Saturday, November 11, 2006

How to change the world

A couple of weeks ago I discovered that Oprah has changed times (and networks) in this area and now comes on at 9:00 p.m.--a time when I'm actually home and can watch it if I want to. This past Thursday I did just that, and it was one of the best, most thought-provoking hours I've spent in a long time.

The subject was a program called Challenge Day, designed specifically for high school students but equally suited, in my opinion, for adults. It's a program designed to break down barriers between students of different backgrounds, to minimize clique behavors and bullying.

There were 64 students participating from the school chosen for Oprah's Challenge Day experiment, a racially diverse group featuring a mix of the athletes, the scholars, the most popular kids and the most unpopular ones, the goths, the gays and the chubbies. The program was developed to teach the participants that they were much more alike than different.

One of the first things the students were taught was American Sign Language for "I love you." The kids were encouraged to display that sign whenever they felt moved to show love for one another during the Challenge, and let me tell you, they showed some love. The tears rolled down my face for an hour as I watched these kids become vulnerable, open and honest. You could see the light of understanding dawning in their eyes as they learned the truth about each other.

I started to link you to the Oprah site (it's if you want it), but given the time limitations that plague all of us, I think you'd get more out of Challenge Day's own site. Spend a little time there if you can and check out these videos. If you only have time for one, watch "Part 2: Lines that Divide Us." It's a pretty powerful demonstration that none of us is alone.

I know some of you are teachers and others are mothers of school-aged kids. If you haven't heard of Challenge Day before, I hope this brief exposure to it will inspire you to get more information and consider introducing this program to your schools. An experience like this, one that opens minds, can be life altering. I'd like to see it in every high school in the country, and if someone could figure out a way to get adults to participate in a similar program (maybe as a prerequisite for voter registration), I think we'd all be better off.

If you saw this Oprah show or have first-hand knowledge of this program, I'd love to hear your thoughts about it. Until I have solid evidence otherwise, I'll have to agree with Oprah: "This is how we change the world."


  1. I did happen to see this Oprah show and was profoundly moved as well. I believe those kids learned a level of empathy that will stay with them through the balance of their lives. Carmon

  2. I didn't see the show but will watch the videos once I get back to my office where I have flash installed on my computer.

    I'm sure you've heard folks talk about blog synchronicity and today I saw another blog that spoke about how to change the world. Kikipotamus had a different take on it than Oprah's, I think, but I thought you might be interested in looking at her post today.

  3. Velvet, thanks for sharing this. I just visited the Challenge Day site. How powerful. I can see why you were so moved, and I agree, this should be in every middle school and highschool. What a difference it would make.

  4. Carmon, I'm glad to know you responded to this show the same way I did. The whole time I watched it I wished for someone to share it with.

    Annie, thanks for the link. I read the Kikipotamus post you referred to and enjoyed it. Sunflower Optimism has some world-changing ideas posted, too. With more than one way to go about it, perhaps we should just get on with it.

    Jackie, thanks for taking the time to check out the Challenge Day site. I thought the program facilitators did a wonderful job of helping the kids to see how much they have in common.

  5. Thank you for visiting my blog, which in turn allowed me to find yours.

    Before I gave away my television, Oprah was one of the few shows I found worth watching. Most days, anyway.


  6. Velvet, please visit my blog on Monday sometime. As I will post my thoughts and experiences on this subject. And if you find time, check out this web site,
    Because I am a mother of young teenagers in school, our family has been touched by the horror of bullying. My girls and I have spent hours talking about this, and many hours shedding tears. Thanks so much for the link, it is appreciated!

  7. Kiki, thanks for stopping by.

    Schremsgems, I'll look forward to reading what you have to say tomorrow. I checked out the Ophelia Project at your recommendation and found it very interesting. Thanks.

  8. I haven't sen Oprah Velvet but I followed the link and read the post. Wonderful idea and one that could solve so many problems is schols, especially bullying.


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