On January 2, 2005, Shin Dong-hyuk became the first person to ever escape the highest security prison camp in North Korea. Shin was born and raised within the prison walls because of his grandfather’s high level offense against the government in attempting to escape North Korea. Somewhere between 150,000-200,000 people work as slaves in these prison camps. Before his escape, Shin had faced near death due to starvation, torture, and harsh beatings.
Shin’s knowledge of life outside North Korea only extended as far as the abundance of food in comparison to North Korea. It is believed that about 40% of inmates die from malnutrition. Growing up, Shin saw his mother only as a competitor for food and would sometimes eat her lunch, despite his knowing that it would cost him a brutal beating from her when she returned from the fields.
When Shin escaped he was missing the top part of his middle finger. It had been cut off as a punishment for dropping a sewing machine at work and his entire back was scarred from being lowered over a fire by his torturers until he could smell his own flesh burning.
It is details and information like this that inspire people to help make a difference in the world. However, most people are grossly uninformed on the world around them. The root of the problem lies in the way we educate our students. The required curriculum for high school students doesn’t include current events but rather past ones. It is true that there is large importance in teaching the history of our world. However, there is equal, if not more, importance in teaching people the present conditions of the modern world. In order to raise generations of world-changers, we must first teach them about what must be changed.
Not only should we be teaching our youth about the world around them, but we should be teaching them in a way where they care. Textbooks in high schools give you the cold hard facts of events. “Who? What? When? Where?” What better way to teach our youth to detach themselves from the circumstances and the people involved?
I hear far too many of my friends complaining about history classes. I hear them cramming for tests as they review important dates in history like robots over and over only to forget them the second they hand in their tests. No wonder they complain about it!
The most engaging and inspiring history classes I’ve taken have been taught by teachers who have acquired a deep knowledge on the topics at hand and share the details of the events. What was it actually like living in that time period? That’s what inspires people.
The same goes for current events. As human beings, we are, by nature, compassionate and altruistic, meaning we have an instinct to take care of others. In teaching students, and people in general, about the current conditions of our world, we must teach in a way that allows them to connect with the people going through it. We can do this by mixing in more personal details coming from perspectives of people with the textbook big-picture facts and statistics.
Every living being on the planet changes lives. If you, the person who’s reading this right now, did not exist, nothing would be the same. Everyone is capable of extending a hand just a little farther to help another human being who maybe isn’t as close to them in distance or relationship. If we, as a country, were able to teach current events in a way that inspired people and ignited the compassion we all have inside ourselves, the world would truly be a better place.