Engaging Youth in NEO

Submitted by MShafarenko on Thu, 12/15/2005 - 13:05.

This is by no means a new topic, but one that I feel needs some REAL attention. If NEO wants to spur economic development and sustainability, it really needs to engage the students within the higher education institutions in the area. In my opinion, the message sent by society to most students is that they need to follow the routine paths in life to become successful members of society. They will read about economic sustainability in their textbooks, write lengthy essays and leave it at that - their focus is NOT on real economic sustainability as it is on passing that test, getting that grade and landing that job/graduate school program. And my question is: Why?

Why were the students of the 60s, for example, more consolidated in their efforts to make impacts on society? My guess is that they figured out the premise of power in numbers versus the efforts of one. The times were different, the culture was different - so many reasons could be brought forth. But I think it takes an organization like REALNEO to spur that cultural shift and create opportunities for students to be engaged in the community that teaches them. And, idealistically, that will create a vested interest in their minds to stay - instead of seeking Teaching for America opportunities in underprivileged communities in Miami or going on a mission to Uganda with the Peace Corps, they will want to stay right here in Cleveland and make a difference.

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Engaging Youth in NEO - thoughts

Mike, you make some very astute comments.  I believe you are right on regarding the programmed behaviors of many students - grade-centeredness and self-serivng behaviors that ensure job procurement down the road can often lead to a sacrifice in true learning and the dedicated pursuit of knowledge and truth.  People, especially our youth need to understand the larger picture- the system-focused view rather than the self-serving one.

    The paradigm shift from destructive competition (such as that for limited internships in top grad schools) to synergistic collaboration (such as pooling job contacts to create interships for all) is critical and necessary.  I also liked your comment on experiential teaching and learning opportunities - i hope these become an inculcated standard in school cirricula so students can engage in transformational learning opportunities that connect them directly with problems and issues.  Learning by doing has a unique power and impact.


One of the key promotional efforts we need to pursue is raising awareness of all the great opportunities to make a difference locally.  As an active member of Net Impact for some time now I embrace the motto 'Think Globally, Act Locally'.  Our city chapter is now focusing efforts on this community.


What else could help effect the paradigm shift we need?  Technology can certainly help - and it is our hope at REALNEO that models for open-source virtual interaction that help build and engage communities around positive change efforts will play a key role in making the necessary shift happen. At the very core, I believe, is the need to transcend self-centeredness and self-interest to find a perspective whch places priority on the service of others and that higher than the self.  In the end this will generate reciprocative benefits which far outweigh the initial investment.  As people realize the benefits of connectedness and community development we just might see the paradigm shift we long for.



These are not new problems of a "why" generation

You each describe issues that are not unique to modern times or the Y/why generation. You can attribute much of this shift to the baby boomers still largely in control of our society. We're just seeing a major impact from the generation X, who need to step up to become better leaders, who should then embrace Gen Y and speed up the pace of inovation and change.

That is a real factor forwarded by our technology - because it is most readily understood by the next generation it offers a great tool for broadening their impcat.

But they need to want to have an impact - that must be nurtured by many over time. Let's all just keep at it. 

Where does the mentality come from?

I completely agree that the issues raised are not new - and that it is a matter of time that the paradigm shift will occur.

Yet, I always wonder where certain mentalities stem from . . . I feel as though once America rid itself of omnipresent social turmoil, everyone just settled into the passenger seat of social action. Few stick out their necks for the greater good, because they realize that they will be left to fight for themselves. Standing up for the greater good is not a priority that blends well with standing up for thyself. That, I feel, is at the heart of the matter - a true lack of consolidation, with a true yearning for self-preservation (in the form of material wealth).

As for technology: on one hand, technology is bringing people from all over the world closer and closer. On the other hand, it is driving them apart. I haven't been alive that long (22 years to be exact) but I have this romantic notion that people used to have conversations in person - that people would go out on their porches in the summer and talk to their neighbors - that people embraced a greater sense of community. While it is wonderful that I can talk to a friend in China, I find it sad that I am so busy and wrapped up (much like all of us) in establishing a career, that I make conversation with friends down the street  via Instant Messenger, E-mail, or online posting. Additionally, the internet is an overload of information - for better or for worse. For me, it's like going to a restaurant that has so many choices that I just order a salad because that's what I know and am used to.

In that regard, how can technology be used to attract the many versus the niche-interested few?

Very interesting perspectives

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I saw an article I believe in the PD Sunday - probably a NY Times piece, about how the Baby Boomers really co opted society - they were in the drivers seat, they were prosperous, and they saw how to expand their wealth by controlling social progress and the government. That has shifted policies and practices so far to the right that there is a corrupt suppression of free speech and knowledge. Faced with that reality, most self preserving next geners are going to either scramble for the brass ring as fast as possible or just check out for life - there's an immense sense of hopelessness about people your age, if they don't see opportunity ahead - this is the 5% having so much wealth impact... 95% hopeless.

 The mainstream media is controlled by the 5% and is used to control the 95%. It is mind control. It is consumerism. It is propaganda. Etc.

So what hope is there but technology that is free and open? Now the 95% in America can connect directly with each other and the world. It balances power and protects free speech. If it also replaces the time that people waste watching TV with time spent communicating, creating, sharing, caring and learning, the revolution will be won.  

This event will offer unique perspectives

There's a cool, free event coming up that will address lots of related technology issues. See http://www.realneo.us/New-Dynamic