As I have assessed this question, I have come to the conclusion that many of the major issues are intricately connected. Separating one from the other (in regards to prioritizing which issues to solve first) would lead to an incomplete conclusion, or worse an ignorant one. I feel it’s vital to address issues in packages, understanding and addressing the entire picture. With that said, I feel this answer will best be answered from a personal perspective. For this reason, I intend to promote the understanding of a single issue with as much passion and bias as possible.
The number one issue that (I feel) needs to be resolved is empowering the underprivileged youth of the rising generation by providing them with a free and valuable education. My ideals for an education aren’t just based upon the current standard principles of measuring proficiency, however. I believe that in order for any education to be valuable, the students must feel both a sense of ownership over their knowledge and a deep responsibility to apply their knowledge in terms of solving daily problems. Ownership begets responsibility. Responsibility begets duty. If underprivileged students feel that it is their duty to solve the problems inherent to their circumstances, than many of the worlds solutions will begin to be resolved from within their sub-cultures. If they feel that exams are the only medium wherein we put their knowledge to the test, then we have failed in showing them how their knowledge can realistically be applied. In order to accomplish this, we need to re-evaluate what we value as a sound education and re-consider how we approach providing this education.
Allow me to throw out the following questions for consideration: What if we didn’t need lectures as a standard means of teaching? What if exploration, experimentation, and collaboration were the main means of gaining an understanding about principles of math, science, and social sciences? What if teachers became more of a facilitator and less of an authoritative figure head? What is grades were never an issue? What if application was valued more than proficiency? What if we valued the development of character a little bit more than the development of skills? What if students decided what they wanted to learn about? What if at a young age (8-12) they were presented a list of problems and were asked what problems they wanted to solve? What if the faculty supported them in understanding how to solve these issues? What if they saw their education as a means to a solution instead of a means to a job? What if each student felt a sense of purpose as they went to school, instead of a sense of obligation, fear, or anxiety?
The rising generation cannot afford to succumb to the idea that they are victim to circumstance. They need to feel empowered, well-educated, and important. They need to see themselves as a vital part to the solutions of the worlds problems. Condoleezza Rice has said that the failures of our educational system in America act as the “greatest threat to our national security.” Educating the underprivileged as we have for the past decades may provide them with the appropriate qualifications for a decent job. But this, quite frankly, cannot be enough. Education must be seen as the means whereby we develop ourselves to the end that we become an irreplaceable asset to our families, communities, and nations.
My final point changes the direction of my conversation in a way that exposes my truest motivations for empowering and educating the underprivileged. While serving my mission in the Philippines, I witnessed that those who knew how to learn and how to educate themselves were far more likely to remain active in gospel living. They became upstanding citizens of their communities and leaders within their families. They brought hope and peace to those closest to them. Their conversion ran deep. I hope to not only provide these people with an education for the sake of building an economy, but with the intent to also prepare these people for the gospel. I see the gospel as the truest solution to the world problems. Faith, repentance, obedience to the commandments, tithing and fasting, if truly lived, will do more for a people than millions of wisely invested dollars.
All in all, the gospel is (and will be) the solution to the worlds problems. In the time that I am not called to proclaim it, I will invest the time and money necessary to prepare these people for it. The number one issue I feel that best addresses preparation for the gospel is providing a meaningful and valuable education.