Student activism in the 21st Century


It may not be the ’60s anymore, but we students are still out there protesting.

On Wednesday, ten students from Skyline High School who are members of the Global Awareness In Action Club (www.globalawarenessinaction.com) attended the protest of the Olympic Torch in San Francisco. These students, including myself, had all been learning about the situation in Tibet recently, and felt compelled to attend the protest on behalf of Tibetans all around the world. Teachers and parents were incredibly supportive of this.

I am aware that this story has been very controversial in the news lately. I would like to make it clear that we students felt very strongly about the Human Rights Violations going on in Tibet, but we are not in any way against the Olympics, the Olympians, or the Chinese people. They have our support.

It would be very difficult to explain the experience I had at this protest to anyone who wasn’t there. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that to be condescending, all I mean is that it was overwhelming, incredible, fantastic, a bit nerve-racking, and a great learning experience.We were very organized and protested with a group called “Team Tibet”. We managed to stay completely safe, though never actually got to see the Torch. We met a lot of interesting people and can all claim that it will be one of those experiences in our lives that we will just never forget.

The whole world is watching the Olympic torch right now, there were stories on every Internet news source and in every newspaper, and it felt incredible to be a part of something so huge. I encourage every student to stand up for what they believe in, trust me, it feels amazing. Our parent’s generation experienced the protests of the Vietnam War, and now it’s our turn to make change.

However you personally feel about this issue, I would really like to request that this blog NOT become a political discussion. I know that many of you will not agree with my views, but please keep harsh discussions out of this blog. If you would like to comment, I would prefer comments about STUDENT ACTIVISM, not the Olympics. Please keep that in mind folks. (At the same time though, many of us at the protest felt that our First Amendment rights were being violated at the protest, so I won’t restrict anyone’s right to free speech).

Peace to all, Jesse.


  • John

    Jesse: Although: (a) I think you will benefit as you develop better critical thinking skills and become less compromised by emotion; and, (b) have disagreed with you on a number of points, it’s good you didn’t just give into your emotions and “give up.” Hanging in there and staying with an argument, even when you’re personally offended, is something few people are willing to do. Even if we disagree I admire your tenacity. Try being less offended and more objective about some of the comments made on this thread and elsewhere. I think Nextset’s last comment to you that, “It’s not all about you, it’s not about me either” are instructive for all. Viewing some of the comments you find personally offensive through this prism of good advice may surprise you.

  • Nextset

    Katy – I have a suggestion or two for discussions.

    John’s point about emotional control is important because that is behind a lot of the generational conflict I’ve seen so far on this thread – which is good to explore. It’s not covered in classwork although historical reading illustrates the endless struggle between each new generation and the previous ones they will always displace. The discussions here remind me of me when I was a lot younger. The trick is that it takes time to even care about emotional control for most people – thus the higher trauma rates for younger people, especially males. And for the students, emotional control is not at all limited to your actions and words, it involves the decision making process. Older more experienced people can defer gratification, take losses, make sacrifices as they grocery shop or do anything else during the day. This is one of the cardinal things that separate the generations as we all talk on the blog. It also helps the readers guage the ages of the writers. Control is something you have to learn to want which is why HS students fundamentally are at risk in certain areas of life (like making contracts). Recognition of this is the root of the protections of juvenile court and ability to recind most contracts while a minor. In my youth these protections were rolled back from 21 to 18 due to the uproar over VietNam. That was a mistake.

    Katy: Perhaps a thread on legal education for HS Students? Financial/Credit training for HS Students? Military recruiters on Campus/Access to student info/military referrals from teachers and counselors? High School/College simultaneous enrollment programs?

  • cranky teacher

    The problems with rebellious students is not the ones with a cause, it is the ones without a clue.

  • Nextset

    We absolutely should not have any blog topics about the death penalty – that’s about as far away from student compentency to discuss as we could get!

  • An OUSD Highschooler

    For so much talk about how action should be left to the adults Nextset, I don’t hear many anecdotes coming from you. You tell us that you are a lawyer, which in my mind explains many things, and yet you claim to “know” students, which you have not supported with any information.

    P.S. You still have yet to respond to my reply, Post #14, about how you avoided my arguments in Post #7. Since it has taken you this long to craft a response, I can only imagine that it will be a grand one. Or that you have no flaw to find in my argument.

  • Nextset

    OUSD Highschooler: I saw your post and I’m not going to address it.

    I am disinclined in a public blog to try to be specific on particular people. I deal in groups and generalities because that’s the currency I’m using. Your own teachers may want to comment on the specific personalities – I don’t know you or your classmates to do so and even if I did, the blog is not the place.

    And it gets tiring to have a run on argument with adolescents about the same thing. Both of us can take each other’s measure with a series of debates/discussions about a wide range of topics. We will fundamentally disagree on many things but the more we talk about a variety of things the more we can understand where the other speaks from.

    I believe you are working on the topic of my position that children should not be involved in public demonstrations on thier own about policy and political issues. That’s my point. You believe that children are little adults with adult rights (responsibilities?) who should be taken seriously and have as much to contribute as adults. We are on different planets here.

    In my experience children – that’s everybody under 18 under current law (and many over that age act like children for up to 7 additional years) work best when working closely with adults who are responsible for them. That’s why apprenticeships are so important, working in family businesses is strong experience, and smaller classes and seminars are valuable.

    Adolescents are impulsive and haven’t the foundation to think through their actions. Nothing wrong with that, thet’s why we draft them for the infantry.

    Young people who have worked closely with a master at some subject, from surgery to auto repair, can draw on not just the experience of what they have seen and done but the judgement of the experienced people they have watched operate. When I was trained in credit approvals at age 18 I learned what the credit manager thought was important before I understood the whys..(and that was before credit scoring) I could approve or turn down a transaction in time knowing what management would think before I finished learning all the ins and outs of the decisions.

    Having a bunch of children running around in public feeding on each other’s angst about some perceived injustice is silly at best and a recipe for disaster at the worst. Groups of children amplify for worst qualities – as in “Lord Of The Flies”.

    An even more interesting book on that theme is Heinlien’s “Tunnel In The Sky” where students on an survival test/excercise from several high schools are accidently stranded on another planet for many years. Almost at once the older students establish a government and debate taking the vote from the younger students.

    Anyway it’s pointless for us to debate this issue further. It’s not open to debate as far as I’m concerned. Do your demonstrations – it’s a free country. If your family won’t demonstrate with you, you don’t have any approval from me. If you want to get involved with causes, do so with adults.

  • John

    Nextset: Although my most recent post (like some earlier ones) was removed, I’ve never had the experience of actually seeing one “vanish.” I read your disclosure on this and (same post) other comments several days ago. It now appears this (your) disclosure post has also vanished.

    It’s interesting that you actually saw mine “vanish before your eyes!” It’s like one of those things rarely witnessed in nature, like a tree falling in the forest. How mysterious and unpredictable are the forces of mother & human nature! But what can a mere mortal do? I’d re-post my vanished post but fear being downgraded from endangered to extinct in this word forest.

    Do you think this response from John to Nextset will persuade one or some that we are TWO instead of ONE? Or perhaps we’ll now be ONE diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder? At least Katy knows we are of separate identities, which is plenty good enough for me.

    I had earlier saved (in word file) your vanished post starting with: “John, I thought I saw a post from you vanish before my eyes???” I was prepared to post a response here but am now concerned that a full response to a vanished post could result in my being vanished.

    Perhaps I’ll tip toe on the wild side by saying how much I liked your (vanished post) characterization of Charter schools being in the “business of creative destruction.” The drafters of NCLB couldn’t have been totally ignorant (?) of the impact their uniform academic standards would have at the lower end of ‘sea to shining sea’ public education diversity.

    It’s interesting that we’re told to “celebrate diversity” and that “Our strength is our diversity,” yet in practice these phrases are little more than rhetorical entertainment at ethnic history celebrations and urban & national political events. I’ll save exhibits B – Z as response fodder to possible reactions from members of the Church of Contemporary Correctness – unless this post gets felled before its read. ‘Survival of the posted,’ it sure be a correct EAT incorrect world out there.

    As an early childhood special education teacher I used developmental measures to gain some understanding of a student’s (child’s) academic and social functioning levels. Developmental assessments are based on the learned proposition that children think and behave differently at different ages. It would seem there are some who think kids stop developing when they hit their teens and become bloggers. Suddenly it’s somehow inappropriate to make any reference to their ongoing development (still growing up status) or take honest (adult) issue with the adolescent level advice and wisdom they share.

    I suspect the misguided practice of giving adult quality credit to adolescent quality thought is born of the “positive self concept” movement where it was determined that how a child feels about himself is more important than what he actually accomplishes or contributes.

    Katy’s comment (#50), “I guess people do care about what high school kids have to say, whether they agree or not.”

    I care about what my young daughter has to say and give age appropriate responses to her comments, observations, and suggestions. I do NOT tell her I’m going to take up her latest idea or suggestion with the adult powers that be for immediate implementation, or that I’ve somehow learned something new from her about the complexities of society or societal problem solving. This doesn’t mean I don’t care about what she thinks or has to say. However, it would seem that’s how some of the kids, and adult “positive self concept” advocates here might interpret it.

    Kids brought up on a steady diet of positive self pabulum might understandably interpret adult level assessments of their responses or suggestions as “not appreciated” or even as a “personal attack on young people.”

    That’s all folks!

  • Nextset

    John: What is so absolutely hilarious a about the censorship movement is that 1) they think it will actually change/stop anything in this technology driven world and 2) the censors are unable to realize that the only people harmed by suppression of free ideas and/or truth are the lower intellects. Smart people and smart money protect their sources of information and are quite well up on reality most of the time.

    Which is why I know that the “unintended consequences” of NCLB were planned by at least somebody.

    I’m a lawyer. One of the things we were explicitly trained to do is to prevail proceduraly regardless of the merits of our cases. We laughed in class when we were taught how you could prevert “justice” with procedure. The smarter classmates smiled at how they would outwit “rightous” adversaries. So the concept is actually quite familiar..

    As a practicing lawyer I have had to explain this to client types, that the merits were often less important than the procedures. They get all bent out of shape because I don’t deal with the rich.

    A lot of people have been hurt by what this government has done to the schools since 1960. A lot of people are about to really get hurt by what is just around the corner in this country. The mainstream media (MSM) is part of the problem not the solution, which has a lot to do with their dimming financial futures. The internet is creative distruction – if things continue as in the last 20 years the Internet will actually contribute to growing gap between the cognitive elite of this country and the 70% of the population on the bottom. Finny to say that but it’s obvious.

    What we are doing here with this blog is important – censorship notwithstanding. It is very difficult to be 100% effective in real time communucation with censorship – and to be more effective the censors have to understand what they are suppressing and why. That’s a big problem. Tendrils of the truth reach around casual censorship. If the censors were really absolute, more people would understand what we are so alarmed about. Everyone who becomes alarmed increases the chance the herd will turn.

    You and I probably have a good idea why it’s so important to the bottom 70% to get a robust discussion going. Some people can be awakened from dozing along the shore while crocodiles approach. Most can’t. I can’t save enough people at work, so I hope writing about policy will actually accomplish more. Ideas are viral.

    So we blog. I do wonder if some of what we discuss actually alarms MSM reportes enough to have them explore ideas they wouldn’t otherwise. Then they could become the next targets for the censors.

  • Katy Murphy

    John: If you care to see Nextset’s post about your earlier comment disappearing before his eyes, and about “the business of creative destruction,” you might try looking under #4 of “On the agenda: Wednesday, April 16.”

    That comment was not deleted, as you suggest — nor have all but two (if I remember correctly) of the dozens that you have posted here in the last five months.

    I don’t intend to censor ideas here. I’ve laid out the guidelines for blog participation, and I’m doing my best to foster constructive discussions.

    Have a nice Sunday!

  • John

    Katy, You are absolutely right. I am absolutely wrong! I apologize and stand corrected. I can take criticism as well as give it. Your admonition is well deserved and well accepted. Thanks for immediately bringing it to my attention.

  • Nextset

    Katy: It’s not a little thing, running a blog. I wouldn’t do it because of the demands in energy. I’m curious, has this experience been what you always expected it to be?

  • Katy Murphy

    I really didn’t know what to expect when I started this blog, other than what I had heard from other education reporters who had done so. They told me it would be a lot of work, but a good way to tap into readers’ collective knowledge, to generate story ideas and interesting discussions, and to use a more informal, less “institutional” writing voice than I might in print.

    I’ve found it surprisingly fun (although, at times, surprisingly frustrating). As a result, my online work sometimes distracts my time and attention from important print stories — like the one I should be working on right now!

    Thanks for asking.