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My Sixth Newsletter
A New Year. A New Millennium. December was so busy that you'll excuse the absence of a newsletter. I will assume there was enough news for most of you.
For those new to this newsletter, I am the author of TEEN POWER POLITICS: MAKE YOURSELF HEARD, an issue-oriented book for young Americans on civic and political activism. Engagement is integral to our democracy and soon-to-be and new voters - citizens and residents already - definitely have the voice, the power, the intelligence, the sense of justice, passion and energy to give the benefit of their participation right now! This newsletter and my website, teenpowerpolitics.com, are intended to provide a resource and update on issues and events affecting us all.
When I last wrote, there was little finality in the presidential election. Now the President-elect is transitioning. The Cabinet is picked. Congress is sworn in. Governors, state senators, assemblies, city councils and boards of education have taken or soon will take office. It seems over. It is not.
We have just had an incredible in-our-face civics lesson with moments of great understanding and those of awful truths, the worst being that partisan politics is neither productive nor complementary to anyone or any party. However, a return to "order" does not give us license to tune out. From a Los Angeles talk radio host following the Supreme Court ruling: "Well, that's done. Now we can forget about politics." And, according to a Neglection 2000 survey young adults paid more attention to the post-election than to the election itself.
Politics affects all of what we do. Voter or not, we must take positive action to move on from this historic election by making those representing us know what concerns us and by our own direct action for change. We can easily accomplish these goals by engaging in everyday debate and action and strengthening ourselves. If we keep in mind that by all of these acts we are changing the world - and that is exactly what we are doing - then change will happen.
To start you off, here is: (1) A set of provocative New Years resolutions for Congress proposed by Mark Weisbrot, Co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC.. Whether or not you agree with Mr. Weisbrot or find that your interests are not so broad, think about his proposals and how they might affect your daily lives.
(2) "Advice for the President from Teens in Los Angeles County", excerpted and reprinted with permission from LA Youth, The Newspaper By and About Teens. Visit the website for more. "... [a] top priority should be to end violence and that means gang violence, warfare and crime. ... another priority should be that all [people], from children to the elderly, should have the freedom of speech." -Riorose Ash, 15, St. Mary's Academy "...change the death penalty. There are too many innocent people being killed and the police don't go out there and look for the true person who did the crime." -Geneva Allen, 15, Fairfax Visual Art Magnet "...work closer to home. Our government interferes with other governments and they have no right to." -Francis Ballesteros, 14, Daniel Murphy High School "...[a] top priority should be the education of teenagers nowadays. There are too many teenagers who are not educated enough or are too smart and stuck in schools that are not good enough for them." -Sylvia LaRosa, 15, St. Mary's Academy "... more funding for higher education. ... more scholarships for those who actually do well in their studies, because there are a lot of kids out there who have the grades, but don't have the money. Everyone deserves the chance to go to college, to help them get closer to their goals in life." -Saundré Scott, 16, St. Mary's Academy
(3) From the 4 January Wall Street Journal, "Voters Speak: Spend on Schools", reporting on the "new insurgency", the "Revolt of the Parents," as they call upon government through referendum to spend more money on the schools, a priority over standardized testing and a change from two decades of voter tax revolt. The article is available by subscription to WSJ Online (A 30 day free trial on their website) or at your library.
HERE'S WHAT WE'LL TALK ABOUT IN THIS NEWSLETTER:
A. The 2000 November Election Wrap-up
B. Washington DC, December 2000 was full of provocative meetings and events.
C. The 2000 Census - just published first results.
D. Youth Communication: Music and Youth Radio
E. Youth In Action: New activism accounts.
F. What I'm Reading Now.
A. ELECTION WRAP-UP AND OUR FUTURE INVOLVEMENT
1. According to the Electoral College, a Joint Session of Congress convenes this Saturday, January 6, at 1:00pm ET to count the electoral votes and formalize the election of a President for the forthcoming four years. Inauguration is January 20th. Below, two "inaugural" sites:
a. The Presidential Inaugural Committee
b. The Nation's counter-inauguration calendar
2. Several more media literacy lessons:
a. Project Vote Smart conducted a National Political Awareness Test (NPAT) to measure the willingness of presidential candidates to clearly inform the voters of their issue inclinations on the issues they will likely have to deal with if elected. Their 2000 presidential election findings show an increasing trend in the unwillingness of candidates to provide the public with "clear cut, straightforward issue information on the issues that are both important to voters and also likely to be dealt with by the next president" "... the [continued] efforts by candidates, their campaign consultants and party leadership to "gang up" against the NPAT ... will eventually strip citizens of any meaningful issue information with which they can compare the candidates before they have to vote. ... candidates will eventually be unwilling to answer any questions that they don't carefully control. In the meantime, those candidates who are willing to help inform voters, even though it exposes them to opposition research and mudslinging attacks, have already told voters ... a great deal about themselves, and their belief in public accountability and public integrity."
b. How many times on Tuesday eve, December 12th, did you hear the press report that the Supreme Court decided the election in favor of President-elect Bush by a "7-2 decision"? Notwithstanding the candidate you supported (and it may have been neither of these front-runners), the implication was that the ruling was by an overwhelming majority of the Court. But it was not. The actual decision was split 5-4. The secondary issue: 7-2. Pressure media to be responsible in reporting and understanding the impact their word has upon its acceptance as fact.
c. Third Millennium has printed the transcript of Vice President Gore and Gov. George W. Bush's responses to the third debate question about why younger people do not vote and what they thought should be done to remedy the problem. Did either answer the question?
3. Electoral reform. There is much to do.
a. Visit Rock the Vote site and join (or at least give serious thought to joining) their strong Demand Democracy Petition that calls on the 107th Congress to make substantial electoral reforms in seven areas: electoral college; campaign finance; voter intimidation; registration and voting procedures; disenfranchisement; third parties; and civic education.
b. Review electoral reform proposals at the Center for Voting & Democracy, including a Citizens' Guide to Voting Equipment.
4. For your future, follow the records of your elected officials:
a. Call their offices to track your lawmakers' votes and interests.
(1) General & issue-oriented links on federal candidates campaign contributions and voting records.
(2) The 50 States Project for state lawmakers¹ outside economic interests.
b. Let them know what you think. Use the grassroots.com contact links:
(2) state elected officials
(3) relevant media organizations (including how to write letters to the editor). Check out Slate.com's FAQ on presidential salaries.
B. WASHINGTON, DC TRIP
1. In early December I attended the Third Millennium conference, "They Pretend To Speak To Us, We Pretend To Vote", a summation/discussion of the Neglection 2000 analysis of the television ad-buying behavior of the two leading presidential campaigns showing thatthe ad campaigns ignored adults under age 50 -- and particularly those under age 35. Some initial conclusions from the report itself: "-Young adults are neither a monolithic voting bloc, nor are they as apathetic or cynical as many analysts believe.
- Young adults are often wary of those who provide them with political information, be they the candidates or the media.
- The Internet can function as a very useful political resource‹particularly for registering new voters‹but it still has a long way to go before its potential is fully realized.
- Candidates targeted seniors in far greater proportions relative to their component part of the population.
- Young adults were more likely to say they had a poor or mediocre civics education than their elders."
The final conclusion: It remains up to the political parties to attend to youth issues and not use youth's present disaffection as the reason to "neglect" them. Again from the report: "Civics education ... must be an integral part of any effort to break the cycle of mutual neglect.
- Candidates should discuss issues that directly affect young adults and their communities.
- Campaigns should use "double-sided" messages to target young people, and place such messages on television programs and in locales frequented by young adults.
- Candidates must tone down the negative rhetoric, while sounding more honest and straightforward.
- Candidates, at all levels, should take part in youth debates and forums, both as a way to increase interest among young people and gain very positive earned media.
- Young adults must play their part: They must read the paper, watch the news, learn about the issues and, most importantly, vote." - www.neglection2000.org
2. Society's scapegoat incarceration of youth today, its affect upon them and our nation is a serious concern. Just as I visited with the Juvenile Justice Division of the American Bar Association, new juvenile crime data for 1999 just released by the Justice Department shows a decline in youth crime for the sixth straight year, yet a substantial majority of Americans still feel that youth crime is increasing and that youth commit a higher portion of crime than they actually do. "The good news is, America's kids are acting more responsibly, and committing fewer crimes than they have in three decades. Check out the Justice Policy Institute's findings documenting the disconnect between the lowered crime rates and the public perception are at www.cjcj.org.
I'll discuss this in depth in future newsletters but it bears continual mention. See TPP's box (page 16) on the felony disenfranchisement of youth, often before they are old enough to vote.
3. I also visited with Steven Culbertson of Youth Service America., "a resource center and the premier alliance of 200+ organizations committed to increasing the quantity and quality of opportunities for young Americans to serve locally, nationally, or globally... [with a] mission to strengthen the Effectiveness, Sustainability, and Scale of the youth service movement." www.ysa.org
I will spend more time on YSA in my next newsletter. Our mutual interest: how to connect the "service in the soup kitchen" experience - valuable in itself - to the concerns of our nation and world as a whole, i.e., service learning. For now, check out www.servnet.org for volunteer opportunities.
C. 2000 CENSUS REPORTS - First reports are in and no surprise, we've grown!
On April 1, 2000, our resident population was 281,421,906, a 13.2 percent increase over the 248,709,873 counted in the 1990 census. Census figures are the basis for changing ("reapportioning") representative districts, significant in determining your political power as a voting bloc. www.census.gov Demographic breakdowns are not yet completed.
D. CULTURE JAMMING, YOUTH RADIO & POLITICAL ROCK
When "media" is discussed, it rarely covers outlets for youth. Of the latter, youth radio for discussion and music are extremely effective vehicles for change. Music especially can bridge questions of culture and politicize whole generations.
1. Youth Radio:
a. A strong youth radio outlet
b. "Youth on the Air" Cody Cisco at Wiretap
2. Culture Jamming/Cultural Weaponry:
a. "No Last Hurrah Yet for Political Rock" Ann Powers (New York Times), Sunday, Dec.31.
b. Chas Walker's December l9, 2000 article in Colorlines on the "dead prez", the hip-hop duo of M-1 and Sticman who identify with revolutionary and sometimes violent protest in the black political struggle.
3. "Rhyme and Resist: Organizing the Hip-Hop Generation", by Angela Ards (July 26, 1999 The Nation), a clear and still current analysis of the issues facing young Black Americans vis-a-vis engagement and music and culture's strong role.
E. YOUTH IN ACTION
1. A great story from LA Youth on the benefits of service learning: "Volunteering With The Deaf" by Kunahl Parikh, 17, Sonora HS. Working with deaf students gave Kunahl a new appreciation for conversation and connection -- the kind so many of us miss having because we take our ability to hear one another for granted.
2. "Sodexho Standoff Ends" by Wendi Dowst and Joe Geraghty, The Ithacan Online. "Following a weeklong battle with their campus administration, students at Ithaca College emerged victorious. Seven students occupied the Admissions office for 34 hours calling for the ousting of the campus food service provider Sodexho-Marriott, which is affiliated with a company that owns and runs private prisons. By addressing the inhumane private prison industry in their own dining halls, these students are an example ... of local approaches to national problems."
F. WHAT I'M READING NOW
a. Robert Putnam's, BOWLING ALONE (2000) (see next newsletter)
b. THE WAR AGAINST PARENTS (1998), Sylvia Ann Hewlett & Cornel West.
c. MILLENNIALS RISING: THE NEXT GREAT GENERATION (2000), Neil Howe & Bill Strauss.
2. A very opinionated e-mail newsletter from Michael Moore, the creator of Roger and Me. Check out his website.
3. E-mail bulletins digesting youth-related and relevant stories from various news sources from "The Free Student" an independent, online student journal that aims to be the daily student newspaper of the nation. Daily publication resumes after the Martin Luther King. Jr. holiday.
Thanks for taking the time to read this! My next newsletter will be at inauguration time and will concern civic engagement. In the interim, check out TEEN POWER POLITICS: MAKE YOURSELF HEARD and its companion website, www.teenpowerpolitics.com. Let me know of any concern or activity you would like me to tell others about. Send this on to others and suggest that they e-mail me if they would like to be added to this list (or if they wish to be removed). And if you received this twice, please let me know as I refine my list. Sara Jane Boyers firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.teenpowerpolitics.com (c) 2001 Sara Jane Boyers