Kids have from age 3-12 to become change makers -- the kind of people who see the world as a place where they can make a difference and can create new, fun and gratifying ways of getting engaged -- that's according to Bill Drayton, the founder and CEO of Ashoka, and a speaker at the Clinton Global Initiative who got the room buzzing.
"If you have a 14 year old who is not being a change maker, there is something wrong with the education system," said Bill.
According to Bill, when children turn twelve they want to learn how to be really involved in society, and we can give them opportunities to learn to create change, to innovate and engage their family, friends and others in projects of their own design. Kids who learn it never lose it, and kids who don't learn it by age 12, might never.
The old way of dealing with kids was for adults to say to them, "we know and you don't," said Bill. That's how society used to treat women, African Americans and others. Kids are the last group that gets this treatment and the approach shuts down joy and possibilities.
He told the story about a kid in Boston the police caught stealing bicycles. The boy struck the police as particularly resourceful so they got his help setting up a shop called Second Gear Bikes where kids could come to learn how to rebuild bikes, and after a certain number of hours working in the shop, would get a free bike. Since the Cambridge police recover lots of abandoned bikes, supply was easy. Many kids have come through program, and have been changed by it, and Jason, the kid who got it started, "is not in jail, but went on to college."
Each person who acts as a changemaker effects 50 people, according to Bill, so when "100,000 Americans start an idea 5 million Americans are having that experience."
Bill said, "I get upset when people say not everyone can be a changemaker. You don't have to be brilliant. You have to believe. Once you have the ability, you have it. We need to start creating this competence. We can do this for kids and not to do this is outrageous."