Sunday Reading: Silent Stakeholders – INDY Week

This Tuesday, as voters seethe in their ballots, American children– whose ability to learn about racism and sexuality, receive gender-affirming care, use their favorite bathroom, fight climate change and avoid mass shootings may be affected

This Tuesday, as voters seethe in their ballots, American children– whose ability to learn about racism and sexuality, receive gender-affirming care, use their favorite bathroom, fight climate change and avoid mass shootings may be affected by the election – will be at school. (Possibly also fill bubbles, although less consequential.)

In an effort to set up this massive bloc of silent stakeholders ahead of the midterm, the radio show This American Life last week released an episodehosted by radio producer Chana Joffe-Walt, where teens detail how contentious pieces of legislation affect their daily lives.

“I’ve seen so many school board meetings since then where kids are sitting in the audience while parents are yelling about school closures or Don’t Say Gay admissions laws or policies,” Joffe says. -Walt. “This dynamic, of adults arguing about children right in front of them, is like a play that is quietly going around the country right now, being re-enacted in different places, in different forms. A play in which you never hear of the main characters.

When student voices find their way into political stories, it’s almost always because those students are fighting for some kind of change. So when I started listening to the episode, I assumed it would spotlight student advocates, but it doesn’t, which actually strengthens the piece.

The children in the Joffe-Walt story did not walkouts organized for reproductive rightsnor did they push to lower the voting age to 16; they’re just ordinary kids, trying to live their lives while lawmakers work against them.

In the most astonishing segment of the episode, students at a Virginia high school recount a recent lockdown — a real one, not a drill — where for hours it was somehow unclear whether an active shooter was was or was not in the building.

Students, crammed into dark classrooms, passed the time the way students do: playing Wordle, chatting, cracking jokes (“a girl was like, oh, no, I’m going to die a virgin,” one student recalled ).

Another student spent confinement filming the closed classroom door with her phone: “I thought that if it was a real shooting in a school, I see all these [videos] of students filming while shaking, so I thought if that happened, I should probably do it,” she says.

Parents gathered outside the building, some worrying and others taking calls at work.

“I can’t think of a more perfect illustration of what it’s like to pretend things are normal in America right now – a more 2022 picture than a finance guy working from home taking a Zoom call. from his car, outside of what may or may not be a school shooter in his kid’s high school,” Joffe-Walt says. “The incredible spikes in dissociation, the alienation necessary to carry on with our daily routines while allowing the possibility of tragedy at any moment.”

Click here to listen to the full podcast.


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