IMAGINE Magazine-Spring2016 - Page 7

YOUTH EMPOWERMENT Empathy Is the New Literacy by Danielle Goldstone, Founding Director of Ashoka’s Empathy Initiative “D o you want to play kickball with us?” Unsolicited, a second-grader at an inner-city Oakland, California, school invites into his game the adult stranger standing awestruck on the blacktop at the school recess break. It looks like chaos, as any playground with over a hundred children would. But there seems to be only one other adult around, and the children are engaging happily in various forms of play. If conflict arises between students that they cannot resolve, one of a few students in “junior coach” t-shirts jumps in to help mediate. But the need for this is rare. The secondgrader explains the game. “You wait in this line for your turn.” The ball appears to hit the painted line of the kickball court, and one student thinks it’s in, the other, out. Without a word, they walk up to each other and throw out their fists—for a game of rock-paper-scissors. Decision made, the game continues. If you blinked, you would have missed it. “Good job,” the young people waiting their turn yell out to the student exiting the game. From a distance, it looks like a bunch of kids just fooling around at recess. Up close, you see it is far more IMAGINE l SPRING 2016 7