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Students Examine the Role of Broken Systems in the Refugee Crisis

Friday, February 17, 2017

Upper School Assembly guest speakerThis year, students in Manhattan Country School’s Upper School are exploring various types of systems, such as government and immigration, as part of the Upper School theme. At an Upper School Assembly on Thursday, the students had a guest speaker named Joe who spoke about the system in place in Greece to address refugees.

Joe began by establishing a shared understanding of what a system is. At its most basic level, he said a system is a set of things working together. He offered the mind-body system as an example of a well-working system because it is “organized, flexible, calm and strong.” These are characteristics that are important for any system to be effective. He shared this video to illustrate his point.

Joe contends that the fact that there are refugees indicates that there is a system that is broken. He added that when people feel unsafe it is very natural for people to want to leave that situation. Thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have left their homeland, traveling across land to Turkey and then boarding rafts to cross the Aegean Sea in search of safety on the island of Lesbos. There these refugees are living in a refugee camp, which is one example of a system.

Joe shared an example of how flexibility allowed volunteers to resolve an issue within the camp. Water collecting around buildings in the camp attracted hordes of mosquitoes. The buildings’ windows weren’t properly sealed, which allowed the insects to take over a space that was supposed to be a refuge. Because the volunteers and residents had a willingness to change, compromise and adapt, they were able to find a solution to the problem. Netting was installed over all of the windows and living conditions quickly improved.

Joe further stressed the importance of flexibility in effective systems by sharing a quote from professional ballet dancer Misty Copeland: “The path to your success is not as fixed and inflexible as you think.”