want to talk about how the program teaches young people those very things. If you’re unfamiliar with the program, it’s an internationally recognised and rather involved program, where young people between the ages of 14 and 25 make the commitment to participate in weekly physical activity, the learning of a skill, and service towards the community, as well as adventurous journeys, taking the forms such as week long hikes or canoeing trips.

Honestly, it is the best decision that I have ever made regarding my schooling. It teaches young people to be committed to things, which is increasingly valuable in this fast paced, chop and change society we live in. It forces them to take time out of their lives to help others with the service component. This component is what many teachers inform me to be their favourite part of the program, but unfortunately it is also the hardest; increasingly ridiculous health and safety laws make allowing people under the age of 18 to volunteer a liability that a lot of charities, who really need the help, cannot afford. This is a tragedy, but once they find a place where they can actually volunteer, whether it be coaching a young sports team, working in a charity op shop or in a wildlife sanctuary, they learn the importance of helping those in need. If I wasn’t involved in the program, I probably would not have sought out charity work of my own accord, but since forcing myself to for over three years I’m going to try my best to continue volunteering in some capacity whenever I can. Honestly, that stuff sticks with you.

The physical component teaches commitment to sports and a healthy lifestyle, something which tragically is not as common as it should be. It really should be something everyone just does, but with the  academic demands of school a lot of young people don’t, and the program gives them purpose for doing so. The same goes with the skill, teaching commitment and giving people a chance to slow down and do something nice.

The adventurous journey is the part of the program that really forces young people out of their comfort zone. For some, it’s a lot like being pushed in the deep end of the pool when you can’t swim…and that pool is filled with jellyfish and is the consistency of honey. They teach teamwork, patience (so much patience), perseverance and more extras than a crappy infomercial in a much more effective way then school does. Forcing a bunch of teenagers to kick each others asses into line as they work towards a good grade in an english presentation together is nowhere near as affective as sticking them together in a canoe and telling them they have seven hours of paddling to get to the campsite where they will spend the night. Going on a trip like that, you feel like you have learned more in five days than you have learned in a year of classroom activity.

Of course, such a program isn’t for everyone. If everyone were to participate, it would lose it’s magic and become…well, just like school. But more people should know about it, because it is just as excellent of a teaching tool as the most prestigious private school. Education isn’t just about academic learning, it’s about experience.

~ Darcie Rae

Info-Links
Duke of Ed for Australians: http://www.dukeofed.com.au/
Other countries: I don’t know how to get to your websites for this…just google “Duke of Edinburgh”
Obama on Education and Sharing Day: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/03/21/presidential-proclamation-education-and-sharing-day-usa-2013

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