If reacting and understanding this past election is hard for many adults, imagine what it might be for today’s teens and tweens? Unlike adults, they couldn’t vote, had no say in the outcome and yet will have to live with any consequences. They are also more vulnerable, subject to the whims of administrators, teachers and other adults in power who may not be the wisest in helping them deal with a changing environment. Worse, they are already subject to peer pressures, and taking a stand of any sort can leave them even more open to teasing, harassment or subtle but very real bullying tactics.
So what’s a teen to do? What can they do? That’s a question a few adults asked ourselves recently after reading stories and letters from teens related and unrelated to us. Take the story of Manny Martinez of Vineland, NJ. Recently published in the Press of Atlantic City, it tells how one 13-year old, after watching the Labeller-Elect make fun of disabled people, decided he no longer wanted to stand during the pledge of allegiance. Rather than using his civil disobedience as a teachable moment to discuss the First Amendment, the history of dissent in the United States, or even how sitting down in a bus was a political statement for Rosa Parks, several school adults inappropriately confronted him about his lack of patriotism. Luckily, saner higher school officials prevailed, and with a little help from the ACLU, Manny is now making his personal statement without further harassment.
Although proud of Manny and his courage, his statement or method of dissent is not one I’d likely recommend to other children, as an adult’s natural reaction is to keep children safe from harm. And so Manny’s story got several of us thinking about what we could/would recommend to teens and tweens as possible, positive actions. Here are some ideas:
- Start a She’s the First Chapter in your school. This nonprofit was started by Tammy Tibbetts, a Jersey Millenial dedicated to creating scholarships for young girls around the world who will be the first in their families to go to high school. Colleges, and increasingly secondary schools, are creating local chapters where young scholars can help support other young scholars from around the globe. The entire effort was started on YouTube and grew on Facebook, a testament for how young people can use social media for public good.
- Join a National Club. hsdems.org is an organization set up to inspire high school-aged democrats about politics and encourage political involvement. There’s a similar organization for college and slightly older young adults called Young Democrats of America, reputed to be the largest youth-led partisan political organization in the nation.
- Create a Different Kind of Club. Ideas include a political book club, or music club to study the history of movement music including everything from Amazing Grace to the songs of Pete Seeger and, of course, Cat Stevens and John Lennon — and that’s just scratching the obvious surface.
P.S. We’re looking for a music editor here at Little Hinges to help create an inspiring music list for Hingers of all ages. If interested, write us!
- Do An Independent Study. If your school supports it, ask to an independent study project to study the electoral college, the history of women’s voting writes, or women running for high political office. There have been more than Hillary Clinton! Anyone care to date themselves and remember Geraldine Ferraro?
And that brings us to the amazing story of Gregory Watson, who as a sophomore at the University to Texas Austin in 1982 wrote a term paper on a Constitutional amendment introduced in 1789 that had never been fully ratified. His research indicated that it could still be voted on and ratified many years later. He received a C on his paper, as his professor thought the concept was outlandish, but in 1992 with Watson still on the case, the newest and now 27th amendment to the Constitution went into effect.
It is often said that Youth Has Its Privileges. These are just four ideas for how Youth Can HaveProgressive Actions. There are likely many more. We welcome any suggestions that readers might have either in comments below, or by an email to LittleHingesUSA@gmail.com. The point is that everyone, no matter how small or young they may be, have actions that can be taken to feel empowered. It’s just a matter of getting inspired and creative. Who knows? Some education may come out of it as well! That’s a real win-win from any mother’s point of view.