"If we learn to value interdependence, then we see that we have to work at this together."
One of our last blogs detailed the work of Sarah Storm-Tower
and Sam Tower
. As veteran PFP trainers, they have helped tons of youth, both nationally and internationally, understand what Play For Peace
is all about. Although they work primarily from their home community in Tacoma, Washington, they have also participated in some exciting projects in both Mexico and India. After interviewing them last week, I felt that sharing some of their thoughts about the future, and about the issues facing schools today, would be well worth sharing.
Let’s start with their work in Tacoma! In previous interviews, Sam and Sarah identified issues of gangs, poverty, and language barriers. And they continue to look at issues of safety through the lens of Washington’s socio-economic circumstances. “We definitely notice issues depending on what group we are dealing with – what socio-economic class,” says Sarah. And yet she identifies excessive media as a serious concern for all youth: it acts as a constant source of fear, regardless of background. "The issue of media also includes a disturbing new trend. As the economy improves, more and more children are being given smart phones.” Indeed, the amount of screen time children engage in on a day-to-day basis is surpisingly high. According to a recent study referred to by the American Academy of Pediatrics
, children ages 8 - 1o have an average of 8 hours screen time a day, while older kids spend around 11.
Frustrated by the statistics, Sam and Sarah are concerned with this loss of human contact. As life-long educators, they have noticed that kids who get a lot of screen time don’t have the same attention span as kids they are working with in India. To them, it poses some important questions. Sarah puts it like this:
"Imagine if you came from a hunter-gatherer tribe and you went fishing and you didn’t catch any fish for half an hour and gave up. The default for human nature is someone who is able to endure, able to find their own internal resources, able to find more happiness from family and friends. With all the marvels of the digital world, what is it that we can still hold onto?"
As a way to approach this issue, Sam and Sarah use PFP as a way to re-connect youth with others - allowing participants to reap the benefits of face-to-face interaction. Their goal is to move the dominant focus in our lives from a celebration of the individual, to a valuing interdependence. As Sam suggests: "The great individualist can go out there and rape the planet for their own purposes, and its not helping any of us. If we learn to value interdependence, then we see that we have to work at this together."
This is sentiment is one they carry with them everywhere. Over the next couple months, the couple will travel to Asia. Sarah leaves on the 28th of March, and Sam on the 19th of April. They spend two weeks in Nepal, and three weeks connecting with the PFP folks in India. “We’ve been before,” explains Sarah. “We spent about 11 months the first time and 8 months the second time. So we feel very connected to the team there.” When asked exactly what they will do there, the two smiled - "whatever we can to help."
Strasburger, Victor C. and Marjorie J. Hogan (November 2013). “Children, Adolescents, and the Media.” American Academy of Pediatrics. Pediatrics
, Volume 132, Issue 5. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/132/5/958