Taking education to a different place: learning through experience

Sam Thomas, Features editor

Thinking about diversity for many is simply a chance to talk about what makes us different from one another. But the word diversity runs much deeper for junior high teacher Mr. James Cave, as it is both a chance to live out experiences around the world and to change the course of the future.

Cave has traveled to many places, including Thailand, Rwanda, and Ghana, but he has also taken students out of their comfort zone to learn about diversity, right here in the United States. “We now do a Civil Rights trip to the deep south, where often times our students are the minority,” said Cave. “We are in the location where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot on Martin Luther King Day, and we are some of the only white people there. Its interesting to see the white students a little bit uncomfortable, and these are the opportunities that we need for kids’ perspectives to change somehow. Through trips like these and the ones in Africa, they come to the realization that what we do here and have here are not typical around the world.”

Diversity can be cultural, socio-economical, racial, etc., but any way that you look at it there is a struggle for people to accept these differences. “Its a bunch of things probably, the main one being that people don’t want to be offensive,” said Cave, “for instance, there is a lot of institutional racism in the north such as not getting rental jobs. Obviously these are not the kind of issues at BSM, but if we looked deep inside I think the main reason would be racism. Racism is convenient, you can say that you’re not racist, but nobody can get into your brain. Plus, people can be ignorant.”

Along with Mrs. Hinnindale, Mr. Cave started a class in the junior high that is now called Genocide and Social Justice. “We don’t have specific units on race or poverty, but everyday we talk about social justice issues, and I think that’s the way to do it,” said Cave, “I like Black , Womens’, Hispanic, history months, but I think that these things should just be incorporated into a part of our history. Of course education about those things is good, but I think we need to take it to a different place.”

No simple solution exists to solving the problems of ignorance in our communities or in our world, but Cave knows that the state that we are in right now, is all part of a process of progress. “Its kind of like when you clean your room. Things get messier before they will get cleaner. Are problems of racism, sexism, homophobia going to get solved soon? Probably not. There will be conflict and tension, and then it will get better, its got to.”

There is no question that significant change has been made over the years when it comes to accepting differences, and Cave sees these changes only as an opportunity for more. “I’m kind of an optimist, as a teacher you have to hopeful that these kids now are going to make a difference someday,” said Cave, “The opportunities that these kids have to volunteer and travel have to open their minds, and they do. That’s why I’m an optimist about it.”