Friday, November 13, 2009

Children's Day Special: How will we explain what we've done?

We've been serving up a lot of serious stuff at the Green Light Dhaba lately, so I was planning something light for today's menu--funny even. Then my kids reminded me that Saturday November 14 is Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's birthday, which means, of course, in India we will all be celebrating Children's Day. So in preparation for that day, I am offering--no assigning--a Children's Day Special.  (Children, of course, are exempt from all written work on Children's Day at the Dhaba!)

Please beware: this post includes very little text, but it does include the following:
  1. Instruction: two short videos to watch.
  2. Classwork: a question to consider and respond to (I won't cut marks for spelling).
  3. Homework: an assignment to do with a child between now and Children's Day. (Late work accepted, but I may cut marks for that).
However, all who submit their homework in a reasonable amount of time will receive a special e-surprise.  

First, you have to watch the videos below.  In all, this should take fewer than seven minutes.  Both videos respond to roughly the same idea: if we don't take serious action on climate change soon, there is a reasonable chance that we--or more likely our children--may suffer very serious consequences.  (If you really want more information about what that might look like, try this link or this one.) Note: both videos are aimed at a Western audience, but I think they are worth seeing.

As you watch these videos, ask yourself which approach you find more effective and why?  

For classwork,  write a short comment explaining your answer to this question below.

(Homework will follow at the end of this post).

The first video is an advertisement from "Moms Against Climate Change."

The second video is a "Bloggingheads" interview with author David W. Orr on the New York Times website.  You can see it here.

For your homework project, you have a choice.

Pandit Nehru was famous for the letters he wrote to his daughter when she was young.  (You can see one of them here.)  To honour this tradition, one of your choices is to write a letter to a child explaining what you will do to help stop climate change.  If you are a parent, you may address your own child or children.  If you are not a parent, you can address a child you know or imagine.  Do not try to write like Nehru; you will fail. Write like yourself and you cannot fail. (No marks will be cut for spelling or grammar). Discuss your letter with the child to whom it is addressed, if possible.

Alternatively, you may instead meet with your child and discuss what you will do together for climate change.  Then make a list of these things and post it on the kitchen cabinet or somewhere like that.

To receive your e-surprise, send a copy of your letter or your list to; I'll run it here at the Dhaba sometime soon. If you decide to run your letter or list on your own blog, send me the link and I'll share it with others.

I will send a special e-prize for all who complete their homework in a reasonable amount of time.

Please raise your hand or post a comment if you have any questions...
Now get to work!


  1. I agree that our kids will curse us (or maybe our great grandkids - our kids might do the same as we're doing now). I do feel though that the first video was over the top - shot to provoke outrage. No police force would try and forcibly stop children walking the streets or threaten them with violence and pursue them (after all, many police members will be parents). Still I understand the point that is being made.

    I've been thinking about what I would say to my kids (if I had any) and I suddenly realized that I'm simply not wise enough. I thought of telling them to question everything, but them a lot of questioning can be tailored to justify one's immoral actions. I thought of telling them not to get stuck into any way of thinking and I realized that most people don't believe they're stuck...

    If I had a wish, I would only tell him or her to listen to their conscience and not compromise on that. What else can be told without seeming arrogant?

  2. The environment issue is something I discuss off and on with both my kids. My daughter (12 years this month) is far more receptive and has very strong views on this issue. She and I exchange letters about this all the time. I file her letters, so I can fish out some. But what I think I'll really do is tell her about this project and let her shoot! She even saves the blank note papers from her school copy books and uses them for rough work; none of us told her to, this was her own initiative. She has a few friends who think like her. In the cities and other urban areas I find adults behaving far less responsibly than children. The greed and selfish thoughtlessness is more among adults than children, but after sometime the kids too start to ape their parents.

  3. @Bhagwad, I am of two minds about the video. What worked for me was the punchline--I just didn't expect it, maybe because it was 6 am when I saw it, before my first cup of coffee. I don't think it's necessarily saying the police would do that to children. But that someday our choices may force our children to grow up and confront ugly authority. When Bangladesh starts going under water, where will those climate refugees go? What will happen to them if they come to Delhi or by boat to the US? What kinds of Governments (here and there) will be required to protect the interests of those who still have land against those who don't? Will that kind of government be something we can live with or will it be something authoritarian and brutal? Those are the questions it raises for me. The critic in me sees it is flawed in some ways, but I'll save those thoughts for later.

    @Rumjhum how wonderful it would be to hear from your daughter. If she'd mail us something, I'd post it for sure!

  4. I just rewatched this video. I think what works is the idea that if we don't act, we are condemning our children to a future where they will be forced to take action in the face of what will likely be a brutally unequal world where social collapse and fascism are real possibilities. When I saw the video today, I didn't imagine the children as literal children, but as our children grown up and doing our job because we didn't. They won't be children in the eyes of the police, but to me as a father, my children will always be children in my eyes, if that makes any sense. That's how I saw the video today.

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What do you think?