“It’s not about going to school to pass a bunch of tests… to me, it’s about educating each other to learn how to create a better world.” – Malcolm London, USA

In 2011, a teen-aged Malcolm London won the Louder than a Bomb youth poetry slam in his native Chicago, with top honors as both an individual performer and as part of team. Founded in 2001, Louder than a Bomb was the first of its kind in the country—a youth poetry slam built around teams. The event, which gained global recognition in an award-winning documentary film, demands that kids collaborate with their peers to present, critique and rewrite their pieces. For many kids, including London, taking part in this collaborative process is life-changing. 

London, who is still only 20, plans to enroll in college, but hasn’t yet found time. He’s simply too busy, as a member of UCAN’sNational Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, and as an on-staff a teaching artist at Young Chicago Authors, a program working to transform the lives of young people by cultivating their voices through writing, publication and performance education. Passionately committed to improving the national education system, London regularly visits schools to work with students on writing workshops and performances. His TED Talk last year powerfully communicates that passion for education in the medium he knows best: poetry. 

Recently, I was lucky enough to spend a few minutes with London to get his perspective on our education system, one that he navigated with great success. His views are heavily influenced by the inequities in the system, differences he witnessed daily on his school bus ride from a poor Chicago neighborhood to an honors program in wealthy Lincoln Park.  “It felt like my school was a sorting machine… those who have, and those who have not; those who were set for something great in the world, and those who weren’t.” He talks about the lower expectations we often have for students who are underprivileged, and those who are in “regular” vs. honors classes.  

London is involved in Chicago’s efforts (led by Mayor Rahm Emanuel) to fight this inequity. “Here in Chicago,” he says, “there are a lot of people on the ground (teachers and educators) who are fed up with being mistreated and being ignored.” He’s optimistic about the energy behind this movement, and is providing a critical student perspective to it, starting with looking at root causes. 

“We need to begin to reimagine what we conceive of as achievement, what we conceive of as education,” London told me. “It’s not about going to school to pass a bunch of tests…to me, it’s about educating each other to learn how to create a better world.” 

Prepare to be inspired by today’s Daily Edventure student voice with Malcolm London, and be sure to note his eloquent description of the power of words (at 10:07). 

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