In less than 48 hours, Invisible Children successfully hijacked social media with their effort called KONY 2012, which targets the Lord's Resistance Army and its leader, Joseph Kony, a brutal fighter wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. By tapping into the nitwitted populace of the youth of America, Invisible Children has witnessed a surge in wristband and t-shirt sales with their global campaign structured in promoting a military intervention.
Two conclusions can be formed. First, it's phenomenal to see the drive and fervor in the youth to join a cause and feel a part of something bigger than themselves. Second, however, it's unfortunate how easily the youth is deceived by this "feel good" campaign. Put frankly, the
conundrums in Uganda aren't flat-footed and one-dimensional and they cannot be solved by postering filmmaking, changing your Facebook profile picture, tweeting at Lady Gaga, or purchasing a plastic wristband. The movement may perhaps, as analysts say, cause more harm
But more importantly, let's address the first point. Kids want to have a purpose in life. The youth are dying to have a voice, which explains why they immediately jumped onto the KONY 2012 bandwagon without much thought. They haven't been given opportunities in the past.
When we're young, very few of us dream of becoming anonymous middle managers or government officials lost in the tangled bureaucracies for the rest of our lives. Come on -- what kind of sane person wants to spend their life sitting behind a desk in a cubicle, nine to five, five days a week? That's no fun.
Look at this rigorous study of high school students by Jacob Halpern. The most disturbing result was this:
"When you grow up, which of the following jobs would you most like to have?"
1. The chief of a major company like General Motors
2. A Navy SEAL
3. A United States Senator
4. The president of a great university like Harvard or Yale
5. The personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star
Among girls, the results were as follows: 9.5 percent chose "the chief of a major company like General Motors"; 9.8 percent chose "a Navy SEAL"; 13.6 percent chose "a United States Senator"; 23.7 percent chose "the president of a great university like Harvard or Yale"; and 43.4 percent chose "the personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star."
Notice that these kids were happy with being the assistant of a person with an artificial, plastic lifestyle. In school, dreamers are killed. They don't fit in. We've created a trillion-dollar monster that crushes dreams.
What if it wasn't like this? I want to pose a few questions to school boards, teachers, students, parents, administrators, and any stakeholder in education: What if kids, left to right, started
movements? What if they became non-conformists, disrupting the conventional wisdom each and every day? What if students became the authors of their own education?
Let's teach kids to be leaders. Let's help kids start tribes -- a culture of people stitched together by ideas, dreams, and a conviction for success. As Seth Godin put in his TED talk, "It turns out that it's tribes -- not money, not factories -- that can change our world, that can change politics, that can align large numbers of people. Not because you force them to do something against their will, but because they want to connect."
Be willing to stand up and say 'I don't agree with this and something must be changed.' Demand that average is not good enough. You do not need permission to lead. Just 'effing do it!
As Paul Henry, the 17-year-old founder of The Sandbox, likes to say, "If you don't change the world, someone else will." It's not easy, but it's easier than you think. The future belongs to the curious.
If you're one of the zombie followers of the KONY 2012 movement, don't be! Buying KONY 2012 t-shirts and wristbands and bankrolling another film and an ill-advised violent intervention will not help. Keep it about Joseph Kony, not KONY 2012.
You don't need to follow an organization to have a purpose in your life. Start a movement. Mobilize the troops. Rally behind a cause. The world is waiting. Start today!
Nikhil is writing a book on education reform.