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Pen is not mighter than just the sword, it’s a tool of power that can change the world

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In my English Composition II class, students are in the early stages of their final assignment. Writing is, naturally, an important component, but also important is a desire to understand and address a local issue affecting residents of Columbus.

We have been reading a book called “A Path Appears,” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The book chronicles the couple’s investigation of local problems in communities the world over — ones that are specific to those areas, but also widespread on a global scale. They speak with individuals who have made a deliberate and consistent effort to tackle some of these issues, and in so doing reveal that through strategic work, any of us can change the world for good.

Now that we are in the final month of classes, we are turning from the book toward our own community. Students will work in groups to select and research a local issue (perhaps childhood poverty, homelessness or sex trafficking) and then find a more specific problem within that general issue to tackle in their research.

Perhaps a group may look at childhood poverty, but focus specifically on child hunger in the summer months when free lunch is not available at schools. That group will investigate the problem on a local scale, look at what is already being done to combat the problem and propose potential efforts to further combat the problem in our community. Ideally, these presentations will be strong enough that we can share them with community leaders working in those areas.

I have come to the understanding that English comp is viewed by the average student as a waste of time and a gate to pass through. Why should students spend time learning to write when they aren’t also being encouraged to use that skill to make an impact? In challenging the class to think of writing as a tool rather than an end unto itself, we find the work meaningful.

Strong writers can change the world, but only if they have a strong will and vision for change. Each are crucial to cultivating the kind of leaders we want to see in our community and beyond. I’ll leave you with the quote featured heavily in the book, as it has helped us appreciate that each of us plays a powerful role in making a lasting change.

“Hope is like a path in the countryside. Originally, there is nothing, but as people walk this way again and again, a path appears.” — Lu Xun

Natalia Naman Temesgen is a playwright and professor of creative writing at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia.