What is the ONE action we can make as a human race that will have the largest positive impact on our future? 

That’s the question that 9th graders tackle in Common Ground’s Survey to Literature each spring. Keith Lambert — the English teacher who facilitates this class — challenges students to ….

  • Research the world’s big crises
  • Listen to community members speak on the kinds of actions they are taking in the world as a part of their professional career
  • Develop their own potential brainstorm of answers
  • Gather together with people that have a similar idea
  • Investigate the “root” causes of each of the answers (what causes racism?  what causes hunger?)
  • Construct a claim for an action that would have the largest impact
  • Research to find evidence to support their argument
  • Debate other teams and their answers…all answers are good, but the ones that get recognition are the ones that are argued effectively
  • Write an argumentative essay

What do 9th grader share when challenged with this big question? Here are a few excerpts from this Spring’s student essays:

Overpopulation causes crime and wealth inequality. Professor Eric R. Pianka says that ”wealthy people could now control the less fortunate. As the rich got richer, political and legal systems became necessary” (Pianka). As the economy gets more and more corrupt and the lower more populated class will be manipulated to a point at which political and legal system will have  to maintain order between them.” – Roberto Cubilla

In addition to America consuming too much, richer countries consume more than others, which doesn’t leave enough for the developing or poor countries. UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) Chairman Luis Alberto Ferraté Felice states “Quite simply, the world is consuming too much energy and materials,…Here is an example of the inequality in consumption: the 20 per cent of the population in the highest-income countries accounted for 77 per cent of total private consumption in 2005, while the poorest 20 accounted for only 1.3 per cent” (UN News Center). If richer countries stop consuming so much, then there will be more resources for the people in developing countries that don’t have enough. This shows that having a political group that watches the consumption can limit the rich countries consumption rates and help give more resources to poorer countries.” – Alfia Ansari

Of course, there are not enough funds for mental health facilities or workers. In the article, “In Which Countries does Mental Health have the Most Impact,” the WHO (World Health Organization) states, “In some lower income countries, there is only one health worker per 100,000 population compared with more than 50 in some higher income countries” (Arnett). Wealthier countries have more doctors and such while poorer countries don’t have enough for their population. Funding mental health does not mean adding health care providers to wealthy America, but also to other countries who need it.” – Linda Torres

The over consumption of oil makes countries fight over it because of the limited supply. The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, of Harvard University explains,  “Although the threat of “resource wars” over possession of oil reserves is often exaggerated, the sum total of the political effects generated by the oil industry makes oil a leading cause of war… No other commodity has had such an impact on international security” (Colgan). If we preserve and observe the amount used, wars can potentially be stopped.” – Inayah Sharif

In addition racism is a case of nurture not nature. Kids are most likely taught at a young and gullible age that racism is ok and that people of color or different nationality are not their equal.. Racism is taught not something you’re born with. According to the UCLA journalist Amy Albin and the UCLA News Team, ‘Contemporary racism is said to have been derived from many places, one of the most common ideas being upbringing.’ If Racism is a problem because parents are teaching their kids racism and what people they like and they don’t like. Then racism is not something that a child is born with it’s something they learn.” – Jordan Saulsbury

Similarly, If we have a World Government, we can combine all our resources together, instead of keeping them within each nation, and selling them. According to a UN (United Nations) study, ‘The most developed and the emerging economies must stabilize and then reduce material consumption levels through dramatic improvements in resource use efficiency, including reducing waste; investment in sustainable resources, technologies and infrastructures; and systematically decoupling economic activity from environmental impact.’ We can accomplish this by working together, and combining our skills, technologies and resources.  This will allow us to to reduce consumption and improve efficiency because once we all work together, we can accomplish anything. We can use the best scientific minds in the world, and let them all work together. We can take resources from anywhere on the planet, and use them to reduce consumption and improve efficiency.” – Elliot Faulkner