This week’s post was written by Renana, one of PPI – ME’s new curriculum facilitators.
In his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the great educator and philosopher Paulo Freire states that “education either functions as an instrument [which integrates] the younger generation into the logic of the present system OR it becomes the practice of freedom.”
Living in the harsh reality of the Middle East, one of PPI-ME’s educational challenges is to bring our children and youth to believe that such “practice of freedom” is possible. The existing prejudices and racism in our country can easily prevent children from the belief that the freedom to meet “the other” can take place in our torn society.
Luckily for PPI, we tackle this challenge through the best form of practice – yeah, we practice freedom through basketball. And this year we’re taking it one step further. Two years after rolling out the Anatomy of Peace Curriculum, developed in cooperation with the Arbinger Institute to integrate their Anatomy of Peace (AoP) model with basketball, PPI – ME is deepening the impact of the curriculum by having me and my friend and colleague Nissreen meet with teams and help coaches deliver the material.
All of our facilitations are designed together with the teams’ coaches, as we try to improve not only the kids’ social skills, but also their strength as athletes. The youth of the Leadership Development Program (LDP) have become especially familiar with the AoP philosophy over the past number of years, and our monthly sessions with them will focus on helping them to teach these principles to other players, friends and family.
Our younger teams, which we like to call “the Minis,” require a different strategy both from the coaches, and from us, the facilitators. Knowing that most of the kids have just started dribbling, our responsibility as facilitators is to gradually trickle in the AoP curriculum while allowing them to tackle learning the basic skills of the game.
With these concerns in mind, I headed to my first Arbinger meeting with the 2nd graders of Keshet school in Jerusalem. I’d been told by my colleagues that our teams at Keshet were very smart and special – but meeting them made me realize that the word “special” doesn’t begin to describe how incredible they are! The session went really well. From the very beginning of the introduction, the kids had a lot to share about the way they think a good team should function. One of them told us that “only a group that makes decisions together, works together.” I then linked her words to the importance of listening to one another, and how important it is to look for ways to help each other play better. In response, one of them had an idea that every kid on the team should think of what his/her best basketball skill is, and teach it to the others. Despite their young age, these children managed to focus their attention on the subject, and even to implement it on the court. I have a good feeling about this process, and we will build it slowly but surely. Baby steps, or in our case – “Mini” steps
I’m amazed by the way the children grasped social philosophies with such an open heart and mind. In future sessions, I’ll try to broaden the importance of good communication inside the group. Until then, I’ll keep on having my first meetings with the other groups – hoping to inspire them to question the “present system” of conflict, through the practice of sport, peace and freedom.