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Above All Compassion: United World Colleges

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I always want to tell these young idealists that the world is not as dangerous as many in the older generation want them to believe...The [people] for whom I feel the greatest sadness are the ones who choke on their beliefs, who never act on their ideals, who never know the state of struggle in a decent cause, and never know the thrill of even partial victories.

― Jonathan Kozol


I was fortunate enough, in my third year as a teacher on Chicago's West Side, to be involved in a school that was radical in every possible way that we could think of. Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek fame made a documentary about it called "If the Mind Were Free." Jonathan Kozol wrote about it in Free Schools and UNESCO put us on a list of schools to pay attention to, so we had visitors most days of the school year from around the world. While students came from across the city to attend, in fact from 47 different zip codes, the loud and varied noises of diversity abounded throughout the old buildings.

In the 1960s and 70s the British headmaster, A.S. Neil had already made his mark with innovative approaches to schooling in the United Kingdom, in Brazil, Paulo Freire was beginning to be critiqued for his Pedagogy of the Oppressed and the Open School and Free Schools movements brought on what was termed as global education transformation. In the middle of this period of challenging education as the status quo, another approach was born; the United World Colleges (UWC). The first UWC was founded by German educator, Kurt Hahn who is regarded as a promoter of experiential education as well as originator of expeditionary education, including the concept of outward-bound education. In one of his speeches, Hahn noted:"I regard it as the foremost task of education to ensure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self-denial, and - above all - compassion."

Hahn was convinced that education was the pathway to peace and strongly believed that it was a means to reverse the "decline of compassion" in society that was prevalent after World War II and during the advent of the Cold War.In a speech during the late 1950s, Hahn explained: "There are three ways of trying to capture the young; one is to preach at them — I'm afraid that is a hook without a worm; the second is to coerce them... and to tell them 'You must volunteer'... the third is an appeal which never fails, 'You are needed.'"

In a period of less than ten years it was evident that the first UWC needed to be replicated across the globe. With a curriculum of "doing," and a character development approach to holistic learning, committees were formed to explore new possibilities for campuses.Today UWCs are eighteen in number and located on four continents. Collectively, they deliver an education that "unites people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future."

In its own words: "UWC seeks compassionate, idealistic students who are driven to make the world better. We believe that money should not be a barrier to a good education. More than 80% of students selected by UWC national committees receive full or partial financial assistance, funded by our generous supporters. Our Refugee Initiative has also been funding full scholarships to displaced young people from conflict hotspots for many years."

The Charter for Compassion is honored to award a 2022 Karen Armstrong Humanitarian Award to the United World Colleges. 

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With warm regards,

Marilyn 


This message from Marilyn Turkovich, Executive Director of the Charter for Compassion, appears in our 10/29/2022 weekly newsletter. To sign up for our newsletter, scroll all the way down to the end of this page to get to the bottom menu; in the newsletter section, enter your email address and click on subscribe.

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Saturday, 26 November 2022

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