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Human Trafficking 1

In February 2010, the Center for EduPunx initiated a project to develop curriculum for teaching slavery and abolition in the online classroom.  Our strategy is to design a curriculum which is:

  • Adaptable
  • Scalable
  • Globally relevant
  • Mobile
  • Empowering

The roots of the project lay in the interview I conducted with San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt regarding his work with the Not For Sale Campaign. He was very eager to talk about his work, and I found the interview to be uniquely compelling. It was published here on February 23rd.

Much of what he said simmered in the back of my mind, but in about two weeks, I cooked up some ideas for some projects I might do. A letter I wrote to some colleagues might help you understand what happened in my mind, or perhaps more significantly, in my heart:

Don’t we all have those times when we look back on our lives, and see a boulevard of broken dreams stretching back into the past? Sometimes it’s a little too easy for me to dwell on mine. But during an interview last February with San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeremy Affledt about his work supporting the abolitionist Not For Sale Campaign, he shook me in my bones when he talked about getting kids out of slavery and giving them a chance to dream:

…There are a lot of other things we want to do, like buying sports equipment for the kids after we rescue them, and kind of get them to start dreaming again. We try to do some of those things so that those who want to play sports, can play sports. I want to afford that opportunity to them. Some of these kids that we rescue, they have awesome talents, and they have been squandered by the people who are slaving them out, and they don’t have the ability to use their talents. So we want to stir that dream up in them again.

I stopped feeling sorry about my broken dreams when I realized that as many as 27 million people live in slavery right now, and never have a chance to dream at all.

Affeldt also said in the interview that it’s just not possible to hear about this and not do something:

…Once awareness is raised, it’s actually inhumane for you not to participate in some way, shape, or form. You’re not going to hear about slavery from someone and then walk up to them and say, “Good luck with that.” It’s impossible. It’s impossible!

The thing is, I’ve known about human trafficking, its scope and scale, for years. So it’s not *that* impossible! But I have been really demoralized. The interview with Affeldt changed things for me because he is so certain that we can stop it. He awakened a real sense of hope and purpose in me, and the ideas started spilling out. I realized we can empower students. We can show them that what they do matters. We can show them that they can make a real difference by giving the gift of freedom.

We can provide opportunities for others to build their own boulevards of broken dreams!

Who knew what a privilege it is to risk everything and lose it all!

Human Trafficking 2

The website of the Not For Sale Campaign has a “Take Action” section.  The page for teachers can be found here:

The first thing wrong with this is the picture!  It reinforces ideas about teachers that lie at the very heart of unfair hiring practices.  And there is clearly a point to be made about the relationship between patriarchy and contemporary slavery.

But the real problem, to my mind, is with the college curriculum available for download.  What kind of college can use this?  The slowly-suffocating traditional 4-year liberal arts college, of course!  What kind of class can use this?  One that can afford to devote an entire semester to one book and one subject, of course!

Can we afford to do that in our community colleges?  My students at Front Range Community College in Colorado are practical, goal-oriented students.  They are very focused, and are in college because they have a very precise career goal in mind.  Most of them are working for degrees in nursing, business, and computer science.  Community colleges train people for jobs, and the thought of taking a class uniquely devoted to the problem of modern slavery, while appealing in many ways, is something they cannot afford.

But there’s actually another point here, one that I’m only just learning to articulate.  What good does it do to study the problem of modern slavery in a specially-devoted seminar?  What are the learning objectives?  What are the outcomes, and how can they be measured?  What, as a teacher of such a course, have you done to show students how to recognize and confront slavery out in the real world, and most importantly, in their jobs?

If we can incorporate abolition education into the curriculum for vocational courses, and their surrounding electives, then we can empower students with a lifetime’s worth of tools.  They can become abolitionists right at the economic and social centers of their lives.  The existing curriculum at Not For Sale’s website is good for raising awareness, and centering young people in a shared moral universe that knows and confronts the problem.

But we can take that to the next level.  We can create curriculum that creates awareness, provides tools, and directly locates abolitionist activities in the workplace.  We all work.  That is what Americans do.  Abolition can be a natural expression of our work, as natural as displaying skill or earning a paycheck.

I’ll figure out a better way to express this.  I’d love some help!