One of society’s biggest complaints about teenagers is their apathy. Though we usually consider college students as major activists, high school students are consistently associated with self-centered indifference.
The students of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, however, often refute this argument. More and more, students are getting involved in supporting worthy causes.
One large source of student activism is B-CC’s peace studies class, a senior-only, one-semester course that covers topics ranging from animal rights to the death penalty to U.S. military actions. Of course, the main attraction of the class is that it has no grades, homework or tests.
But, few would state they leave the course without a new perspective on today’s society. Over the past few months, I’ve been enlightened to the horrors of the School of the Americas' vast American military violence in the Middle East, as well as the brutal treatment of animals in the meat and dairy industries.
Taught by Colman McCarthy, a former Washington Post columnist and founder of the Center for Teaching Peace, the class mainly gets its activist reputation for its Friday morning protests against the wars.
“The American government, Martin Luther King Jr. said, is the world’s most violent. Until we change our militaristic policies we will keep fighting wars that can’t be won, can’t be explained and can’t be afforded. So every Friday morning my two peace studies classes protest U.S. militarism,” McCarthy said.
The protests certainly have their own protesters. The abundance of honking on East-West Highway has raised complaints from both B-CC staff as well as businesses in the Bethesda Towers.
Yet McCarthy doesn’t waver in the importance of student protests. “A few minutes once a week demonstrating … is a small way of letting students know they have some power.”
And many students recognize that they do, indeed, have that power. B-CC STAND, one of B-CC’s most prominent student-run human rights groups, centers around ending the current genocide in Sudan. Its frequent fundraisers, petitions and protests make it a stand-out B-CC organization.
Another successful B-CC activist group is our Spread the Word to End the Word Club, a group campaigning to end the derogatory usage of the word “retarded.” Its chapter of the Polar Plunge (where students raise money to jump into the ocean in January) earned over $2,000 this past January.
March 7 saw the B-CC halls speckled with light blue T-shirts as the club rose awareness on the issue on its national campaign day.
The most controversial current B-CC humanitarian issue, however, is the KONY 2012 campaign. The movement is attempting to make Joseph Kony, rebel leader and creator of countless child soldiers, famous.
On March 6, the launch date of the viral YouTube video, I logged onto Facebook to find countless postings regarding Kony and invitations to the April 20 “Cover the Night” event. So far, more than 42,000 are attending the event in the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC, area alone.
While young people are generally considered the backbone of reform movements, not all B-CC students are supportive of the undertaking. Many argue that the issue has declined in recent years, that only 30 percent of raised funds go to helping the Ugandan people, and that the video creators haven’t physically been to Uganda since 2004.
Still, activism remains a driving force among teenagers today. And, with George Clooney’s March 16 arrest, it’s unlikely that protest will leave the cultural spotlight anytime soon.
What is/was your cause?
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