Wednesday, December 12, 2018
By Nassim Zerriffi
The students in the 7th and 8th grade spent the beginning of the year exploring and discussing possible activism topics. The Activism Elective narrowed the options down to four and created presentations for the rest of the group. Those four options were: habitat destruction, the immigration crisis, police brutality, and sexual harassment. Students voted first for two topics to explore further which were habitat destruction and the immigration crisis. They then went home and discussed with their families and had several conversations as a whole group and, in an exciting run-off election, chose habitat destruction.
Students seem to be primarily concerned with a sense, supported by evidence, that the life support systems of our planet are being stretched beyond capacity and while they are all moved by, and outraged by the mistreatment and scapegoating of immigrants by our current administration, they chose to face what they perceive as a more existential threat.
I am working to explore intersections between those two topics and connections with our history curriculum as we continue to learn about this issue and plan our campaign. For example, many of the people in the "caravan" of migrants currently hoping to apply for asylum in the United States, as is their right by international law, are fleeing Honduras because of violence, government corruption, and economic hopelessness. Honduras is also a country that has seen the murder of many environmental activists, most infamously Bertha Caceres, carried out allegedly by corporations in cooperation with governmental security forces. These companies, and the political elites, are seeking to exploit natural resources to the detriment of communities. The combination of exploitation and destruction of natural resources, the loss of agricultural land to climate change, and the prevalence of violence and impunity constitute "push factors" forcing people to leave their countries and seek refuge in our own.
Meanwhile, our current events updates in morning meeting have included plans by the current administration to open the Arctic refuge and millions of acres of public lands to oil exploration and mining.
The students will decide in the coming month or two on a more specific focus for our topic and find organizations working on these issues to partner with. As always, our campaign will advocate for policy changes and seek to engage the MCS community in student-led activism for a more just future. Perhaps our New York City representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's call for a Green New Deal will interest the students. As a history teacher, it certainly helps make historical connections clear and reminds students that a nation with a shared sense of purpose can face catastrophic challenges with courage and transform society for the better.
Stay tuned to see what direction the students will choose and feel free to reach out with any resources, connections, or ideas that might help them in their process.