Just before winter break, DCD 6th graders were reading, “I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” by Malala Yousasafzai. After several class discussions and writing assignments, students had an opportunity to speak with John Keating, who served first as an Infantry Officer in the Army and then as an Intelligence Officer in the Army Reserve, about his direct experience in Afghanistan and with the Taliban.
Connecting over Zoom, John touched on the many topics raised by the students’ questions and curiosities having read Malala’s story. He spoke about being in Afghanistan during the time the events of the book took place and experiencing the cultural differences that exist in parts of the country particularly with the treatment of girls and woman; the importance of understanding and respecting cultural differences in establishing relationships and supporting the country’s citizens; the humanitarian projects he participated in; the US’s political and military objectives for being in Afghanistan; the rules of engagement when serving in the military; and navigating the very difficult terrain in their confrontations with the Taliban.
Throughout DCD’s middle school curriculum, students have the opportunity to dive into issues and topics relating to social justice and equality. Malala’s story is both tragic and inspirational and shows the power activism and the progress even a young person can have in fighting for equality and basic rights. John talked about how his experience in the army enabled him to learn about other parts of the world, cultures, and people and opened his eyes to opportunities for activism and ways to help others – a very worthwhile addition to class conversations. The discussion will continue as 6th graders watch current interviews with Malala and reflect on how they as DCD students can be good community members and the roles they might play and the causes they might champion as young activists.