Just as many Americans tonight, I watched the political debate, and live-tweeted/posted on social media. What happened in the debate will be cross-posted all over the nets, so I’ll keep it local and focus on three stories that resonated with me.
Story 1: I had the opportunity to work with a group of 9th graders this afternoon. We’re creating a space for making things, and we were painting walls and talking about creating a comfort zone. Along the way, our snack break included comments about the debate, which of course led them to showing me at Paint video of the candidates. Paint, for those of us (like me) not in the know, is a youtuber that uses irony and parody to roast, well, everything. It’s definitely learning with a side of dystopia.
And that is the love (and worry) I feel for my students. Their lives are a mix of opportunity, uncertainly, and savvy humor. The outlook is perhaps a bit dark, but they definitely have an understanding of the situation we face. Ask them about climate change, and they’ll tell you it is terrifying–before flipping to their favorite Hamilton musical feature, followed by a selection from 21 pilots. When asked if this election is a turning point, they’ll nod yes, even though they are not old enough to vote.
Story 2: Flip to the scene tonight, where I spoke to several of my kids. Some watched the debate, and others did not, and there was a definite reason. “I already know who I am voting for because of the way people should be treated. Listening to the lies will make me mad.” This young person, on the cusp of adulthood, has gone to candidate websites, read conservative, liberal, and balanced articles, and is ready to vote. I’m guessing there are many adults that haven’t quite gotten around to that.
Story 3: During the debate, I received several PMs from students who have graduated but have kept lines of communication open. One of them was pretty frank. “The next four years scare me, Powell. We need to look at health care, energy needs, food supply, environmental changes. We’re getting crowded on this spaceship.”
And I had to agree. I remember being terrified of nuclear warfare as a child, and I had that same feeling of being scared. Just like these other students, it was not something I could control, but something I had to live with on a daily basis. We have issues to address, and like each generation before, they absolutely will have to face our future with eyes wide open.
Those are the debate stories that really matter to me. Tomorrow I will ask students what they think, and how they want their future to unfold. It’s a big decision, but to discount their intelligence and vision because of their youth is a mistake. There are lessons to be learned by listening to their ideas, teaching civil discourse, and reflecting on their conceptions.
Ultimately, isn’t their future what we really are voting for in November? That’s the lesson that matters most to me.