Let’s embrace a collective consciousness for our youth.
When people travel to this area of the state they come to see Paul and Babe. They come to fish walleyes. They come to see the headwaters of the Mississippi. They come to attend a powwow. They come to canoe and kayak on our lakes and rivers. All of these are part of our culture. They make up who we are. They are essential to our existence.
What if graduation from high school became part of our culture? I wish I could say that it was. If it were, we would have a hundred percent graduation rate. Unfortunately for thousands and thousands of students over the past decades who did not receive their diplomas, we haven’t made high school graduation part of their culture and that’s a shame because it could be possible.
One of the most interesting stories ever told to me was about monkeys. Yup, monkeys. I heard it at a World Future Society conference in Washington, D.C. about thirty years ago. Briefly, the story went something like this.
In the 1950s, scientists researched a group of macaque monkeys on the Japanese island of Koshima. These scientists would drop sweet potatoes on the ground for the monkeys to eat. However, one day, one young monkey took the sand-covered sweet potato and rinsed it at a nearby lake, discovering that it tasted better washed.
Not long after, more monkeys on this island adopted this ritual which eventually (and unexplainably) moved across the water to monkeys being studied on nearby islands. And although these monkeys never came into contact, the act of rinsing food before eating entered these species’ collective consciousness and changed their eating habits.
This strange event was coined the “100 Monkey Principle,” which stated that once a critical number of people’s consciousness changed (and in this case, that number was 100), a tipping point would occur, leading to a change in group consciousness.
What’s the point? So it happens with monkeys. Big deal! Monkeys aren’t humans. What does it have to do with high school graduation?
I recently attended a school board meeting at Red Lake, where they began the meeting with a prayer. How often do we start our meetings on or off the reservation with a prayer? How often do we evoke the power of prayer during a religious service? Why do we do that? What is so vital about praying? We do it because we hope and we believe that there is some higher power that will help us accomplish whatever we are collectively praying for. Praying together is a form of collective consciousness in the highest order. Yes, but does it help? Well, we could all stop praying. I wonder how that would go over?
What if we as a community were to advocate, push for, talk about, support, and even pray that all of our youth graduate from high school? I’m not advocating any change in how we teach or learn, nor am I advocating for more funding for education (indeed, it would be nice). Could we do it? Could we almost guarantee a 100% graduation rate?
The naysayers would say “no”. The positive thinkers would say, “Let’s give it a try. What do we have to lose?”
What would this mean if we were to try? Yes, our city councils and county commissioners all support a goal of a 100% graduation rate along with 451 businesses. What more needs to be done?
We see images of Paul and Babe all over the place. We see signs that say, “First city on the Mississippi.” We see pictures in the paper and brochures of people holding up strings of walleyes, pike, and crappies. Resorts advertise the vast opportunities to canoe and kayak. There are posters depicting elaborate powwows giving away lots of cash in prizes. We promote what this area has to offer on our brochures and letterheads, and billboards, and in our speeches to prospective businesses and families who may wish to reside in beautiful northern Minnesota. All of this is part of our culture. This is well and good, but it should take a backseat to help our youth graduate.
I am waiting to see the Chamber of Commerce or any other group in Beltrami County promote in their literature anything to do with our 100% graduation rate goal. I don’t even see our educational institutions (Voyageurs and TrekNorth may be the exception) promoting a goal of a 100% graduation rate when they should be first in line to do so.
We live in times of dramatic change—even more so than in the 60s or any decade after. Before long we will be sending people to Mars and the Moon to live. We have people living in our International Space Station for over 300 days. We have new, unique, crazy inventions bombarding us every day—most of which we can’t even comprehend. (I’m still trying to figure out our electric timer for the Christmas tree.) New issues and crises confront us every minute of every hour of every day. The best solution to this mess, where the only constant is change, is that every young person needs to graduate from high school. We need everyone’s brain power. Too many of our gifted youth are high school dropouts.
If we want to create our future, graduating from high school must become part of our collective consciousness, it must become part of our culture with no exceptions. No other community has ever done it. Bemidji, Red Lake, Northome, Clearbrook, Kelliher, Blackduck, and Gonvick could be the first. So when you say your prayers tonight, say a prayer that every young person graduates from high school. Let’s make it part of our collective consciousness.
Riddle: Why did Mickey Mouse go to space? (Answer: To look for Pluto!) Many of today’s children will go to space. Some may even choose to live there.
100%: Graduating 100% of our students is less about accomplishing the task and more about the fact that we need everyone to use their brain power to create a future livable for everyone.