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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Listen to the kids? Or listen to the adults?

In Universal Hub this morning, Adam Gaffin quotes Cara Lisa Powers on the subject of the Boston Globe’s coverage of a protest at the John D. O’Bryant High School of Mathematics and Science. The Globe ignored the kids. In this week’s Weston Town Crier, a letter is published protesting an article about students at Weston High School. The Town Crier placed too much weight on what the kids said. Since I live in Dorchester and teach in Weston, I had to compare and contrast. (Yes, the O’Bryant is actually in Roxbury, not Dorchester, but it’s pretty close and it’s an exam school that serves plenty of Dorchester kids.)

In her letter to the Globe reporter, Powers includes the following observation:
By only quoting the spokesperson from the Boston Public Schools, and not giving any voice to the youth, you are reinforcing the dominant perception that adults’ opinions are more valid than those of young people.
Indeed, the Globe article by Megan Woolhouse never presented the students’ point of view on the subject of being locked down for two periods because some students were “taking seven to eight minutes to get to class, instead of the typical four minutes.”

I can’t find an online copy of the letter written by a committee of six parents to the Weston Town Crier (published on page 8 of the 2/28/2008 print version), but here is an excerpt:
The presence of two Weston seniors was a welcome addition to the engaged discussions of all those in attendance.

Unfortunately, Mr. Leiner chose to give the two students’ opinions about alcohol and drug use the weight of fact rather than opinion. He did this without taking the time to validate these views with either the actual survey results available or the health and education professionals present at the meeting. His choices did offer the reader catchy, attention-getting quotes while putting these minors at potential risk for misunderstandings within the community and with their peers.
Indeed, the Town Crier article by Gabriel Leiner did give the students’ views “the weight of fact rather than opinion,” but it didn’t completely ignore the cited survey or the views of adult professionals. Check the link to read the article for yourself. Also note a sentence in a comment by an anonymous alum: “In every high school there are students who drink and those who study, but in weston there is a different class of student, those who study and drink.” Hmmm....

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