My CAS experiences this year were strange, mainly because covid threw a wrench in a lot of my activities, from physical activities to services, many things weren’t available to us. I will have to say, however, that all of these experiences made me reflect on things, can’t say all of them positively, or even the majority being positive, but they made me feel a lot of things about me and the world around me. This end-of-year reflection will give me a little bit of a chance to throw everything out there.
First, I will start with my overall experience. There was obviously a mix of different experiences throughout the entire year, and each strand also offers different chances to reflect on different things. However, one of the major themes of reflection throughout the year was noticing injustice. From both my reflections and the activities that I do, certain power dynamics were shown and experienced. It’s a weird thing to reflect on, but it is what it is, and let me explain what I mean.
IB feels as callous of a program as my seniors have said. CAS feels like the silver lining laced with mercury. Whilst writing my poems for the creativity strand, I can’t help but feel forced, as if my interest was taken away from me, pushed into this program that siphons the very soul from students’ bodies. Many of my poems written over the last year criticized this diploma program, speaking of the laurel that has dulled after being crowned on undeserving men. And as prestigious as this program is, it is still gold that attracts young students, not copper. We are lured in by the talks of how “most students pick the diploma” or “it prepares you for college” but nobody talks about the mental health issues that arise from this program. The head that wears the crown must also bear its weight, and nothing describes this program better than that overbearing laurel. Creativity isn’t fostered in this program, it’s forced, and after a while, for me, it just takes the creativity away from the creative strand, instead of making my interests chores. That’s how I feel about the creativity strand.
This brings us to the activity strand, and oh does this one feel horrible as well. I’ve always loved exercise, my activity strands are filled with kickboxing, volleyball, and just working out. When I reflected on this one time I went to the gym, fighting and feeling the battle joy from sparring, I reflected on that for CAS. I realized that I had projected all of my frustrations with this program into my workouts, and that helped pillar the weight of the program with me. However, when I got injured, and I had to lay on my bed for weeks, it just… sucked. The IB program expects constant work from me, and suddenly, what I found joy in doing just felt daunting. I knew that I had to do something for my reflection, but now I sat here unable to walk normally. The old battle joy of putting on hand wraps now felt like bondage, and what was fun before now felt like labor. That’s how I feel about my activity strand.
Service, to service my community or corporate greed? I have my own organization that provides for other people community service opportunities and internship opportunities. But my reflection on my work was different because what I saw around the workplace was what I wanted to focus on. People in the museum I helped at were happy with their work, unlike us. People volunteering for events were enthusiastic, unlike us. What good is service if we’re doing so to serve ourselves instead of our communities? Most of us don’t care about the places we work at, and that’s a very real thing. I’ve seen this forced service strand bring about resentment towards one’s community instead of a closer attachment, and that’s just… ironic. That’s how I feel about my service strand.
I think I’ve become quite the thinker after all of this, a lot of thought went on just considering the world around me. I had to be open-minded too, to accept these things. If anything, the CAS program taught me many lessons, and that’s sometimes, risk-taking is required, to put our mental and physical health at risk, to inquire why all this is necessary.
The learning outcomes? The 7th? Ethics and choices? I love that learning outcome because this entire time I’ve been thinking about that without even noticing. Just wondering how ethical it really is to break students like this, how student choice is taken away by external influence and nudges. I’ll continue to think about this next year as I continue this program because learning and developing never stops in the IB.