Point of View: One Small School, One Bright Hope
The luck of our birth has a lot to do with the comforts and security of our lives. Americans lucky enough to have been born during the "baby boom" - roughly between the end of World War II and the start of the Viet Nam War - grew up in a period of economic expansion and prosperity. During this time, the American suburbs bloomed, the GI bill enabled many veterans to attend college and earn higher incomes, the size of the American population grew as did the schools, businesses, industries, highways and telephone lines, all servicing American growth.
This period of prosperity was also a time of paranoia. Cold War propaganda fostered the possibility of global Communist control which terrified many Americans including several members of Congress. The paranoid reaction led to Congressional hearings on the infiltration of Communist spies lurking in the US Army, in Hollywood, in our work places and worst of all in our communities. Baby boomers grew up in a country not only rich in goods and opportunities, but also with parents deeply frightened of Communism.
While at the same time people living behind the iron curtain were taught that America was a frightening place to live, where people were poor and gangsters were shooting people on the streets.
Now that the Communist threat has disappeared and camcorders, videos and e-mail give a much more realistic perspective to people worldwide, one wonders if the luck of one's birth in the former Soviet countries offers a brighter future. The breakdown of infrastructure and exposure of a polluted environment suggests a very difficult time ahead. But there are important stories about new opportunities for the next generation taking place. Many partnership projects benefiting young people have evolved, and we highlight one story here about the courage of one educator who believes that talented children offer a great hope for the future prosperity of a nation.
Working with exceptionally gifted children some of whom were born with congenital birth defects caused by the Chornobyl nuclear fallout to their parents, Mrs. Helena Vychovanska, Director of the Children's Specialty School located in the suburb of Lviv, Ukraine, demonstrates the truth of anthropologist Margaret Mead's often quoted statement that a few people can change the world. World Information Transfer assists the director and her staff by providing computers, software, cameras and other aid in the expectation that the children who pass through the school's old doors will become contributing citizens of their country. The school offers health and environment lessons woven into the student's regular curricula. Whether the programs acquire the label of sustainable development education is less important than the personal relationships the young students form with their peers and teachers. Working together on clearly defined concrete projects enables students of varying physical abilities to attain confidence along with core knowledge in basic subjects. The school implements the pedagogical concept that how a subject is taught and to whom is as critical as what is taught. Providing computers and software helps to prepare bright young people to succeed in our current Information Age.
One wonders if the legacy of Communist paranoia in American will diminish interest in future support of the former Soviet countries and whether America's current paranoia will begin to resemble that of the Cold War past. In spite of these possibilities, WIT supports and highlights this bright spot of hope to emphasize that, as Shakespeare wrote in The Tempest, "What is past is prologue".
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