The two individuals mentioned above are from very different backgrounds. They have some things in common such as their careers in the world of business which was very successful in both counts. Their abiding passion though is education and they have both tried to overcome educational disadvantage in their respective countries.
I came across Eugene Lang from a very indirect route. I am sure that he is not the first name you might think of when you think about education in the U.S.A. but he is the founder of an organisation called “The I Have a Dream Foundation”.
If you look at the excellent “60 Minutes” video below, you will see just what this organisation is all about (you will also see, within it, a younger Arne Duncan, now Education Secretary, talking about how the “I have a Dream Foundation” ideals has influenced him).
I first came across this organisation by following a link from Shannon Miller, the librarian at the amazing Van Meter schools in Iowa (I have a blog entry about her excellent Library site.. see my blogroll for a link to the Van Meter Library website).
She put in a blog entry about some children in the Martin Luther King Elementary School in De Moines, Iowa, who are called “The King Dreamers”. I followed the link… http://vanmeterlibraryvoice.blogspot.com/2010/02/story-of-hope.html
It turned out that Van Meter has a connection with this inner city Des Moines school and that they sent some of their students to work with a special class of children who are MLK Elementary’s group of children who are a part of the national “I Have a Dream Foundation”. For more information see http://www.desmoinesdreams.org/ml-king-project/
The blog entry was about the Van Meter students assisting the “King Dreamers” in preparing”Books of Hope” for children in African and Asian schools who had little or no books to read.
I did some research on this and that led me to find out about this very worthwhile organisation that Eugene Lang founded at an awards ceremony in New York in the 1980’s.
There will probably be many who say (as Lang himself has) that the I Have a Dream Foundation cannot solve all of the problems of American society. But is attempting to solve some of them and is proving that children from disadvantaged backgrounds can “aim for the stars”. This something which educators, such as myself (in a small way, such as the use of this blog) are trying to promote.
In the case of Shukla Bose, I came across her from my great interest (also to be seen in this blog) in the TED Talks. I am on the TED mailing list and also follow them on Facebook and also Twitter. I was informed about a new talk called “Shukla Bose Teaching One Child At a Time”.
Here was a very successful business lady from India who, like Eugene Lang, had a very deep concern about educational disadvantage in her country and a very real desire to do something about it.
She has started schools in some of the poorest slums in her country and has had great success (like “The Dreamers” all across the U.S.A.) in showing that children, if given the opportunity, can succeed against all the odds.
Below is the video of her talk. It is well worth watching, particularly for the interviews with the children themselves. like the students recollections in the “60 Minute” video above, they show the personal impact of these projects.
Neither Shukla Bose or Eugene Lang would say that they have magic wand and can solve all the educational disadvantage in this world, but they have at least attempted to do something. They could, with their money and power have enjoyed the trappings of richness and success and have ignored the children and left them where they were… but they did not and the doctors, engineers and maybe one day President of The United States, or India, will show just what these two remarkable individuals have added to this world by their efforts.
I should end this blog post by saying that today (as I write) 4th April, is the anniversary of the assassination in 1968 of the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jnr., who was of course the speaker who so famously coined the phrase “I Have a Dream!” I feel sure that Dr King would have really been interested in both of these projects and most certainly would have given them his blessing.