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I think most educators have a growing sense of concern that their students are turning into a generation of observers. The many watch the few. Arenas and auditoriums fill with spectators, televisions blare all day long, and YouTube fans number in the billions. My concern, mind you, is not with the passive viewers, but with the pseudo-participants—those who may equate appreciating and recalling the accomplishments of others with doing something meaningful themselves. I worry that, in our classrooms, we have become focused on celebrating the lives of others, at the expense of the act of creation.
For me, the most striking example of this gap between worthy celebration and needful action came when I was teaching at a historically black college several years ago. During Black History Month, one of the great leaders of the civil rights movement was invited to campus to speak at the college's weekly convocation. The speaker eloquently addressed his experience with the movement, but after his address, I realized my students were disheartened.
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