All too often, our society’s popular, consumer-oriented culture exhorts young people to conform and judge others who do not conform. The value system inherent in popular culture can thwart character development and youth empowerment.
Throughout a discussion, we can strive to counter this social force by encouraging sharing about our individuality—about that which makes us each special. We can invite students to express themselves, and to explore a full range of values and perceptions. In so doing, we provide students with opportunities to learn that limiting ourselves to whatever is trendy and popular restricts our self-development and our ability to include others in our world.
In the context of a discussion about youth empowerment or a related situation that arises, we can begin by honouring students’ differing opinions and celebrating the lone opinion. We can place equal emphasis on the areas where students find consensus. Our aim is to build an atmosphere of trust and acceptance.
- "It’s fascinating that you’ve all had such different reactions to this story. I just love seeing how unique we each are."
- "I can see that song has really stirred up strong feelings for you all. I have the sense it’s resonated for you because it speaks to our common passion as human beings for fairness and justice."
- "A lot of you are feeling strongly that this new rule the principal just told us about is unfair, and I’ll be sure to let her know about your thoughts. And I’ve heard your opinion too Siham, that the rule is important for safety. Everyone’s thoughts and opinions are important, even when it’s just one person, so I’ll make sure the principal hears your idea too."