Thursday, June 15, 2006

Young People Are Our Future... let's shut them the hell up before they start anything, suggests Angelo Pokluda, principal of El Paso's Austin High School. Last March 29th, as immigrants were gearing up to march, he instructed one of his Spanish teachers not to discuss immigration. The teacher, Hilda Sotelo, tried to follow his edict, but those goshdarn kids, being immigrants and all, kept bringing up the subject.

The next day, seeing national walkouts on school TVs, 700 students followed suit and walked out. Naturally, Ms. Sotelo was blamed. It was she, apparently, who had started the national movement.

In France, and in Chile, young people are affecting changes for the better:

The last few weeks saw more than 600,000 school students skip classes in Chile to demand free public transport, lower fees for college entrance exams and greater participation in government. On all three counts they were at least partly successful. The recently elected socialist president, Michelle Bachelet, offered an extra £104m for transport, some free lunches, mostly free entrance exams and the renovation of dilapidated buildings. She also set aside 12 of 74 seats on an advisory panel on education. After initially rejecting the offer, the students accepted the deal on Friday.

Meanwhile in France, over the past six months, two episodes of revolt - one of minority youth in the inner cities and the other of students and youth in the city centres - produced concrete results. After the former, last November, the government unveiled a raft of measures to tackle inner-city deprivation. During the latter, which saw two-thirds of universities occupied, blockaded or closed, hundreds of schools taken over and between one million and 3 million people in the streets, the government retracted an unpopular employment law.

Perhaps we ought to have more faith in our bright young people. Many have got better ideas than the Bushies, and given half a chance, they could do no worse than endless, pointless war (against the American middle class, for one) and concurrent, unconscionable tax breaks for individuals who need them the least.

Principal Pokluda's suggestion that a bright, interesting teacher reduce her lessons to irrelevance is tantamount to asking the US populous to simply ignore what's going on in the country and watch Fox News.

Which is precisely what our national government's been doing these long, long six years, of course.
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