Youth in Action, November-December 2014

From the November-December 2014 issue of News & Letters

by Michael Gilbert

Protests began at three Newark, N.J., public high schools Sept. 9 to stop the “One Newark” program of turning public schools over to charter management, to return control of the public schools to the public, and to force the resignation of Newark Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson, who had been appointed by Gov. Christie. Three separate rallies joined to march through downtown Newark.

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Although the ban on student movements affiliated with political parties at universities in Egypt was deemed illegal, the president of Cairo University dissolved all political student organizations. Many other universities complied with the ban. Student Mahmoud Jamal asked, “Are there more severe and horrible procedures than using live bullets against students and arresting them, as was the case last year?”

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Students and teachers defied a right-wing school board in Jefferson County, Colo., imposing a curriculum designed to promote the free enterprise system and discourage “civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.” On Sept. 19 two high schools closed after 50 teachers took a day off. Walkouts of as many as 700 students at a time followed. “Don’t make history a mystery” became a slogan. The Board charged that students were pawns of the teachers’ union. One senior said, “If they don’t teach us civil disobedience, we will teach ourselves.”

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In August Dhi Yazan al-Alawi launched the “Street Caricatures” campaign in Sana’a, Yemen. Artists have painted the writings of Che Guevara, Abdullah al-Baradouni, Gandhi and Mahmoud Darwish on the walls of Kuwait Hospital, near Change Square. Tammam al-Shaybani, a youth, recently started the “Open Book” campaign with four other painters. Every week they choose a wall, and young men and women create murals, with the words more important than the image.

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On Oct. 8, two days after the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC) canceled its teachers’ contract and voted to require teachers to begin contributing to the cost of their health insurance premiums, hundreds of high school students went on strike to support their teachers. Dozens of students from several schools boycotted classes and held demonstrations outside the two magnet schools; 25 students from the Franklin Learning Center marched outside district headquarters.

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