World Peace, Roller Derby and a French Girl
Recently I managed to eavesdrop and observe as diplomats from around the globe gathered to converse at UVA’s Darden Business School. Their objective: to achieve world peace.
Seriously, this happened just two weeks ago, and I was there, watching as world leaders worked diligently to address issues such as global warming, territory disputes, undersea and on-land oil mining, the rise and fall of the stock market, and last but not least, war. I met Prime Ministers, CFOs, Secretaries of State, and the President of the World Bank. It took the group five days, but the goal was achieved. Not bad for 10 and 11 year olds!
I’m talking, of course, about educator John Hunter’s World Peace Game Academy held at Darden this summer for rising 4th and 5th grade students. Inspired by his travels studying Japanese, Chinese and Indian philosophies, John created and developed this amazing teaching-tool “game” more than 20 years ago, and he has been tweaking and perfecting the process ever since.
How is the game played? Try this on for size: a class of 4th grade students is divided into several groups, with each group representing a different country. The children take on the roles of various world leaders and are given a set number of class periods in which to work through environmental, economic, and social crises, including the most difficult one of all – war. In order to win the game, there can be no conflicts or crises in or between countries by the end of the allotted game time. Not so easy, eh?
It is fascinating -- an art really -- to watch John as he guides his students through this process. To me, his true gift -- to the children and to the educational system as a whole -- is his Zen-like ability to give the game over to the kids; to put it (the world) in their capable hands and minds. Sure, he guides a little; he gently probes, and he instigates, but the decisions are made wholly and collectively by the children. In today’s classroom environment, sadly, the focus seems to be more and more on testing and test scores and less on giving children real opportunities to reason, brainstorm and problem solve. Seriously -- I have to ask -- is multiple choice really an option when it comes to global decision making? Or any form of everyday problem solving for that matter? Perhaps our future leaders could just rely on the old standby “Rock, Paper, Scissors…”
O.K. -- I won’t go off. I’ll just close by saying you have to love it when the state of the world balances on a three tiered playing board and the arbitration of 10 year olds. And how do the kids do, you ask? Much better than the grownups, I can tell you. Only once in the history of the game has a class not succeeded. Makes me wonder…wouldn’t it be nice if one day our real world leaders invited John and his students (tomorrow’s diplomats) to join them in the meeting room? If Mr. Hunter can inspire hundreds of elementary school children to work together as a global community, just imagine what he could do at a United Nations gathering. I’m just sayin’…
Talking about the world makes me think of France, and thinking about France reminds me of Bastille Day. Did you remember to celebrate on July 14? Charlottesville is no slouch when it comes to holiday celebrations, so, in honor of the day, there was a buoyant and cheerful event at the Central Place on the Downtown Mall, with a band and flags and all. Once again, I was lucky enough to be there.
In case you don’t know, the holiday, also known as French National Day, marks the beginning of the French Revolution and celebrates the storming of the Bastille prison, an in-your-face attack on Louis XVI’s Ancient Regime. While it was fascinating to learn about Bastille Day, I must confess that I celebrated the day because 1) my good friend and companion back-up chick singer, Maryline, is French, and 2) she and her husband, Jason, and their band, The Pollocks, provided the music for the event.
Jason Pollock is the former songwriter and lead guitarist for platinum recording artists Seven Mary Three (yup, I am clearly dropping names here). Much like Charlottesville itself, the band’s repertoire that night was a mix of original Americana and pop with a touch of international flair. As you can see from the pictures (and the dancers), a good time was had by all!
Witnessing world peace made me feel like singing a patriotic tune, so I headed to Main Street Arena to sing the National Anthem at the recent Charlottesville Derby Dame home bout. And yes, I remembered the words. Every time I tell people I’m going to sing this song, their first response is always, “I hope you remember the words.” Now there’s a real confidence builder!
I suppose most people wouldn’t lump world peace and roller derby into the same day or even the same sentence, but I beg to differ. While the sport can be pretty physical, and players do sometimes get hurt, the Derby Dames are a caring and generous group, donating much of their event’s proceeds to charity. And if a competitor from either side gets hurt, the arena becomes pin-drop silent out of respect for the fallen player. Once the wounded athlete rises to leave the floor, the audience and other players cheer.
Roller derby might be a dangerous sport, but it’s a respectful one. If you follow the rules and look out for one another, it’s not so painful. Perhaps that’s another lesson for our world leaders?
Look for more on the Charlottesville Derby Dames on “Charlottesville Inside-Out” season 4.