The Children’s Guide to Changing the World


New Orleans  Every once in a while, the New York Times prints a section for children.  The alerting tag line is an admonishment for adults to not read the section.  What is it about being told not to read something, that draws me to it immediately.  In this instance my curiosity was richly rewarded.

There was a column entitled “How to Change the WORLD” by Caroline Paul drawn from a book she is debuting now.  She describes the book, “You Are Mighty:  A Guide to Changing the World” as a guide that “lets kids know that civic engagement can start early, and that activism is both important and fun.”  Ok, count me in!

She starts with a clever admonition about voting by speaking directly to her audience.  In saying that only 60% of eligible voters cast a ballot in the 2016 election she compares the turnout to a party.  She calls the vote “as disappointing as inviting 10 people to your party and having only five arrive, with the sixth staying just long enough to eat your cake.”

Her first section was about how to make a protest sign, which includes the tip that you can make one on an old t-shirt and can write with cake frosting or glitter.  She defends letter writing as boring but effective according to studies.

But, where she scores high in my book is in the section headlined, “speak face to face,” where she speaks truth-to-power to a generation that increasingly believes that social media and social change are what and what.  Paul writes,

“Texting is fun.  So is Skype.  And soon, holograms!  But we’re humans, not robots, and ultimately IRL is still the most effective method around.  Talk in person to those who can make the change you want to see.”

Of course, I had to Google “IRL” to find out that it is a texting abbreviation for “In Real Life,” only proving again my lack of hipness, but the point is inarguable when it comes to building a base for your protest, even if Paul is trying to get her audience to believe that the target of their protests will be accessible enough to engage in real life.

The last advice offered for changing the world is “walk out.”   The Parkland students are the benchmark for young people now, and for many others as well.  She notes that “…like many activist tactics, they’re most powerful when done in a group (as passionate as you are, if you walk out alone, it’s very possible no will notice).”

True that!  Good advice for changing the world.  Let’s go do that and have fun!