By Barb Arland-Fye
Fourth-graders in Deb Frick’s class at All Saints Catholic School in Davenport swarmed each other’s worktables trading stickers that represented components their eight teams needed to “build” a computer.
Watching the students chattering and bartering, completely absorbed in their task, made me smile. This is why I volunteer to teach Junior Achievement class each year to Deb Frick’s students. The energy and enthusiasm the students exude inspire me and provide fresh insights about life and learning. Plus, the experience is fun!
Junior Achievement (JA) focuses on educating children in grades kindergarten through 12 about entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy through hands-on activities carried out in five weekly lesson plans. Teamwork and interdependence are also stressed.
My desire is to take the lessons a step further to help students understand that business decisions must also take into account the common good. How do the decisions we make impact the least among us?
During the computer component-swapping exercise of our last JA class, the students realized they were missing one component. The exercise called for me to keep one set of stickers for a component made in one of the countries. I explained to the students that there had been a disaster in my country that would prevent them from completing computers for their companies.
Because it was a game, the students weren’t stressed out but did admit to feeling frustrated when they couldn’t find the missing component.
The Ebola crisis raging in West Africa weighed on my mind as we talked about the interdependence essential not only to business but to all of life. Ebola, a deadly disease, has disrupted the lives of many West Africans.
They struggle with quarantines that keep them from work, food shortages and not enough money to pay for food. Those with less severe illnesses could still die because of a shortage of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers to care for them.
Earlier this month Cardinal Peter Turkson of West Africa was scheduled to give a speech at a Faith, Food & Environment Symposium in St. Paul, Minn. But Pope Francis asked the cardinal to return to
West Africa to help devise a response to the Ebola crisis.
The speech, presented at the symposium, contained excellent insights on the role of businesses and entrepreneurs in serving the common good more effectively and making the goods of the world more accessible to all.
In the speech, Cardinal Turkson observed that “entrepreneurs should see themselves as called by God to exercise their necessary and important skills and activities in order to assist in continuing God’s work of creation.”
He noted that some Catholic Social Doctrine principles are “especially pertinent to the world of business. Service to the common good comes before serving narrower interests. The good or resources of the world have a universal destiny; creation is a gift to the whole of humanity, not just a part. We are called to act in solidarity with those who lack access to these goods — with the large portion of humanity who suffer in the midst of plenty.”
These might be lofty concepts to share with fourth-graders; but they do understand what it means to share, be generous and to work with others of different cultures, ethnic groups and religion. They experience these concepts every day in their classroom. That’s what I’ve learned from them through my JA experience.