Last Wednesday, I had the honor to conduct a workshop on the global implications of smartphones in the ninth grade of a middle school. After a short introduction on the new smartphone production in Rwanda (Made in Africa), we embodied the global journey of a smartphone and looked at which implications it brings at each ‘station’, and then dived into a group work on topics such as raw materials, the DRC, production, usage and disposal.
I had not thought about what it meant to deal with “middle school” classes in Germany, simply thinking that a school class is a school class. And I didn’t see a need to differentiate. How could I have forgot about the implications of structural and cultural violence, when the teacher of the class, who had requested such a workshop, told me after the workshop that these kids already are ‘filtered out’ by the school system.
I had not realized any less value when working with them than with other ‘Gymnasium’ kinds of students. On the contrary, I encountered deep compassion, I witnessed honest concern about the conditions of global smartphone production, and met a true sense of felt powerlessness, when a student said that even if he’d change his consumption behavior, nothing would change.
I responded with a personal plea for at least doing what feels right to be done, and affirming my belief in their decisions.
“I believe in you”.