Education of the head and the heart: THINKEQUAL and Edmonton Public Schools

As a Trustee I have the opportunity to attend many fantastic events and hear many fascinating speakers. One such example was the Mahatma Ghandi Canadian Foundation for World Peace who invited me as a guest to their awards banquet and to hear their guest speaker Leslee Udwin, the award-winning director of the film India’s Daughters and now the Founder and CEO of an organization called THINKEQUAL.

If you haven’t seen India’s Daughters, it is a powerful film that outlines the importance of education of not just the mind but the heart. This film is centred around the 2012 Delhi gang rape and murder of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh who was a physiotherapy student that sparked protests and debate across India.

Following the film, Leslee has dedicated her energy to her non-profit THINKEQUAL providing a spectrum of resources and supports to education around the world (for free):

We believe in a holistic approach to education to support a new generation of Global Citizens in the context of the UN’s post-2015 Sustainable Development goals. Our purpose is to add Social and Emotional Learning as a compulsory new subject on national curricula around the world. This education must start from the very beginning  of every child’s formal education. THINK EQUAL aims for a long overdue system change in education.

They outlined four goals:

  • Educate rounded, sensitive, empowered, respectful, more equitable and inclusive young men and women.
  • Provide children with the tools to succeed on a lifelong journey of learning, and equip them to promote these values in their communities.
  • Empower girls to unlock their potential, and to contribute to the development and the economy of countries.
  • Transform mind sets and create a new generation of human rights and equality advocates in all school-going youth over the next decade.

The Edmonton THINKEQUAL Delegation (comprised of many active Edmonton citizens such as

  • Robert Philp, Chief Commissioner Alberta Human Rights Commission and Chair, Think Equal Edmonton
  • Sarah Chan, Think Equal volunteer
  • Bev Park, Think Equal volunteer
  • Jan Fox, Think Equal volunteer
  • Judy Piercey, Think Equal volunteer
  • Satya Das, Think Equal volunteer
  • Liz O’Neil, Think Equal volunteer

presented to the Edmonton Public School Board in December and we are excited to learn more about the work that they will be doing as they move forward. They have partnered with NAIT and will be distributing digital lessons and content for dissemination beyond the classroom walls.

They have assembled a star list of supporters and advocates ranging from Celebrities to education thought-leaders like Ken Robinson.

Here is a speech Leslee Edwin gave at the United Nations General Assembly:

http://webtv.un.org/search/science-well-being-and-the-pursuit-of-happiness-novus-summit-2016-green-cape-part-2/5041709037001?term=novus%20summit&languages=0&sort=date&page=2

 

As we move ahead with discussions about Curriculum Redesign in Alberta it is important to consider how we will be teaching empathy and equity. Education is the reproduction of lessons and ideas from one generation to the next, and we have a unique opportunity to think about how we can produce a more thoughtful, caring, and compassionate society.

Bev Parks Executive Director of the Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre shared with the Board during her presentation:

“I am pleased to be here today on behalf of the C5 partnership which consists of Boyle Street Community Services, Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society and Terra Centre for parenting teens   and ourselves; Norwood Child and Family Resources Centre.  We are excited to be entering into a partnership with THINK EQUAL.  We have reviewed the curriculum and even sent it to our friend Dr. Jack Shonkoff at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University and to Nancy Mannix at the Palix Foundation and the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative both working in the related areas of childhood development to improve global health by mobilizing science in this area. 

We believe that the THINK EQUAL early years curriculum supports the programming we do under the Government of Alberta’s early year’s framework.  It also aligns with the Government of Alberta Children’s Charter and of course the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

I truly believe we are being handed a gift that can position Edmonton as a “Human Rights City “and Alberta as a province that continues to lead the way for this country to ensure our children have optimal opportunities to develop their full potential – to freely express themselves and have their views respected; AND to respect one another and to live free of discrimination.  It is never too early to role model and support children to believe in themselves, respect what is different in each other and to celebrate that verses shying away from it.

Our children are our future and we all need to invest in them especially in those very early years.

Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre has agreed to be the first Alberta 3-5 year old demonstration site for THINK EQUAL through our Head Start programs and I believe we will see some great outcomes for our children’s social and emotional development. “

Minister of Indigenous Relations Richard Feehan also shared the following message:

As the MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford, I support the values and mission of Think Equal. I’ve witnessed structural inequality in Alberta, both in my decades as a social worker and in my role as Minister of Indigenous Relations. I can tell you how funding and infrastructure deficits affect Indigenous communities. But prejudice, discrimination and racism – overt and subtle – are also a daily reality.

Think Equal aims to “break the cycle of negative stereotypes.” This aligns with my Ministry’s goal of empowering Indigenous people through “effective relationships, legislation, policies and initiatives.” Our government is taking concrete steps to break problematic cycles, whether it’s through enhanced curriculum and training, implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or increased economic opportunities.

A comprehensive human rights curriculum would be another significant step forward, an opportunity to enhance learning and cultivate a fully inclusive society. As a way of addressing structural inequality, I urge you to consider implementing Think Equal”

THINKEQUAL is taking steps to further this conversation worldwide, and as your public school trustee, I am excited to be a part of the conversation.