Words: “The Greatest Lessons You Teach Us…”

Lessons you teach

“Education” has almost become a byword for all that is wrong in the U.S.  While most people agree our education system is broken, we can’t seem to agree on the “real” problems or what to do to fix them.  So our current state of “schooling” limps on.

But our youth know and care that the system is failing them.

How humbling and awe-inspiring to see three young women, teen leaders, boldly stand up and eloquently call out the lessons we, the adults — their parents, their neighbors, their teachers, their media, their government, etc., are teaching them.

Instead of an education that shares a love of learning, fosters a sense of exploration and emboldens young minds to tackle challenges, we have created a system that develops young minds and trains young hearts to accomplish tasks — take tests, follow instructions and fit in…

But our lesson failures aren’t just in our formalized instructions.  In all that we say and do in our daily lives, we teach the young as well.  And in those life lessons — on what we value and how we treat each other — that we are the most powerful and harmful.

Belissa Escobedo, Rhiannon McGavin, and Zariya Allen participated in LA’s “Get Lit” program that teaches teens literacy through poetry. The result was a commanding, passionate and evocative poem they wrote about “the greatest lessons you teach us.” Called “Somewhere in America,” the poem took 3rd place in 2014 at the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival.

In the short excerpt and full video below you can see why they were given one of the top honors.


“We were taught —
Just because something has happened,
Doesn’t mean you are to talk about it.’

They build us brand new shopping malls,
So we forget where we are really standing —
On the bones of the hispanic,
On the bones of the slaves,
On the bones of the native americans,
On the bones of those who fought just to speak.

Transcontinental railroads to Japanese internment camps —
There are things missing from our history books!”

h/t Kristin S.

Below, the three young women talk to Queen Latifah and explain how their thoughts and concerns about their “education” shaped their poem.

Brava Belissa, Rhiannon, and Zariya! Well done and well deserved!  May we long remember your poetry and the lessons you teach us!




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