Thursday, February 24, 2011
The test of a true Madison kid...
My friend Lucy does this without batting an eye. And in case you have any lingering doubts about her legitimacy as a Madisonian, she and her sister Maddy spent last Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and most of this Monday protesting at the state capitol.
During my stint in the hearing room for Senate Bill 11, I heard the testimony of an articulate young woman from Memorial High School. That was five days ago, and I can't stop thinking about her remarkable poise as she refuted assertions that student presence downtown is the result of teacher instructions. "It kind of offends us," she explained, "when people say we're only here because of our teachers." She went on to describe the myriad impact restrictions on collective bargaining rights would have on her parents, neighbors, friends, and, yes, schools.
It's true - some local and national media have painted Madison's youngest protesters as clueless victims of their unquestioningly liberal city. This is a common refrain among local conservatives (who, despite their complaints, have enjoyed increased political representation in recent years).
Here comes the part where I become increasingly annoyed. I may not be in high school anymore, but at 23 years old, I'm not exactly the crypt keeper. I've never missed an election. If I could meet anyone, alive or dead, it would be Alice Paul. I've seen every episode of The West Wing too many times to admit. The "young people are so politically apathetic" argument has never carried a whole lot of credence in Lauren Land. But it wasn't until this particular testimony that I realized just how soundly it had been demolished in the last week.
I've spoken to more strangers in the past seven days than I have in the rest of my entire life until this point. Overwhelmingly, the most impressive, genuine, well-spoken, great-tape-making of those strangers were high school students (and one middle schooler). As I played back their interviews, I realized how little occasion they have had to share their views publicly. Even in lefty-est of the lefty news sources, we just aren't hearing from them.
Being an unmitigated radio nerd, this realization was accompanied by a FLASH OF RADIO GENIUS (gird your loins, mere mortals). I've always been a little nervous about trying a non-narrated piece, since it basically means you have to be a totally kickass interviewer with mad editing skills and rockstar subjects. Despite all this, I decided to jump off the (radio) cliff...for the children. It seemed like a win-win situation: I get to try my hand at a new kind of piece, and some very deserving people get a chance to tell their story in their own words, without my snarky interjections.
MICHELE NORRIS (I mean, um, talented radio host who shall remain nameless): Students in Madison, Wisconsin returned to school this Tuesday following the introduction of Governor Scott Walker's budget repair bill. In the last week, the state capitol was home to thousands of protesters who objected to restrictions on collective bargaining rights of public employees such as public school teachers. Producer Lauren Peterson discussed tales from the front lines with two very young activists.
MN (I mean...whoever...): Though they are happy to be back in the classroom, Maddy and Lucy Friedman continue to spend as much time as possible on the picket lines - just as soon as they've finished their homework.