The Children Who Would Take Over the Playpen

By Phineas J. Stone

At the risk of suffering the effects of a negative Tweet, or perhaps being parodied on a poster board sign, Mr. Boston is going to take on the Boston “students” this week that seem to be in a constant state of unrest.

I watched on Tuesday as a mundane coffee hour in the South End was rudely and obnoxiously disrupted by a group of young people who seemingly emerged out of nowhere to “shut down” the coffee hour – which is nothing more than an annual feel-good tour for the mayor to greet elderly folks, mothers and little children.

They give out coffee; they go home with yellow flowers.

But as part of the second massive walkout in a few months by Boston Public School students, this event had to be “shut down,” apparently because they didn’t believe they were getting their way. I have to give Mayor Martin Walsh credit for tolerating these brutes. They don’t come with any amount of respect, nor do they listen to the facts.

They wanted more summer jobs, apparently, but I think they just wanted to embarrass the mayor.

When he explained the measures he has been taking, they simply dismissed it, kept on yelling and were content to let everyone know he was a liar. As he and a few city councilors and Police Commissioner William Evans tried to deliver news on an important park project, they were shouted over by kids who seemingly have been taught everything except common courtesy.

So the mayor is a liar and the kids want their way. That seems to be the conclusion, and it played out later Tuesday afternoon when even more students stormed City Hall and demanded more money for their schools – to “Shut down” City Hall.

I saw the same thing earlier this year at Faneuil Hall.

And I truly have had enough of listening to Boston Latin students quoted in the news about how much they’re suffering and how unfair the City funding is to their school.

Really?

The only public school in America with what essentially is an endowment fund is losing out: that’s ripe for the picking. If they wanted to be fair, they’d turn over their Fencing Team allotment to their compatriots at Charlestown High who cannot even afford to purchase drumsticks for the set of drums in their upstart music program.

So, how did we get to this place of constant protest? Why have kids become so emboldened that they would take this all-or-nothing, I’m right and you’re wrong, approach to democracy?

It’s not how things are done on the grass roots level in this City – where neighborhood associations and tenants groups have become skilled at hammering out compromises so that we can all live together.

I’ll tell you how we got here.

What you’re witnessing is a decade or more of teaching kids that their voice is extremely important and needs to be heard above all things. This has been taught by well-meaning adults who want to get kids interested in civics and being active in the community, and in large part the time spent on “engaging youth” (as it is so often called in the community organizing world) has come at the expense of teaching basic history, table manners and respect for another viewpoint. Somehow, the well-intended message has been garbled (or hijacked) and the kids have come to believe that their voice is the most important voice, and all other voices are to be discounted and defeated until their voice is the only voice. There is no room for dissent.

I’m with Mayor Walsh on this one, who said on Monday it’s likely a “movement” led by adult organizers and not so much by kids. It couldn’t be more true. Under the guise of empowering the youth, I think these adults are simply using the youth to create a stir and a highly-visible embarrassing situation – much like drug dealers use juveniles to do their dirty work so they don’t get caught holding the bag.

This is powered by insiders in the Boston Teacher’s Union and high-priced consultants who once worked for Gov. Deval Patrick. I think that’s who’s really behind this, not to mention some politicians who find it politically expedient. They’re all protecting their nest egg.

If the kids in Boston Public Schools really wanted to protest inequality, they should look up the salaries of their teachers and administrators. They should compare those exorbitant salaries to that of their parents – and even themselves in their after school jobs (keep in mind teachers have three months off). They should read the Teacher’s Union contract and see the unnecessary perks that are given to those that have gained their sympathies. They should ask the Union why it is they have to start school so darn early, and get out much too early in the afternoon.

They’ll find that more interesting than disrupting Mayor Walsh at a coffee hour in the South End.

It’s time for the kids to be reminded that they are kids, and the adults to stand up and take charge as has been the case for generations.

Everything in the structure of our society doesn’t have to change in an absolute way.

Let’s hear from the kids, but letting them take over and shut our lives down…forgeddaboutit!

 

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