A modest proposal.

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Recently I stumbled over Doris Allen's original proposal to create a programme for youth.


I'd like to extract two quotes, that I found curious:

"Hitler taught us so well that in children and youth lies plastic human material which can be modled in desired forms."

Whereas I can see the core CISV philosophy in that quote, I wonder whether a) there is anything to learn from Hitler at all and b) "plastic human material" is what we would like to consider our participants.

"Even seven year olds could gain concepts of one world"
I've long been wondering, why we aren't coming up with programmes for younger children.

In the end it all came differently. Apparently UNESCO never wholeheartedly embraced Doris Allen's ideas, and instead of "Centers" an independent, decentralized structure of chapters was established. But even outside UNESCO, I think we can look back at an amazing success story, even if the "millions of children" to experience "international understanding" within CISV might take another 500 years...

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You're absolutely not alone in thinking about programmes for younger kids. Over the years, I've concluded that there are various factors for considering that the 11 year-olds from 1950 are not the same as the ones of today, when thinking about CISV programmes - especially Village. Here's a few:

- Evolution (ha, you guessed it!)
- Globalisation
- Technology advancements
- Easier, safer and cheaper to travel abroad
- A world full of known heterogeneity all around you (this might vary according to where you live)
- Humans have been to the moon.

A few years back, I took a picture of my 2-year old cousin smiling. He immediately said: "Can I see it?". I was astonished by his words. How could he know the picture was "there", how did he know he could see it? This is exactly what I mean.

Kids are different now, and will be different tomorrow. Is it really a "unique cultural experience" for a kid to go on a Village? Probably not if the kid goes to public school in New York. Let alone when he's 11 (by this time, I calculate he has uploaded at least 4 videos on YouTube, has Facebook and probably a cellphone, too).

While our educational principles might be intact and still very valid, the methods by which we translate theory to practice, to action are constraining us more and more if we continue to ignore the list above.

I'd say this is some severe food for though for the organisation as a whole.

Interesting post...

Well, Hitler, much like Dr. Allen, knew that it would be easier to get his message through if he "Started with children". At 11, kids' opinions are the ones they hear or experience, and not much comes from their own judgement. Villages can be seen as quite a "brainwashing experience", since we are somehow imposing our educational principles without them realizing they're being brainwashed. Although in other programmes kids start planning for themselves, discussing and building their own opinions, I think they're already somehow biased towards CISV's way of thinking. Is this right to do? (And I speak against myself, I've been through the whole CISV learning process and I'm still involved 8 years later..)

As for younger-children-programmes, here are some possible reasons why they haven't started:

- Communication between 11 year-olds is difficult already, imagine for younger kids.

- 11 year-olds are independent enough, so they don't depend too much on adults (it would be hard to control and keep focused a group of 50 younger kids).

- Some parents of 11 year olds already find it hard to send their kids to a Village abroad, younger kids' parents would think they're too young for something of that kind.

- The possible education at such programme would have to be very adapted to the age of participants thus very educationally uninteresting (on the CISV philosophy point of view)

Although like Nano said, 11 year-olds from 2009 are not those from 1951, the way they think and react to teaching is similar, so it's kind of difficult to say wether a program for younger kids can work.


One way to try this out would be to try out Youth Meeting styled (short, not to many participants) regional activities.

I suspect that the 10 year olds of today are pretty much like the 11 year olds of the past. Maybe one would also get a more homogenous group again. My feeling is that the 11 year olds of today are much more "negatively diverse" (maturity of girls vs. boys etc.) than before.

The reasons for starting with 11 Ze's giving are pretty much the ones Doris Allen had, when she chose that age. I think it would be fair to question them today. I've not a child psychologist, but I'de be careful wth assuming 10yo today equals 11yo 50 years ago, but I really like LLL's suggestion of a modified youth meeting for younger kids. Maybe bi-national with a neighbouring country, short-duration, short-travel could work well for 10yo, maybe even 9yo.

With Youth Meeting and IPP as fully approved programmes, we a) have broadened the scope up to 99yo and b) should be ready for another experimental programme! And all in the spirit of Dr. Doris Allen - who would oppose that?

I'm liking this discussion. I have to agree with the idea that 11-year-olds have changed, and it might be enough to just look at the type of problems and issues reported throughout the history of villages. I could dare to say that they might have changed quite a lot.

As much as I like the idea of thinking of new ways to adjust our programs to child development, I don't think we can forget about Mosaic. This is a programme that could easily involve children of all ages, without the problem of homesickness, toilet issues, autonomy problems... It's built in a way where everyone, regardless of their age, can be exposed to CISV's values, ideals, methodology...

I think we should definitely re-think the age groups towards which programmes are intended for, but in the meantime, why not also take advantage of what we have now?

Great discussion!

I was also thinking about involving younger ages since sometimes the little brother/sister of some kids join us for some games in the beginning of our minicamps while the parents talk with some of the adults and they enjoy it a lot. I also think that language could be a big problem so short term national programmes could work better. But why don't we do what other organisations do then? We used to have all these drug prevention trainings in primary school and whole day programmes with the fire brigade. I was thinking that theoretically bringing CISV ideology into the schools is not such a bad idea at all, and somewhere it also works (Australia maybe? I read something about that somewhere)
Doing a one day program for younger kids could be the tryout for planning a camplike thing for them. The only concern I have is that we are not teachers, or at least only a few of us are and maybe a child psychologist or an experienced teacher would say that it is not such a good idea because if anything goes wrong the whole positive education turns inside out and has the opposite effects. Education is the key to change the world but it is like a very sharp knife, a wrong move and we cut ourselves too.

@Moni: You are perfectly right, Mosaic could be one way to create activities for younger children.

@Reka: I don't think the fact that we are not education professionals limits us to older age groups. Also, we've alwas sought input from educators to improve our programmes, and I think with the right training (developed by professionals) most volunteers in CISV can run activities for this age group. The analogy to the sharp knife applies to all of our programmes.

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This page contains a single entry by Nick published on May 18, 2009 12:14 AM.

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