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Time to Heal the System

As we design for the future through this health crisis, I ask myself what is our role in all the other crises facing our country? This week has seen more vivid examples of the “-isms” that persist in society. Racism, classism, sexism, chauvanism, homophobism – there are so many. Regardless of who is in leadership in our country, the “-isms” persist. They are the symptoms of a larger dysfunctional system. How do we start healing our systems so that we all prosper? 

When I look at the white officer with his knee on the neck of a black man, I wonder if when he was a kid, did he ever play LEGOS with another child who was black? When he was in elementary school, did he ever do a science project with a black classmate? Did he ever go to camp and build a fort with a camper who was black? When he went to highschool, did he ever have a black teacher? Has he ever had dinner in a black person’s home? How many of us who are not black can say “yes” to any of these questions?

It’s uncomfortable to admit, but it’s true. The systems we live, work, play and educate in are segregated. There are a myriad of inequities that create this separation. The separtation creates unfamiliarty which in turn breeds fear. The inequity I am closest to is educational inequity. I write this as a camp owner who has run segregated camps with the best of intentions for 17 years. Last year we hosted 32 camps in Northern California. We had camps in affluent neighborhoods that served 80-90% white families. We also had camps funded by school districts and foundations in low-income neighborhoods that served 80-90% Latinx and African American families. While we thought we were being a force for good, we had unwittingly built a system on top of a broken system. We had no camps that intentionally brought families from different socio-economic and racial communities together (unless they were already diverse).

At EDMO® we’re determined to never go back to the old way. When we re-designed ourselves into an online learning platform, we also introduced a different system. It’s as old as humanity, yet revolutionary for the times. It’s called the Honor System. It’s a system based, not on fear, but on love. It’s a system that is equitable. It’s a system that values human dignity and trust. It’s a system that allows for people to stand in their values. It’s a system that enables a child from East Oakland, California to instantly go to camp with a child from Westford, Connecticut.  It’s a system that allows for personal and organizational growth. It’s a system that gives people the power to make sure their child and ALL children get a high-quality education.

By creating virtual connections between kids from all over the country, we have the potential to begin a form of social therapy. We are already reaching out to allies in equity to help us be more intentional and powerful in our work. When it’s safe again to bring large groups of kids together, the hard work will really start – physical therapy. How do we use this system to create physical spaces where kids from all different socio-economic, ethnic and racial backgrounds can come together? How can we design our curriculum and activities so kids make authentic connections that overcome the implicit bias and racism in the system? How do we move parents to travel to a different neighborhood so that their child can learn to lead with love instead of fear? That is our long-term work. Now is the time to start. Now is the time to heal the system.