Sometimes the kids take control.
"Ms. D, if there's a Ladder of Hate, why is there no Ladder of Love?" (The Ladder of Hate is a graphic and discussion starter I use to illustrate how humanity too often has started at the bottom rung of stereotypes, on to prejudice, to discrimination, to scapegoating and finally to genocide itself.
So why is there no Ladder of Love? A fine question. So I put it back on them. I put "love/peace" at the top of the whiteboard and asked them what specific qualities and steps were needed to get us all there. There answers, honestly, were profound.
Risk. Tolerance. Acceptance. Forgiveness. Communication. Integrity. Honor. Knowledge. When I asked them to order them (after all, the idea here is a progression), the discussion became even more nuanced, with the kids asking themselves and each other questions like, "Shouldn't knowledge be at the beginning?" Others felt that risk should be, since communication won't start until someone takes the plunge. There was also debate about whether integrity or communication should be at the beginning. On one hand, you won't wish to communicate with someone who has no integrity; on the other hand, if you haven't communicated, how do you know if the other person has integrity or not?
My favorite, however, was one student who asked to draw his own graphic on the board. He drew "U" (which means "you" for those of us not as down with hip hop) and "enemy" connected by an arrow forming a circle, explaining that if you forgive an enemy, then that enemy will forgive an enemy of theirs, and so on, until the circle connects back to you.