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Student Peacemakers Pledge Memorable International Day

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Can the social media generation do what the "Blowin' In The Wind" generation couldn't do -- or make it last? Is it possible to seek a global truce by using the Internet and Twitter and Facebook? Are students using these tools rather than guitars and folk songs to move us to action?

Student Joseph Hindogbae Kposowa of Nigeria believes that there is power in getting the non-violence word out by using the Internet, and that it is important to get the Internet to places where it doesn't exist in order to spread words of peace and win over violence and intolerance.

Kposowa told a group of global education leaders during the most recent Education Fast Forward debate that "People don't know Twitter and Facebook, so they can't learn there; they don't have those opportunities. Without them, the voices are not there to be heard."

What a powerful statement. Earlier this month, I joined Kpososa and young ambassadors from around the globe for the fifth debate by a recently organized group of global education leaders, who are called Education Fast Forward fellows, for an online debated about peace, education and politics. Our topic was "From Learner Voice to Global Peace", but at times I felt as though I had stepped back a few decades to rejoin that "Blowin' in The Wind" guitar-wielding, folk-singing, peace-seeking generation.

Understanding how to achieve peace is a long-debated topic among community organizers and political leaders. And, as a former classroom teacher, I recall having to often encourage students to understand with open minds and to be tolerant of differences. By bringing the EFF Fellows and students together, two global companies Promethean and Cisco hoped to help create a larger conversation and to support the efforts of two action-oriented organizations -- TakingItGlobal, and Peace One Day.

As I joined the discussion as an observer, my expectations grew. I didn't know what to expect, although I do know that when students are put in charge of something important, passion moves them to action. And, the conversation had just started when Vera Accasia Kinoro, a student from Kenya said, "Adults lose the heart of youth, and that's where the violence begins."

As a father and grandfather, her assertion haunts me.

Do we grow into violence? Children teaching parents peace may be what is needed for a breakthrough, but more than that, as Jeremy Gilley, guest speaker, actor, activist, and founder of Peace One Day puts it -- it takes mobilizing a movement. Gilley's goal and journey for a global truce led to the creation of Peace One Day - a moment in time -- Sept. 21, 2012 -- when anyone and everyone around the world can work toward global peace and EFF was only one event to give students a voice to influence others--working toward global peace.

Sept. 21, 2012 -- International Peace Day -- has been unanimously adopted by the United Nations and designated as a day of ceasefire and non-violence and celebrated by students and teachers around the world. "Teachers said that it would be a starting point for young people's actions for a more peaceful world," says Gilley.

All 22 students who joined the EFF debate are preparing activities to honor and celebrate International Peace Day, and it is my hope their efforts will foster a greater dialogue -- and positive action -- with parents and community leaders.

Doing nothing was certainly not an option, especially for Egyptian student, Rami Mohamed Alloush, who recently experienced the birth of freedom in his own country, warned against knowing of atrocities in places like Syria and doing nothing.

Anyone with a sense of history should find those words familiar. When we look away and say that there are things we can't control, we are walking away from actions that can make a difference.

Rami and the other young adults at EFF5 may have the courage of youth on their side, but it is their passion that is infectious and has the potential make a difference. As a member of the "Flower Power" generation, I know many of my contemporaries used to know -- and possibly or unfortunately have forgotten -- that many voices together can create change.

Sept. 21 could be a call to action for more than just a day. What if students and teachers celebrated the day by involving older generations in their efforts? Can today's students reawaken the passion and spirit of my generation so that Peace One Day could be Peace Everyday in every classroom, in every school district, in every town throughout the United States and the world? It's a fact, "year after year, life is saved on that day and a 70 percent decrease in violence, in the most violent parts of the globe, like Afghanistan, is recorded on that day," says Gilley.

London student Michael Lach took the discussion one step further and suggested that peace should be taught in a class. So far 97 countries agree and will make available the Peace One Day curriculum. A week long discussion will begin on July 23 on www.GETideas.org on the topic of teaching tolerance in school.

Michael Furdyk, co-founder of TakingITGlobal, a learner driven community that leverages the Internet to engage young people globally, believes that the Learner voice, and gatherings like EFF debates are ways to get students involved in change and tackle the crisis of lack of student engagement in education.

"Connecting real world learning experiences like peace and the environment are ways of doing it," says Furdik. "These challenges are in the hearts of young people, and where they want to get involved." TakingItGlobal for Educators is the classroom extension, keying in on environmental stewardship, and global citizenship.

Student Nikhil Goyal, representing the United States commented, "Education Fast Forward debate fuses a unique mix of young people on reinventing education and promoting peace." Goyal went on to explain that while the debate was important to spread the work, the heavy lifting and energy needs to focus on ensuring that Sept. 21, 2012 -- A Day of Peace -- will be successful.

After hearing the plans of these student leaders, I have no doubt International Peace Day will be a success. We should all aspire to follow Australian high schooler Olivia Hill's vision that "peace is knowing that you can feed, care and give shelter to your children. Peace is more than the absence of war. Peace is the future."

For one young student poet, Line Dalile from Dubai achieving peace involves writing. Dalile shared her love of writing and that while she had written; she didn't think that was publishing. I shared in a tweet with her that whenever she writes for someone else, she should consider that published and that writing is a powerful form of action and can affect the movement and grow the learner voice. My exchange with Dalile wasn't planned, but it was one of those amazing coincidences that make life so wonderfully interesting.

Words are as powerful as actions -- a point not lost on Jim Wynn, United Kingdom EFF Fellow and Promethean Chief Education Officer. At the close of the debate, he challenged every student to write, and publish online, as well as locally. He doubted anyone would turn down publishing these student voices for peace and change. I agree and applaud his suggestion.

As we age, it is too easy to become a local screen watcher isolationist, forgetting the power the Internet and social media can create for good. This is the true reality show, and no one is concerned about next levels, planning lavish parties, or Angry Birds. I think that it's brilliant for today's global student-diplomats to remind us of what is really important. They're good teachers. I hope we are good listeners, followers, and learn enough to become leaders, too.

Educators and parents can find out more about Peace One Day and register at http://peaceoneday.org/. There are primary and secondary lessons plans covering ideas for teaching anti-bullying to sustaining peace online at www.prometheanplanet.com/pod Start by remembering Sept. 21. Make the day memorable everywhere.

The EFF5 event is also archived at www.prometheanplanet.com/eff for anyone who missed it, or wants to see and hear global student voices from this debate.

Join the continued conversation on Teaching Tolerance: Fostering equality and justice within the school environment with Jim Wynn and others the Week of July 23 on GETideas.org

Ken Royal is an educator and well-known blogger on all things education and technology. To learn more, follow him on Twitter @kenroyal and visit RoyalReport.com.