High School Revolution

Boredom or Apathy?

That is the main question posed by the Montreal-based movie The Trotsky which I am so glad I watched last night.  In this film, directed by up-and-coming Montreal-born, Jacob Tierney, this question is being asked by the youth about themselves.  Why are so many of us so passive rather than getting involved in creating a better community, better high school, better world?  If we think high school sucks, then why don’t we do something about it?

Leon, the movie’s central character, played by Montreal native Jay Baruchel (recently of She’s out of My League, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and the voice of Hiccup in How To Train Your Dragon), asks this question to a few of his friends.  “Can I ask you guys something?   ... would you say boredom or apathy?”

“Well, what’s the difference?” one of his friends asks.

“Apathy is the condition of not caring... boredom... boredom is just a slumber one can be roused from.”

“Oh, well then definitely boredom.”

To Leon it is a significant question, what everything hangs on, because he is determined to create a spark in his local Montreal public school.  He wants himself and his fellow students have a voice in the everyday life of the school where they currently experiencing the drag of a very strict principal and vice-principal who think that rules and detention will whip this school into shape.  If it is boredom, then his fellow students can be roused, can learn to care and make a difference.  If it is apathy, then there is no hope.

“Teachers and administration are here for us and yet we are the most undervalued members of the education community.  We have lots of power, we just haven’t used it yet.”  Leon shouts from the school yard. “Let’s show them that we are not the generation of apathy!”

This film surprised me and easily became one of my favourite films I’ve seen this year.  Jacob Tierney won three audience awards for this film when it was selected for showing at several film festivales in 2009.  There are some great performances, and the substance of the film is what makes it particularly worth watching (a bunch of f-bombs though, if that is something that puts you off of a film).

There comes a point in the film where Leon is making his strongest demonstration to date to appeal for a union of students in the school.  He needs the support of the students for his actions to mean anything.  It almost appears that apathy has won.  As it turns out though, many students simply didn’t have an understanding of Leon’s political language and Leon’s friend, Tony (Ricky Mabe, yet another Quebec native) needs to translate.  “The school’s suck”, he declares

A round of “Yeah” from the students present.  One girl pipes up with “Obviously.”

“Should it suck? “ Tony asks, “I mean, seriously guys, should school suck?  No, right?  So if we all agree that school sucks and that it shouldn’t, then what’s next guys?  Leon thinks that what’s next is us getting involved... we don’t do anything to make that school better... things have a better chance of improving if we improve them ourselves.”

This film made me think of a couple summers ago when a local shop owner was employing the use of a ‘mosquito buzzer’.  The device emits a frequency that young people find extremely annoying and , even ‘piercing’ while patrons into their mid-20s and early 30s and beyond lose the ability to hear that frequency and are not bothered by it at all.  The Dam tried to organize a group of students to lead a protest against the use of this discriminatory device, with very little success.  While most youth were bothered by it and agreed that the use of the buzzer was a horrible, unjust and discriminatory practice, very few were actually willing to do anything about it.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/8052284/Discriminatory-mosquito-buzzer-used-to-repel-young-people-removed.html - British story about the buzzer

The question this movie asks, boredom or apathy, is one I have pondered many times.  Is it possible for us to be roused from our slumber?  I sure hope it is boredom we are dealing with, not apathy... actually, I choose to believe that is the case.  I know it is possible for us to care, to fight for our own voice to be heard.  One youth did care.  Cared enough to meet with one of our staff and the owner of the business that was employing the device (it was a Tim Horton’s btw).  Fortunately, one meeting, and one subtle suggestion of media involvement was enough for the buzzer to be de-activated.  One youth willing to participate, on this occassion, was enough.  While I believe it only takes one to make a difference, one will often not be enough to effect substantial change.

When a business uses that buzzer... sure, it might be annoying... but it is so much more.  It sends the message that youth are ‘unwanted’, even in their own neighbourhood.  There is no place for them, even in the community they call home.  This demands a response.

I remember when our local secondary school was cancelling senior music among other classes, meaning that students who needed those courses for future education plans had to leave their own school for their final year to get the classes they needed.  I knew youth who were coming to The Dam who were in exactly this situation.  Many students walked out in petition for one afternoon.  There was no change to the plans... but what if the walkout would have continued?  Decisions that effect our students but don’t allow the voice of the students in the decision making process demand a response.

In 1993 or 1994, the students at my high school, Heart Lake Secondary, organized a very succesful walkout to protest the fact that we would not receive free meningitis inoculations despite the deaths of several students in nearby high schools due to this contagious illness.  We involved other schools and got many, many students to participate.  Our demands were not met, but we marched on the Peel Health offices and representatives met with the city.  We thought something sucked and we did something about it.  But , again, what if the walkout continued?  Suspensions were threatened, the demand subsided.  It might be that the health experts actually knew best.  As far as I know, there were no other deaths.  But, if we thought it was necessary, why not go out and get it?

BOREDOM NO MORE!  Let us be roused from our slumber.  Things are not as they could be.  There is no lack of issues that demand a voice to be heard.  I continue to believe the voice of our youth is the voice that brings change.  Don’t let us adults shut it out.  You have lots of power, use it!

Interesting post considering

Interesting post considering what seems to be going on in the middle east these last few weeks. Dictators are falling all around the Muslim world as people begin to speak out. Perhaps you can add a third to the equation. Boredom, Apathy and Fear.I watched V for Vandetta the other night and this phrase really stood out."People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."

Interesting Follow-up

On facebook I had a couple of friends from high school comment on our meningitis walkout.   One comment said;Funny little piece of info...my bro was doing his co-op placement with 680 news at the time and reported live from the scene. After the event, he was ordered by the Principal of Heart Lake to not show up to school for the next week as a consequence and to do it quietly or else! He complied but I remember being so pissed about him being silenced/censored.If you watch the Trotsky, the administration in that movie might not seem so far fetched when you realize that this stuff happens for real!  Students doing things that are well within their rights to do and experiencing some pretty harsh oppression in return.  Being punished for walking out is one thing, sometimes we need to accept the consequences of our actions (and that is part of the point, that we are willing to stand up for beliefs and for making things better even if we experience harship), but to be told to do it 'quietly' with an ominous unspoken threat hanging in the air... that is some crazy power trip to hold over a high school kid's head.  WOW!

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