Children bring us a wonderful excuse to experience things we may otherwise reject, under the guise of maturity.
Sometimes, in the case of very young kids, there’s the opportunity to chuckle over their acts of innocence, or feel the vicarious thrill at their discovery of certain key ideas, or exposure to natural phenomena – such as snow – for the first time, or bask in the extravagance of their affection for pets or favourite toys.
By the time they get to be young men and women, the range of emotions associated with them becomes often an intermingling of concern, pride and perhaps frustration, as they sometimes choose life paths that are uncertain, too-new or a break with the past.
What we don’t often immediately associate with children, however, is wisdom.
At about the seven-minute point in the video above, teacher John Hunter describes his experience in what he calls the “collective wisdom” of his nine- to 10-year-old students, as they took part in a past-time he invented – the World Peace Game.
In this fascinating, multi-layer challenge – in which the aim is to arrive at ‘world peace’ – Hunter’s students have to take charge as leaders of fictional countries, to tackle a staggering range of 50 problems – including climate change, poverty, war and ethnic and minority tensions – and negotiate among themselves to master the various crises, threats and opportunities.
There’s even a student who takes the role of the saboteur – deliberately undermining the problem-solving process!
“The way the game is won is all 50 interlocking problems have to be solved,” says Hunter, “every country’s asset value has to be increased above its starting point”.
The results are often thrilling in their originality and unpredictability.
Indeed, one of the lessons learned is that the thrill of conquest in war only leads to more wars, while the pain of defeat also creates conflict – this time in the hope of revenge. A practical demonstration of what Chinese military general Sun Tzu had warned about in his famous treatise – The Art of War so many centuries ago.
“I’ve been winning battles, so I’ve been going into battles… it’s sort of weird to be living what Sun Tzu said,” agrees one militarily-successful student.
“That’s the kind of engagement you want to have happen,” emphasises Hunter, “that’s an authentic assessment of learning”.
But the highlight of the video comes at the end, when Hunter describes the finale of one particular game, where all but one of the 50 problems had been solved.
Unfortunately though, one of the fictional ‘countries’ that had started off the poorest had got even poorer, with only minutes left on the clock.
To Hunter’s amazement, his students mounted one final, desperate push to collaborate their way out of the situation – with all the other countries agreeing to pool their collective wealth to help their struggling neighbour – with the result being that the game was won in the last few seconds, in an act of “spontaneous compassion”.
It seems perhaps absurd, though this video provocatively suggests otherwise: what might happen if the problems of the world were tackled by the very young among us?
What would happen if we gave nine- and 10-year-olds here in Cyprus the opportunity to tackle the island’s longstanding conflict?
What acts of ‘spontaneous compassion’ could cut through difficulties that seem insurmountable?
As Hunter observed, the game demanded that he relinquish control, and trust that his students’ collective wisdom would adapt, respond and create in ways that were bold, imaginative and surprising.
Thus, all of the Peace it Together partners have a key role to play in pooling their talents and resources to create the landscape of harmony and collaboration on this island. But it’s worth remembering that the youngest Cypriots among us have potentially the greatest contribution to offer of all.