“I kind of like being fooled about some things.” Tally, the protagonist in Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, utters this line to close out a chapter section, where we ended today’s Morning Reading in Humanities 7. The kids reacted immediately to the line, pointing out examples of Tally, and the society in general in this future dystopia, wanting to be fooled. After their thoughts settled into silence, I asked them, “Are there people in our culture who kind of like being fooled about some things.” No silence then - one student jumped straight to, “I like being fooled into thinking the world isn’t going to descend into chaos in about 12 years and our species will go extinct.”
Jumbled together but quite clear: “Exactly.” “Yeah.” “Me too.” “I don’t think it will happen that fast but I think it’s going to happen.” and “I don’t want to be fooled because the only way to stop it is to take action.” I added that some people switch back and forth between not wanting to think about it and wanting to think about it long enough to take action. It wasn’t long before one kid said, “Okay, can we talk about something else? This is giving me anxiety.”
Their thoughts echoed those offered by high school students on a panel at Greenfield’s Climate Change Rally one week ago today as well those offered there by Edith, our student Head of Community Service, who described efforts at our school and a realistic appraisal of how we could be doing better, to warm and supportive applause. Later on, a Four Rivers student said she is now taking public transportation from her home in Northampton to school even though it takes almost two hours instead of 25 minutes, because she felt she had to do something. And she also said that she no longer wanted to have children, because she couldn’t conceive of bringing them into a world as chaotic as that predicted for 2030-2040 or so.
In a Twitter chat last Thursday evening, one of my friends who is retired said he’d heard kids no longer care (I think he suspected that was untrue and was seeking to confirm that suspicion). I said, wow, that wasn’t my experience at all. I pointed to the Climate Change Rally, to our regular attendance at the Vigil for Racial Justice, to efforts to draw attention to reduce gun violence, and said maybe not all kids care to that level but in my experience, a great many do.
But kids still can’t vote, a few scattered initiatives to lower local voting ages to 16 (including some right here in Franklin County) aside. And so a generation of teenagers is watching this election knowing the results for which they are so fearfully waiting are entirely out of their hands, wishing they could vote, knowing they would vote their future, wondering what we adults are going to do.
Which brings up the question. What are we adults going to do? And will our collective choices restore hope to that Four Rivers student who, at 17, has already given up on a dream which most of us in older generations took for granted? Will they reduce the anxiety of my sweet Humanities 7 student?
Kids have to stand by and watch. We adults do not. So, vote. Vote your conscience, vote your values.
And vote with these kids’ futures in mind.