By Laura Bickle
Photo: University of Toronto
Scroll down Kourosh Houshmand’s LinkedIn page and you’ll find a man who’s not just on one mission but several, and they all have one thing in common — engaging his peers to improve student life in Canada and abroad.
As Student Trustee for the Toronto District School Board and vice-president of the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association Public Board Council in 2012, Houshmand represented a collective 2.6 million students. Since then, he’s received Canada’s Top 20 Under 20 Award (established by Youth in Motion; now under Plan Canada), and he founded Solar for Life, providing solar energy to communities in Uruguay and South Africa with the help of 250 high school and university volunteers across the country. He also created Education Rediscovered — a student organization whose mandate is global education reform. Houshmand is the MaRS Discovery District’s chief student advisor, and is currently studying Ethics, Society & Law and political science at the University of Toronto.
In February, Houshmand was a panellist at Groupe Média TFO’s Les Tablettistes conference where he addressed the impact of new technologies in education. Regularly asked to consult on education-related topics, Houshmand shares his views on how our system can support students in finding their inner activist.
What inspired you to get involved in activism?
You have to be aggravated to want change. When I was in Grades 11 and 12, for instance, I was disengaged. I didn’t think I was being pushed to my full potential; everything felt like memorization. It was that sense of aggravation that motivated me to run for student trustee.
How can teachers nurture activism in students?
Teachers should encourage risks and continue to learn alongside their students. It’s important to take students seriously and treat them as scholars. If the teacher is engaged, they’ll foster a group of young individuals who are not afraid to take risks, and who will likely be inspired to make a difference in the world.
What issues are Ontario students currently facing?
Students don’t see the direct benefit of education. We have to do a better job of explaining the value and impact of what students are learning.
The other issue is that school can be more about mastery than taking action. It’s OK if you don’t know something — jump in and learn from your mistakes. If you’re passionate, no one has the right to get in your way.
What are your future plans for Education Rediscovered?
I’m currently in the process of rethinking the website, so it has been fairly inactive. But my hope is that it will become a platform for students to lobby for change and help make education reform cool.