Education in the 21st Century

Even in war, there are just some boundaries that people shouldn’t cross.
— Randy, High School for Arts, Imagination, and Inquiry, Manhattan

When the Cold War ended and the Berlin Wall came down, so too fell an awareness of nuclear dangers that continue to grow.  Although there are far fewer nuclear weapons on the planet, there are still enough to destroy our world many times over.  And unlike the superpower arms race, dominated by the US and former Soviet Union, nuclear proliferation has long-since spread from the original five nuclear weapons states (US, Russia, UK, China and France) to India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

Youth Arts supporter, author and activist Joanna Macy, argues that “the danger constituted by nuclear weapons is greater now than at any time in our history.  We do an immense disservice to young people and their future, unless we provide them with a confident understanding of nuclear issues.”

Are students discussing nuclear dangers, such as nuclear bomb command and control systems, the risks associated with nuclear power and nuclear waste ? All these require basic comprehension from today’s youth.  Where nuclear issues and risk education are missing in the curriculum, educators need to fill that gap.  Of course there are brilliant, dedicated teachers the world-over who teach about nuclear concerns and other ‘reality studies’.  Still, how can we better provide young people with a ‘confident understanding’ of the nuclear threat?  And how can we make this a condition for life’s preparedness, like reading and writing?  And radiation?

Radiation Detectives
Now I want to do something about this situation. Before, I didn’t care about it a lot, but now after seeing and hearing about the tragedy I want to do something to prevent it from happening again.
— Mohammed, Brooklyn International High School, Brooklyn, New York

Today, unprecedented quantities of data are easily available in cloud computing networks. The open source movement is providing ever-expanding access to this data via dynamic new software and hardware platforms. At the same time, much important data in the world is also being privatized or withheld from public access.

The lack of public disclosure of radiation levels around many nuclear weapons and power plants provide such examples. This information must be made available to the general public so that active and legacy sites can be more effectively monitored.

Data obtained by monitoring the radiation emitted from the stored nuclear waste sites should be available to all concerned citizens. Transparently publishing this data on open servers can accomplish this goal and prepare an informed citizenry for the crucial task of monitoring radioactivity.

Shortly after Fukushima a real time Geiger counter for Tokyo was uploaded to the Internet on Ustream. It ran for several days with over 2 million followers but within a week it was taken down.

Also since the Fukushima triple meltdown, a still strong citizen monitoring project has been well established. Safecast is “a global volunteer-centered citizen science project working to empower people with data about their environments. We believe that having more freely available open data is better for everyone. Everything we do is aimed at putting data and data collection know-how in the hands of people worldwide.”

It is our hope that the information on the Hibakusha Stories website, with further links for research and action ideas for increased activism, will engage young people, and all people in a greater understanding of what it means to live in the nuclear age.

Radiation Detectives from Nathan Snyder’s NYC i-School nuclear module at Columbia University

We need to stop all this nuclear madness in our world and step in and protect our past, present, and future.

— Marcus, High School Academy of Urban Planning, Brooklyn, New York

The quotes throughout the article are from New York City high school students, upon hearing the testimony of survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Why Disarmament Education?
Why They Call It The Manhattan Project
Reading Writing and Radiation: Disarmament Education in the 21st Century
Radiation 101
Staten Island’s Tainted Edge