From NYLC interim CEO, Amy Meuers.
In April my 19-year-old daughter informed me that Malala Yousafzai would be speaking in Minneapolis and that we had to go hear her. Malala is her hero, role model, and fellow advocate for women’s rights. Last week we sat in a packed arena and listened as the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize spoke with eloquence, wit, and passion. Her message was clear — every child deserves an education.
She spoke passionately about the need for girls to receive at least 12 years of instruction, not the six originally envisioned in the Millennium goals. This past September, world leaders met at the United Nations in New York and committed to a new set of global development goals including a commitment to deliver free, quality primary and secondary education for every child by 2030 — which means 12 years of education for every child in the world. Malala encouraged all of us to hold our leaders accountable for delivering on these goals by stating, “Leaders of the 21st century must deliver on their promises to invest in the future and start investing in books, education and hope, rather than in weapons, war and conflicts.” She went on to speak about the need for young people to make their dreams a reality by sharing their voice now.
Listening to this young Pakistani woman reminded me how much we take for granted in the United States about our education system as well as how much better we can make it for our children. Malala teased the audience (approximately 65% girls) about wanting to play video games or watch television instead of doing homework. She laughed as she talked about not wanting to get up early and do her own homework but then became serious as she told the transfixed audience about her own deep desire to learn and how she and her friends lied about their ages so that they could continue to go to school even though it was against the law (she was going into 5th grade).
My own daughter rose through the ranks of the U.S. K-12 public school system and has gone on to excel at her university, ready to fulfill her dream of becoming an engineer, but not all young people have the support necessary to ensure they receive the best possible education. We fought to ensure our daughter was placed in classes that would challenge her, develop her skills, and keep her engaged — but shouldn’t every child have the opportunity to excel without needing an advocate? Shouldn’t they each have the opportunity to grow their critical thinking and leadership skills? According to Malala (and me), the answer is unequivocally yes.
Malala spoke about the need for youth to develop critical thinking skills so that they can help solve world issues. These words had me clapping and cheering because at that moment I knew that this Nobel Laurette understood what so many don’t — developing critical thinking skills and giving youth a voice will make the world a better place. For me that means helping move our education system beyond test scores to a place where we are developing the skills and passion of students so that they can make the world a better place for us all. A place where everyone will Serve. Learn. Change the World.®