A Teachable Moment

Former local teacher union pesident Morty Rosenfeld periodically attempts to make sense of the increasingly senseless world of public education.

March to the Polls

The TV talking heads appear convinced that the student-led march on Saturday and the events leading up to it signal a change in the direction in the gun control debate. Having injured my foot two days before the event, I was unable to attend any of the satellite demonstrations but did get to watch a good deal of it on the tube. Despite the extraordinary organization and the sincere eloquence of still innocent youth, I remain skeptical that any significant change is in the offering. The counter message to the demonstration was the absence of Congress from Washington, our representatives having gone home and our President away golfing as usual.

It is going to take a Democrat rout in the mid-term elections for us to have any real hope of coming to terms with the crazy gun policy of the United States. A very disturbing article in this morning’s New York Times suggests that such a rout may be more difficult than is currently imagined owing to extreme Republican gerrymandering. The challenge to progressives is to run an unsurpassed voter registration drives now, especially among the young, and a parallel voter turn-out operations for the fall.

If you are a high school teacher and your school does not have a voter registration drive as a senior activity, start one now. Any eighteen year old who leaves school unregistered to vote represents a significant failure of his school’s program. While we’re at it, let’s not forget that a handful of staff in most of our schools is not registered and more than a handful don’t bother to vote regularly. We need to be organizing school based campaigns to fix this problem too. The next great march has to be to the polls.

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The Young Awaken

As I write this morning, students across the country are leaving their classes to participate in seventeen minutes of silence in remembrance of the seventeen students killed in Parkland, Florida. In Washington, DC, students from the metro area converged on the Whitehouse, turning their backs to it in protest of the federal government’s failure to enact reasonable gun safety measures.

For a man who was their age in the 60’s, the awakening of student activism on a national scale is beyond heartening. I’ve watched far too many classes of students subordinate their feelings and concerns for matters beyond themselves to the race to get into the best college, to get the best job, to earn the most money. While it is indeed sad that it may have taken a massacre of their peers to wake them from their careerist torpor, the fact is they are awake. They’re marching, registering to vote and, even more importantly, experiencing the exhilaration that come with commitment to something bigger than one’s self. The adrenaline that comes with the experience of working with others for social change is a wonderful addiction that leads to a lifetime of good citizenship.

Bravo, young people! You put your parents who have been sitting on the sidelines to shame. March on!

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