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High School Intifada
an article by Mathieu Desan

The latest round of the Middle East conflict broke out when I was a senior in High School. My friends and I decided that something had to be done to educate the largely apathetic students. So one day, we put up a couple flyers on the school bulletin board, with the intention of providing information on the conflict.

When we later went back out into the hall, we were shocked to see that someone had ripped down all our flyers. We decided to put them back up and hang around to see if anybody would come to tear them down again. After a couple minutes, our suspicions were confirmed when we witnessed a professor tear down the flyers in disgust. We decided to go talk to her about it, but she refused to acknowledge us and said that she would tear the flyers down again if we put them back up.

Angry, my friends and I went to the administration to ask that we be allowed to put up flyers without problem. The administration refused, citing an old rule prohibiting political flyers. My friends and I decided to ignore what we perceived to be an unjust rule, and we made hundreds of flyers with the text of UN Resolution 242 on it. This latest round of flyering set off a process that would eventually involve the entire school.

The situation was very tense, but since our school was small and everybody knew everybody else fairly well, we did not want this conflict to generate any animosity or violence. So my friends and I decided to set up a forum/dialogue about the Middle East conflict, ideally cosponsored by the school's Amnesty International chapter and the Jewish Students Association (JSA). But the faculty adviser of the JSA, who was the teacher who tore our flyers down, refused to let her group sponsor the forum if a specific Palestinian student would prepare a presentation.

Since there was overwhelming support from the student body, we decided to hold the forum anyway, albeit without the sponsorship of the JSA, although the majority of JSA students participated. Despite these drawbacks, the forum was a success and we provided an outlet for people to share information, opinions, and fears without resorting to destructive means, whether physical or verbal.

DISCUSSION

Question(s) related to this article:


Dialogue in schools about war and peace issues, What are the needs and limits?

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Latest reader comment:

In response to the article, High School Intifada, readers have expressed a unanimous opinion that the freedom of speech and assembly are guaranteed by the Constitution in this country. Comments also allude to the fact that despite individual or bureaucratic policies, activism, when done in a peaceful and non-violent manner can promote consciousness and dialogue.

The comments also point out the importance of objective and forward thinking teaching policies, and respect for young people and their opinions. In other words, an environment for exchange of thought and ideas must be provided to students and emulated by teachers.


This report was posted on June 1, 2002. .