No Longer Afraid to Fight

Protesters show their solidarity with Hong Kong protesters during a rally Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014, in Times Square in New York. They demanded a stop to violent police repression of democracy activists currently occupying central areas of Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of the AP/Kathy Willens.

Written by Danielle Bennett

In the past year, protests across the globe focused on the issue of a democratic educational system have flooded the news media. Youth populations worldwide have risen to their feet in educational protest against the restriction of their freedom of expression.These protests are due to the realization among students that the policies of their government do not reflect their views of society, so in defense students are now educating themselves to gain power over the system that governs them. Now they are fighting back.

A democratic educational system is one that is representative of the people’s wishes; a government that creates policy, committees and regulations that reflect the beliefs of their people. Students, “are not the products of an education system, but rather valued participants in a vibrant learning community,” as defined by democraticedu.org. [The under representation of the youth population is leading to the mounting tensions between groups]. Students are now advocating to receive an unbiased perspective in their education. In Colorado, students from six high schools in Jefferson County abstained from school in protest of the proposed amendment to the advanced placement U.S History course. An amendment that would, “focus history education on topics that promote citizenship, patriotism and respect for authority,” according to the Associated Press.  The problem is that the conservative led government leading the proposed amendments has a biased view of the words “patriotism and respect for authority”. Their goal is to rewrite the course, so that it will , “…not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage” as written in the description of the appointed committee to amend the US History course in Jefferson. In short the committee wishes to dismantle the majority of American history by disregarding the parts they deem negative. This proposal started the protest to enhance their freedom of expression, and became a catalyst to the student’s plea to gain the attention of their local government and start a conversation about policy decisions where there currently aren’t any.

An extreme example of the lack of communication between the students and their government is the country of Ethiopia. In order to achieve their goal of becoming a middle income country by 2025, the police have started to restrict the freedom of expression, especially within the  student community. According to The Guardian, tensions between the police and students on campuses have led to, “more than 20 bodies on the street, while Voice of America (VOA) reported that at least 17 protesters were killed by “elite security forces” on three campuses in Oromia.”. In another attempt to make their citizens a more uniform body, the government required, “students to join one of the three government parties; with reports of restricted curricula, classroom spies and crackdowns on student protests commonplace at universities.” Restricting the student’s freedom of speech, and the resulting backlash, demonstrate the government’s attempts to question their authority.

The leading news stories of the protests in Hong Kong portray a similar scenario. An independent news source for Yahoo, said, “The HKSAR Government turned a deaf ear and blind eyes to Hong Kong People’s genuine appeal, aggravating the resentment and widening the split between the people and the government”. Throughout multiple countries the youth are revolting and protesting to gain the rights they feel they deserve. To explain their conception of rights, Joseph Foudy, a professor of Economics and Business and Political Economy at Stern, says that the youth population in Hong Kong has grown up in affluence, and has been educated with Western ideologies. Therefore, the younger generation is more interested in human(itarian?) needs and democracy, unlike their parents who were more concerned with gaining a job or providing for a family. In today’s youth this change in perspective has led to the protests for democracy we see today.

Students around the world are continuing to fight for an educational democracy because they are beginning to understand that they are entitled to one. The future of educational democracies lies in the response to the global protests, but the biggest battle, of having the confidence to stand up in the student’s best interest, is already won.

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