Sunday, August 21, 2016

This I Believe

"A girl in my grade died today". My friend Jessica from GHP sent me that text last night. One of her classmates had been the only fatality in a nine car pileup on 75. She had been crushed by an eighteen wheeler.

The eerie similarity between that text and the opening lines of Camus' The Stranger had sent me into a bit of an existential crisis last night. Her death was random, a freak accident, an absurdity out of nowhere with no reason or meaning. We all hope our deaths will have meaning, some hope to die fighting in a war, or saving someone else, or warm in bed at age 95. We never wake up thinking that we will be crushed to death by an eighteen wheeler, but that easily could've been me, or Pate, or Jessica, or anyone else I know.

I could die tomorrow in an absurd accident and would it even mean anything? This girl died and sure there was a vigil in her small town of Union Grove and a short little traffic report, but did this girl die having lived her life in a way that was meaningful to her? Have I lived my life in a way that is meaningful to me? Honestly, if I died tomorrow I cannot truly say I feel like I have lived a meaningful life and that scares the living shit out of me.

As a 17 year old in the United States I am told that the stuff I do in school has meaning. Taking my classes is meaningful because it prepares me for tests. Tests are meaningful because they can give me college credit. That is only meaningful because it looks good on an application. Everything I do in my life seems to be preparation for something else. High school is preparation for college, college is preparation for a job, a job is preparation for a family, then you have to prepare for your kid's futures and then you end up preparing to die and make your funeral arrangements. I am through living a life just to constantly prepare for the future. I believe in being present in the here and now, in enjoying every moment I have, and in creating my own meaning in life.

This doesn't mean I will be a self-indulgent hedonist or that I will blow off all my work. I am just going to stop and enjoy life as it is. I will enjoy every experience and not overlook things because of the future. Through this I hope I can give some meaning to the senseless death of that girl who could have been me or anyone else. I hope I can live my life to repay her for changing my perspective, I don't even know her name and she has taught me a valuable lesson. My life is determined not by societal pressures or expectations, but by the meaning that I personally give it. This I believe.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

How does the IB learner profile fit into my life and into the broader aims of the program?

The IB learner profile essentially serves as the gold standard for what it means to be an IB Programme student. This profile fits into my life by challenging me to reach a change in perspective on learning. I have to challenge myself to not just be able to regurgitate facts (a necessary skill to pass most classes.), but to also look at the implications of the facts that I learn. I have to rethink the idea that areas of learning exist separate from each other, to challenge myself to see the way historical context affects literature, the way mathematical advancements influence new ways of approaching scientific discoveries, to see how experiences and language influence the perspectives of people all over the world. It challenges you to take the curriculum learned in class and apply it, to see how it relates to overarching themes and international issues. The IB's learner profile changes my focus from what the fact I am looking at is to how does this fact affect areas of knowledge.

But how does any of this help the broader aim of the IB Programme: "To make the world a better and more peaceful place"? The short answer is that it makes IB students into better, more open minded people.

For example, being able to spout out facts on a different viewpoint makes you sound educated, but to fully understand a viewpoint from an epistemological standpoints gives you empathy. It allows you to look past the labels and boxes that people are separated into and to see that their reasons for what they believe come from reasons just as valid as your own. Having perfect Spanish grammar can help you get an A in your class, but understanding Spanish as it relates to culture and world view can help you relate to an entirely different culture than your own. It's hard to dehumanize Hispanics as "rapists and murders" when you begin to appreciate their standpoint in life. You can never fully know what being a native Spanish speaker is like it as you have not lived it, but the IB Learner Profile challenges you to try to understand it. By taking students who are scholastically elite and challenging their world view to wake up from The City of Dreams and see things internationally, the IB Learner Profile is ensuring that the next generation of influential young people share not only knowledge, but also understanding and compassion. This in turn will promote a better and more peaceful world.