This has been composing itself in my head for nearly ten days, but, when her very life hung in the balance, as it did until today, it felt too soon to write about Malala Yousafzai as a hero and role model. As I tweeted and facebooked last week, I found myself so moved and affected by her shooting, but writing a full blog entry was hard for me to do– in part because I was still too emotional and too concerned. But today the New York Times reports, “she is now able to stand with assistance and communicate in writing,” and it is impossible not to note the particular good news that she is able to communicate in writing now– because that is so central to her place and contribution to the world.
The past ten days, following Malala’s story, I felt particularly sorry not to be currently a school-leader, or part of a school community, which I have been for nearly every year of my life previous and which I expect to be again before too long. Because if I were, I would take some extended time with students to view the video telling her story, to hear her voice and read her writing, to have moments of silence to hold her in our thoughts, and to share with students why I think they should view her as an icon of their generation.
This blog is intended to celebrate 21st century K-12 learning, and my particular vision of 21st century learning includes as a central element an empowerment of students to develop their voice and strengthen their skills and problem-solving creativity to address real-world problems, using technology in every way possible to amplify these things.
Malala represents this so exactly, so brilliantly, so movingly, and all that much more because her particular cause is itself education and learning. She is a young person, still only 15, but she has been an activist for girls education in Pakistan for four years or more, and a blogger since 2009, when she was in 7th grade. Oh to be a seventh grade Social Studies teacher right now, (I’ve been one before), and take some time to read her blog, see the world through her eyes, seek to understand her motivation and world view, and then evaluate her as a role model.
Hear her blogging voice:
Do not wear colourful dresses – 5 January 2009
“I was getting ready for school and about to wear my uniform when I remembered that our principal had told us not to wear uniforms and come to school wearing normal clothes instead.
“So I decided to wear my favourite pink dress. Other girls in school were also wearing colourful dresses. During the morning assembly we were told not to wear colourful clothes as the Taliban would object to it.”
Several times this summer I wrote and spoke about Martha Payne, another awesome model of a justice-seeking young person using a blog Never Seconds to extend her voice and impact, changing the conversation and the meal plan in Scottish schools.
But clearly Malala now has a profile of vastly greater significance. With the entire world hoping and praying for her, she may have the full recovery she and the world deserves her to have, and thereupon, she’ll take draw upon her strengths and her resilience to become a global leader for peace and justice.
This possible future global leadership role, this possible future Nobel Peace Prize award, began with a girl who wanted to go to school, who was supported by families and teachers to advocate for her cause, who was enabled to seek this justice as part of her schooling and part of her learning, and who used technology and the web to broadcast her voice and share her vision and change the world.