School Students Lead the Way
Pola Rosen, Ed.D.
The voices of scores of students and teachers
were heard recently at Teen Leadership Day, under the aegis of
Thirteen, WNET. A panel of students and adults engaged in lively
debate as Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree posed provocative
questions about racism, bias, and first amendment issues. The
panel was told that they were now in hypothetical New City High
School, with a diverse group of students. Professor Ogletree stated
that a student columnist for the school newspaper submitted an
article titled, “White Boys Can’t Jump.” Assigning different roles
to the panel, Professor Ogletree asked the school body “president”,
the school newspaper “editor,” the school faculty “advisor,” the
school “principal,” and other “students” what they would do. The
floor was then opened to the audience of about 500 students and
teachers. Microphones stationed around the auditorium quickly
had long lines; everyone wanted to plunge into the dialogue and
the responses were fascinating. “As long as you have a disclaimer
in the newspaper, it’s OK,” said one student. The “principal”
wanted to stop the column because spreading hate was not the way
to raise consciousness, a Latino on the panel (Hector Gesualdo,
head of ASPIRA New York, played the role) stated he would translate
the story into Spanish and see how it played out, the writer of
the column felt that you could write whatever you want and expect
controversy, the school editor was against offensive writing.
Other emotion-stirring questions asked by Professor Ogletree were:
what if a slogan appears in your school yearbook, partially hidden
by photos, that says “no niggers, no faggots, no Jews, kill them
all;” what about March Madness, [the time that students receive
acceptances to college] and someone from school gets into an ivy
league school. You attribute the success to affirmative action.
When Education Update asked Professor Ogletree about his
personal views on inflammatory comments in the press, he stressed,
“I’m a big advocate of the first amendment. Print offensive material;
let people respond to it.”
Dr. Bill Baker, President of Thirteen/WNET
views the teen leadership conferences as “giving our youth the
tools [to become] powerful and moving. I’m so impressed by the
quality of our youth. I am faced by moral dilemmas and swimming
in the same river, against the same current [as the students].
I am spiritually moved by this.”
Channel 13, he went on to explain, “is the
single largest grass-roots teacher training institution in the
nation.” About 130,000 teachers across the country study and refer
to the lessons and programs on WNET.
Mr. Ken Duane, Vice-Chairman of Phillips-Van
Heusen Corporation and a sponsor of the event spoke to Education
Update about the primary mission of his company: getting employees
actively involved in community life. They are given time during
the work week to volunteer. “To our CEO, Bruce Klatsky, education
is the great equalizer. By supporting education and Channel 13,
we are helping to provide a better future workforce,” said Duane.
Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel:
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